Is flex work right for you? A working mom’s decision guide

flex work

Before leaving my last corporate position to set up my “single shingle” in the freelance/consulting world, I did my research. A full year’s worth of research.

My search took me in many directions as I tried to understand what was urging me to make a change in my life. My youngest daughter was just over a year old and I had been back at work for six months. I felt this unsettled dissatisfaction with all things – at home, but mostly at work.

Was it the job itself? The company? My industry? The hours? The travel? And, on my list went. I spoke to as many people as I could and one of the things that kept coming up was my need to investigate more flexible opportunities.

With each conversation, I recall asking what they meant by flexibility – and each had a different response. One said, I should telecommute from home one or two days a week. Another suggested a compressed work week. Someone else suggested job sharing. The variety of responses went on.

And for good reason: everyone has different flexibility needs.

To meet these needs more and more progressive companies now offer a rich menu of options to best meet their employees needs. Plus, more organizations are open to consider customized options as suggested by employees themselves.

The trick will be finding what flexibility opportunity best meets your needs.

Here’s a list of things you’ll need to consider before determining which is right for you.

Do you need more control of your schedule?

Who isn’t looking for more time in their day? I know I do on the regular, wishing there were more hours to cram everything listed on my ‘to do’ list. Then there are those of us who require time to attend to family obligations, school schedules or personal endeavors.

No matter your reasons, if this is you, you’ll want to focus on flex opportunities that will give you the time you need. This could be as simple as have the flexibility to shift your working hours from 9 to 5 to 10 to 6 to make morning drop-offs without enduring regular anxiety attacks. Other options could include: compressed work weeks, job sharing, banking hours or a part-time schedule.

Do you need more time off?

If there is one constant in my life it’s that life is completely, ridiculously unpredictable. I can’t  guess the next time my kid’s going to get sick nor when the school is going to call to report yet another playground accident that requires my personal attention. For those of you who suffer from a lack of mundanity, you may need more flexibility around your time off.

Of course, unlimited vacation policies as they have at LinkedIn and Netflix would be the ideal here. If that’s not possible, you may want to look for companies that offer extra vacation or personal days, or extended leave policies.

Is location a critical factor?

Having more flexibility on where you work offers plenty of benefits. It could save you both time and frustration by avoiding your long commute into work. Or you could enjoy a more productive workday that is free of the everyday disruptions of the office.

If these perks appeal to you, it may be time to look for opportunities to work from home, a satellite office or anywhere else where you can work productively.

Here’s the good news: more companies are encouraging their employees to consider remote working options. A result of technology, the crunch for real estate in populated urban centers and the mounting evidence of increased productivity in remote workers. So, if your company doesn’t currently offer this option, it may be a good time to ask.

Do you want it all?

It’s possible you may need more flexibility around your schedule, the amount of time you take as well as the location you work. If that’s you, you’re going to want to look for performance-based companies.

Companies that are focused not on how long you worked or where you worked. Instead, the focus is on the value of your output. As incredibly liberating and empowering as this may be, results-only work environments (also called ROWE) require employees to clearly set goals and equally communicate the value of their results.

Want to get in on the gig economy?

Self-employment is on the rise – a result of tech-enabled companies like Uber, AirBnB, TaskRabbit among the others that are added almost daily. Plus, technology has enabled individuals to offer their specialities on a freelance or contract basis.

A lot of more traditional companies are getting in on the gig economy. They are opening up opportunities for skilled workers to come in to work on a specific project for a short period of time.

Cashing in on the gig economy will allow you to create a flexible lifestyle where you can choose when and what you want to work on. You can also choose when you’re going to take a break. But, don’t be too swayed by the perks without considering the uncertainty – at least from an income perspective – that comes with the gig economy.

Just as you have to weigh the pros and cons of the gig economy, you’ll want to do the same for any flex option you choose. Consider what it is you need most and how that option will provide it to you. Then, you’ll want to be sure to take the time to test how things go. If it’s not working for you, reconsider what would make it better or if you should try another option altogether.

Whatever solution you’ve come up with, don’t be shy and ask your employer if it’s something you can try. If they say no, it may be time to look for a more willing company.



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