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Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Flex muscle

More people are finding flexible
hours are a workable option
with the right support
and network

By Stephanie Kendrick
Photo Illustration By Bryant Fukutomi And Craig T. Kojima


PAT Katepoo is a nutritionist by training, but in addition to giving you advice on how to eat better, she can help you have a life.

Art Many nutritionists have a master's degree in public health or an MPH. Katepoo, while a registered dietician, does not. But she plays with the distinction to describe her job at Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services.

"I call this my 'NPH' job, 'no panty hose,' " she said.

Katepoo had been a panty-hose wearing full-time professional for a decade when she made her first foray into flextime.

Upon becoming engaged to Net Katepoo, who was the primary caregiver for his 7-year-old son, Anan, she decided to find an alternative to the hectic lifestyle of her working-mother friends.

"I knew I didn't want to be shopping for groceries at 10 o'clock or folding laundry at 11," said Katepoo.

She trained a successor for her position as director of nutrition services at Honolulu Medical Group, created a new job for herself there and dropped to 30 hours a week at 25 percent less pay. The salary cut was something the couple decided was worthwhile given the benefits.

"It just allowed me not to be wiped out," said Katepoo. And it left the ability to deal with the practical and emotional demands of the home.

She eventually left the medical group for a job as marketing director of Damon Key Bocken Leong and Kupchak, which allowed her even greater flexibility.

And in January 1993, on a weekday she was spending away from the office, Katepoo decided to use some of the personal time she had gained to share what she knew about creating a flexible work life.

"I asked myself, 'Why can't all my friends do this?,' " she said.

In creating her own flextime proposals, Katepoo had researched telecommuting, shorter work weeks and the like. While she had found a lot of evidence to suggest flextime benefits companies, there was no comprehensive guide for employees wanting to propose such an arrangement.

So she wrote one.

Katepoo self-published "Flex Success: a Proposal Blueprint for Getting a Family-Friendly Work Schedule" in 1993. After four years of limited local sales, she launched and offered the guide from her Web site.

Although Katepoo does not advertise the site, she has sold more than 1,100 copies of the guide.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Pat Katepoo, shown above at her home office in
Kaneohe, launched

And while it costs $39 to download "Flex Success," offers a lot for free. Pages include: working mother flex tips, strategies for approval, two big mistakes to avoid, and how to prepare for objections.

There are also success stories.

Writes L. McCarthy, an inventory management analyst from Milwaukee, Wis.: "I'm sitting at home on Monday (one of my chosen days off), my little boys are nearing the end of their afternoon nap, the house is clean, laundry's in the dryer, the fish is defrosting for the new recipe I'm trying for tonight's dinner, I am relaxed and TOTALLY IN HEAVEN due to my new part-time work schedule! Thank you again so much for your Flex Success proposal -- it proved itself an invaluable resource!"

Katepoo's Internet clients hail from small and large government agencies and companies as diverse as AT&T, Ernst & Young, Newsweek magazine and State Farm Insurance.

They include controllers, detectives, electrical engineers, graphic designers, microbiologists, psychologists and administrators of all kinds. About 98 percent of them are working mothers.

"Most women work the equivalent of two jobs. They have zippo personal time," said Katepoo.

But whether you want more time with your children or to improve your golf game, it shouldn't make a difference to your employer, she said.

"In the really progressive employer setting, the why shouldn't be the issue," said Katepoo.

Kramer photo
With flex hours, Laurie Kraemer has more time to spend
with her two children, shown above playing in the kitchen.

Employers benefit

Your proposal needs to convey why the arrangement benefits the employer, it shouldn't be about how it benefits you, she said.

But Katepoo noted it may be harder for men to ask for these things because so much of a man's identity is attached to breadwinning and professional achievement.

"Until the CEO says 'I'm taking paternity leave,' everyone else feels pressure," she said.

But Hawaii's large employers were at least on par with the national flexible work trends the last time Katepoo looked into such numbers. And employees of small local companies might even have an advantage over their mainland counterparts.

"The nature of Hawaii and ohana might make local small businesses even more willing to work it out than those on the mainland," said Katepoo.

Katepoo spent a couple of years trying to work with local employers to start a flextime revolution from the top down, but progress was slow. Offering the web site has gotten her closer to her goal.

"Helping one family at a time may not be efficient, but it's working," she said. "That's my vision. That's what I wanted for my friends."

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