Peek inside my inbox and you’ll get a glimpse of stories from people struggling with work-life conflict. Their common refrain relates to time, and their messages deliver a poignant reminder of why widespread work flexibility is such a crucial initiative.
Let me share a small sample with you.
One single parent told me recently that her work-life conflict was at a crisis level:
“I would really, really like to not have to stay at work until 5:30. Attempts to bring order to my life have been useless because I just don’t have time to breathe.”
Someone else shared this set of yearnings with me:
“I want to spend time on my hobbies. Spend time with my spouse. Be able to work out without feeling as though it is taking up so much time. Go outside for walks while the sun is still out.”
And most new working moms will relate to the following lament from this client:
“I just want more time with my baby. Right now, I’m always tired and it’s hard to enjoy the time with her.”
On the plus side, using a written proposal and some negotiation tactics, most of the people who reach out to me are able to get approval of a flexible work arrangement at their current job.
But the path to get there would be a lot smoother if their employers embraced a culture of workplace flexibility.
A culture where:
- access to a full menu of diverse flexible work options is the norm,
- management support of workplace flex is strong–reflecting its role as a business strategy,
- training of managers and employees in the benefits, use and management of flexible work arrangements is routine, and,
- the stigma of using flexibility as a work-life tool is absent.
Relatively few employers meet these criteria. While there are lots of employers that have flexible work policies in place, the flex culture is lacking, so some employees are hesitant to use them.
Most of my customers (and millions more like them) work for employers that have no flex policies, programs or practices. Work flexibility is not even on their radar or they hold the outmoded position of “We don’t do that here.”
Whatever the case, without access to flexibility, people are being robbed of meaningful moments in their lives.
“Time is a long-lost friend.I want to walk my son to school. Put my daughter down for a nap. Talk to my husband. Hang out with my mom. Laugh with my friends. Get organized. Exercise. I also want to work. I like the challenge, the paycheck, and the break from diaper changes. But I can no longer spend the majority of my waking hours in a cubicle with no window! My time at work has to be more flexible or reduced.”
Marriages, family life, health, communities, individual well-being and yes, businesses, are strengthened when people have access to flexible work arrangements. We have a long way to go to reach full access for all, and it’s imperative that we continue the effort.
“I’m almost 55 years old and have worked full time since graduating from college. I’m tired and don’t have time for the things that are important to me: my husband, my friends, reading, music, exercise, and enjoying the beautiful parts of New England. My husband is a great guy, but he’s not one to share the housework willingly, plus I handle our finances, so I really have two jobs. I love my job and my team, but I’m eager to scale back.”
These are just a few of the voices calling out for a different way of working so that there’s time for life. It’s for these individuals and so many more that make the goals of 1 Million for Work Flexibility so vital. Let’s continue to advocate and educate for widespread work flexibility.
photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com