Kamil Ali-Jackson, Esq.: Advocating for a diverse, life-friendly workplace

Jan 16, 2019 | People and Culture

I have had a very fulfilling career. I also had four children during my career, so I know how hard it can be to be a mother in the workplace. That’s why from the very beginning, in 2012, when we established Aclaris, I made it my personal mission to help create what I call a “life-friendly” workplace here at Aclaris—one that embraces and supports a diverse workplace, full of people who value their personal lives as much as their professional success. I want Aclaris to be a company where you can have both.

The way it was

During the early years of my working career in the 1980s, companies were just starting to recognize the importance of a family-friendly environment. Initiatives such as job share programs were in place but were rarely utilized because women realized that if they took advantage of these programs, it could be the death knell for their careers. Back then, the mindset regarding work-life balance issues had yet to evolve. We were still in the Stone Age regarding the importance of balancing work and life.

As a young professional and a working mother, I went along with this mindset, until the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible car accident in which I was seriously injured, and my toddler son died. As a result of this life-altering event, I sought and received support-- not only from my family and friends-- but from my workplace supervisors and mentors. Fortunately, I worked with individuals who recognized my contributions, and as a result, I was able to continue to contribute to the team utilizing a flexible workplace and schedule.

Workplace flexibility should be available to all employees, not just those who experience a tragedy. If you hire the right people with the right work ethic, flexible work arrangements will only enhance the productivity of employees and contribute to the success of the employee and the company. As my career advanced, and I assumed leadership roles, I have tried to ensure that employees are able to take advantage of workplace flexibility.

Pushing for progress

The challenges involved in raising children while working full-time motivated me to become part of the solution—to work to change the mindset of colleagues regarding work-life choices for everyone. I believe a personally-fulfilled employee is a highly productive employee.

I believe a “life-friendly” work environment serves the best interests of both employees and the companies they work for. For example, parenthood is an excellent training ground for the development of various skills such as time management, project management, advocacy, organizational, financial, negotiating, and multi-tasking skills which are transferable to the workplace. In my view, you are the CEO of a small business when you are managing a family, your personal life, and your career.

How to build a better workplace.

In my position at Aclaris, I am a strong advocate for creating a life-friendly environment for all employees. As a manager, I try to be flexible and show that I respect the fact that people have personal lives which need to be nurtured and supported. At Aclaris, this translates into:

- Working from home. With today’s technology, many employees can be productive working from home. As a manager, I have seen employees committed to getting their work done - no matter what it takes.

- Core and summer work hours. Aclaris has implemented a policy regarding core and summer work hours to allow employees to meet the needs of their families as well as the business needs of Aclaris.

- Hiring well. We employ the right people, so we feel confident that providing them with options for work-life choices will only result in more productive and better-performing employees.

I believe fostering a life-friendly environment is key to corporate success. I have found that it helps attract and retain great employees and facilitates engagement at work. Employees who feel like their job fits their life are often willing to go the extra mile to achieve business objectives. That’s why I will continue to be an advocate for a diverse, life-friendly workplace.

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