News

Some days, driving the kids to school. Some days, taking mom to the doctor.

Published on August 27, 2018


Last school year, when Kevin Kibler’s 5-year-old needed to go to gymnastics practice on Wednesdays, Mr. Kibler was able to take her.

Instead of being confined to his desk at M*Modal, a medical tech company in Squirrel Hill, the senior software engineer was able to work from his laptop as he sat in the gymnastics studio.

Such working arrangements are becoming increasingly common as more workers are finding themselves in the “sandwich generation” — people who are caring for both older parents and young children.

In a 2015 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 56 percent of caregivers worked full time. In a 2011 report, the AARP Public Policy Institute found nearly 70 percent reported having to rearrange their schedule, reduce their hours or take unpaid leave in order to care for a family or friend.

This change in the workforce is putting pressure on businesses to make scheduling accommodations to ensure that caregiving workers can succeed.

For M*Modal, the flexibility needed by those employees is built into the culture and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Lisa Bush, human resources manager, said M*Modal has no single scheduling policy, allowing each team to make schedules that work for employees. That means all employees are able to work with their managers to craft a schedule that fits with their home life while also finding a balance between telecommuting and in-office work.

Mr. Kibler credits the flexible scheduling for allowing him to help his wife with their three kids, the youngest of which is a newborn. Some days, he comes in after driving his older kids to school, and other times he leaves earlier to help his wife at home in the afternoon.

Lilantha Alawattegama, 52, is the director of custom solutions development at M*Modal. He said his parents are retired and live with him for most of the year, but they also visit his sister in Australia and spend time at home in Sri Lanka.

“There are times, if I’m supposed to be in the office, I can move my meetings around, and I have the flexibility to do that,” he said.

Darla Poole, chief operating officer of Auberle in McKeesport, said her company takes lessons from its professional work in the community and applies them to the office culture.

“We understand people come into work, they’ve got their own personal life and their own personal stuff going on,” she said. “If we’re very rigid and we don’t bend and flex a little bit, we’re going to burn them out.”

Ms. Poole said that Auberle — a nonprofit that serves at-risk children, youths and families — often lets employees with young children work from home as needed. She added that most employees are cross-trained for several jobs in their departments, ensuring that any role can be filled temporarily while an employee is out. 

The Rev. Paul Sandusky, director of the Rankin Christian Center, a organization that helps children, families and people with disabilities in the Mon Valley, said the RCC tries to be as “open-minded and generous as we can about people’s need to take care of their family.”

Tracy Beck, a support supervisor coordinator, moved in with her mother, Sandra, nine years ago. She frequently takes her mother to doctors’ appointments and sometimes has to take a few days off at a time when her mother is hospitalized.

Ms. Bush, Mr. Kibler and Mr. Alawattegama agree that flexible arrangements are a give-and-take — the company trusts that employees won’t abuse the flexibility and the employees use their time to produce the best work they can.

“We treat everyone like an adult. It’s all about getting your work done and being responsible for yourself,” Ms. Bush said.

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