Work-Life Integration at IBM – Adopting Flexibility as an Asset

We interviewed Abida Khimani of the IBM Middle East and Africa Finance Business Control team to tell us about her experience with Work/Life integration at IBM.

Abida has been with IBM for over 15 years. She is a working mother with two children who are 10 and 12 years old. Members of her extended family often live with them, and she also has a full-time nanny. In this article, Abida shares how she manages her close-knit large family and still manages to be highly productive at work using some personal approaches and the support system at IBM.

Tell us a little about your job

Abida and family.png

I am part of the MEA Finance Business controls team, handling multiple countries and control reviews across the MEA region. I am also a Chartered Certified Accountant by Profession with a career focused on Controls within IBM. Although I am based in IBM Dubai, part of my responsibilities include managing the Middle East and Saudi Arabia region, I am part of the MEA Finance Business Controls Team.

My work commitments require me to travel often while my children were young, and the situation is not very different now. However, I have successfully managed to carry out my personal responsibilities without letting them affect my work and business priorities. I continue to travel even now, however less frequently, and try to plan and adjust schedules based on my family requirements. The global culture in IBM has helped me manage this integration tremendously.

How have you been able to take advantage of IBM’s work-life programs?

Over the years the culture within IBM has changed, and we have started adopting flexibility as an asset. However, I always believe that ultimately it is your immediate manager who needs to be comfortable for an employee to use the work-life programs that IBM has to offer.

Specifically, I have used flexible work hours, and it has always worked in favor of my productivity. Having the peace of mind that I can manage my work, according to my priorities and working the hours that suit me rather than limit me, have shown exceptional results in the quality of my work. Also, I have learned that it is extremely necessary for both your local and regional management to support the idea and need for flexible work hours.

Tell us how IBM’s offering of work-life programs increases your productivity or loyalty to the company.

As mentioned before, working hours that suit me best and increase my productivity has really encouraged my motivation levels. Knowing that you will be supported builds trust and loyalty towards IBM. I have always been an IBMer and when I say “my blood is blue,” I really mean it! Transparency and Flexibility are the main driving factors of my loyalty to IBM.

What advice would you give others regarding work -life integration? 

Let me share my small hints and tips which can help anyone have more control over their day and strike better work-life fit.

  1. Time Management is a huge aspect – Learn to respect yours and others’ time.
  2. Prioritize your work – Specifically, women have changing priorities and that’s the only thing that is constant in their lives. Learn to accept those changing priorities; it will help you focus better both physically and mentally.
  3. Be Professional to command respect.

Some best practices that helped me manage my work-life integration which resulted in better outcomes are:

  1. I start my day an hour early. It helps me plan my day better. I prefer to drop my children to school; that gives me an additional 20 minutes with them in the car. I always try and switch off from work between 6:00 – 8:00 to spend quality time with my kids.
  2. Establishing clear boundaries is something that I am constantly working on – for example, I am comfortable with eating lunch at my desk, which helps me do more and try and leave on time. These are small changes, but made a clear impact on my life
  3. Flexibility is a gift that has been granted but you need to prove your dedication and build trust. At no point, irrespective of what stage in life you are at should you break this trust. Sincerity in what you do is an attribute of your personality, and we are responsible to ensure that our honesty and sincerity is never in doubt.

Anything else you would like to add?

I believe that IBM’s work life programs are a “benefit” and not a right, and we should never misuse a benefit that is being offered, because otherwise you break trust which cannot be easily mended and when it comes to going after what you love and believe in life, don’t take no for an answer. Sometimes, things come slowly, but they will come surely.

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