1 Million for Work Flexibility director Emma Plumb recently wrote a piece on LinkedIn called “Fixing Uber’s Failings with a Lesson from Its Successes” that generated a boisterous conversation on work flexibility, tech, gender equity, and business design. In this “Busting the Myths” series, we respond to some of the concerns voiced by readers in the comments section about the practicality of work flexibility.
“The main argument here is the same as someone living in Zurich and saying that they cannot get a job as a Deep Sea Diver and work from home. Makes the author sound less than convincing. We have all struggled to get the job we wanted at times and I found that going to where the work was helped 1000%.”
Many people have picked up their lives and moved for a job in a different city, state, or even country. But in today’s knowledge economy, moving for a job shouldn’t be a default expectation. While being a deep sea diver would, in fact, require living near the sea, most of us are not deep sea divers. Occupations as varied as accounting, engineering, fashion, marketing, journalism, and teaching all have the potential to be done remotely. Even medicine can be practiced from afar.
So why does that matter? Why shouldn’t we just expect people to move for their job?
For people who are living in rural areas, whether by choice or by necessity (from a family or community obligation) flexible work is a godsend. And it’s not just good for individuals; giving people options to stay employed in regions where there aren’t a plethora of local positions is good for the community too. Work flexibility also means that you can have the family life you want, where you want, without worrying that the one company in town might close up shop and you’ll be left without a job.
That’s important to the rest of us, too. Work flexibility means that if your company decides to move its offices halfway across the country, you’re not forced to pack up your possessions and follow along, or risk losing your job. Flex means that you can follow your job anywhere, but from the comfort of your own home office, wherever that may be. That’s good for individuals, but it’s also good for families and communities.
Companies don’t have to bend to the will of their workers’ needs—but the smart ones do. In fact an estimated 80% of U.S. companies currently offer some sort of job flexibility. That might mean telecommuting, job sharing, alternate schedules, flexible schedules, compressed workweeks, and so on. Savvy managers understand that the way to attract—and more importantly, retain—their top talent is to offer work flexibility. With more and more studies showing that today’s workers value flexibility (and work-life balance) over salary, companies are implementing and enforcing flexible work policies that help them have a healthy, happy, and invested workforce.
That in mind, today’s workforce has choices, and more importantly, the ability to negotiate. If your company suddenly wants you in another area, you don’t necessarily have to move. You can have a meeting with your boss to go over your various job responsibilities to determine which ones can be done remotely. You might find that a large percentage of your position can be done from home. And if you do have a job that requires you to be onsite, well, then you have the option to look for a job that will allow you to work from home.
The move-or-lose rationale, when it comes to job seeking and job retention, is simply no longer the case. Workers have options, and companies now understand that if they aren’t flexible with their employees, they will find employment elsewhere. Job seekers and workers, too, must adopt a more empowered way of thinking, secure in the knowledge that flexible work isn’t a perk but rather a benefit to both employer and employee. Let’s all help rethink the way that work gets done.
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