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Suzanne Unger Young's picture

In honor of National Work & Family Month, two NC employers shared why they value family-friendly work place policies and why they want to give others that same opportunity.


Craig:  Ah, 2007.  I was 34 and pretty happy with my little world.  I was 10 years into my career, had married the love of my life, and shared incredible adventures with her, from biking famous Tour de France routes to getting married in Alaska.  What more could a guy ask for, right?  But, I still felt like we were missing something.  I lost my father to cancer when I was 17 years old.  He was 43.  Ever since, I’ve always thought that the best way to honor him, and to carry on his memory, would be to raise a family of my own and teach my kids everything he taught me.


Suzanne: When Craig and I first talked about having kids, we both had established careers at the same small engineering firm where we’d met.  We wanted to be actively involved in our children’s lives, but wondered about our work situation.  I knew we were extraordinarily fortunate in that we could financially afford for me to work part time and my mother-in-law had offered to serve as our child care on the days we needed it.  However, I managed a small staff and didn’t think working only two or three days a week would suffice in my role, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to give it up.  “What if each stay with the kids one weekday?” Craig proposed.  “If I’m going to be a dad, I want to experience everything too.”


That suggestion was the start of our journey into shared caregiving, flexible schedules, a bit of chaos, and even more satisfaction.  It ultimately led to my decision to start my own firm with the hope of offering other parents (or anyone else with work/life balance needs) a place to thrive.


Craig:  “A bit of chaos”… mixed with a whole lot of hard work, sacrifice, and most importantly, the chance to not only experience having a family, but also all of the wonder, excitement, and yes, “chaos” that comes along with it! 


When we presented our employer with our proposed reduced schedule, we weren’t sure how it would be received.  Thankfully, the small company we worked for acknowledged the importance of families, offered flexible schedules, and valued its employees enough to grant our request.  A couple of clients raised eyebrows at hearing the news, but when deadlines stayed on track and quality stayed the same, it turned into a non-issue.


That was 2008.  By 2013, Suzanne and I were the proud parents of two kids and still working reduced schedules.  However, now we worked for a national engineering firm who had purchased our beloved little firm and, in turn, brought many of the rigid expectations of a large company along with it.  So, we decided to set off on a new adventure.  Why not be the change we wanted to see in the workplace?


Suzanne: I’ve lost count of the moms and dads who’ve told us they wish they could do what we do.  Some are in professions that aren’t as conducive to the schedule juggling and telecommuting we’ve been able to enjoy, but many others are.  They just happen to work for employers who have rigid hours, who require at least 30 hours for part-time status, who don’t promote part-timers, or who don’t give them benefits.  When I tell people my company will offer paid time off to 20 hour/week staff, allow work to be done from home on company computers, and have flexible hours, they ask how I know this will work and question whether we can be profitable.  I’ve only been in business for five months, but I’m confident that empowering the best and brightest folks to find happiness in and out of the office will be win-win for all of us.  Numerous studies show that workplace flexibility promotes lower stress, more productive employees and higher retention.  I can’t wait to add our data to those statistics.


Craig:  We’ve both been at this now for over six years, and looking back, I wouldn’t change a single thing… well, except maybe some of those sleepless nights and dirty diapers!


Suzanne Unger Young is the president of Three Oaks Engineering in Durham, NC.  Craig Young is a senior transportation planning engineer with the firm.  They have two children, ages 6 and 3-1/2.

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