This flexibility story comes from Duhara Perera. A mom, wife, and IT project manager living in Sri Lanka, Duhara has become a strong advocate of work flexibility. She is passionate about promoting this issue locally in her country to help individuals (especially women) find a better balance between work and family life.

For the first 10 years of my professional career it was all about “work”. Long work days, never-ending projects, and tight deadlines were the norm. I didn’t question my set-up because I had the time and energy to devote 100% to work; I worked for a few leading organizations in the IT services industry in my country and quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become a senior-level manager in my profession.

Then things changed: In 2011 with the birth of my son, another aspect of my life became a priority. I wanted to be there “always” for my child during his youth (influence from our culture, religion, and beliefs) and at the same time I didn’t want to give up my professional career (influence from education, empowerment, and globalization). Many young professional women in my country are facing or have faced this situation and many have chosen either one path or other. For me, this dilemma opened up a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities: it shouldn’t require a choice of one or the other. The need for “Making it all Work” together (kids, family, career, self) has become more important than ever. It’s not about being wonder women or super mom/dad, it’s all about making it work together for a balanced and happier life.

I started researching alternative ways of working (that is, flexible work). While flex work is not a new concept globally, it is indeed relatively new and unexplored in my country Sri Lanka. You rarely hear about part-time or telecommuting jobs locally. The options are very limited. However, being in the information technology services field, I had already been exposed to virtual/remote working and I had already established a good reputation with my current employer. I made a well-researched and detailed proposal for a flexible work schedule with my manager. I was fortunate to get the support and approval from my organization to give a flexible schedule a try.

As such, during the last 2+ years I have followed a few different flexible working options: working part-time at the office, telecommuting a few days a week, and now working from home fully as a part-time consultant. Needless to say the last couple of years have been the most challenging for me yet; however, they have also been the most fulfilling so far as they have provided me with the opportunity to balance my work and family life in a much better way without the guilt of missing out on one or the other. While at the moment I work fewer hours than I used to, engage in a different line of work, and earn less, these changes have enabled me to have the flexibility to spend time with my son during his early years which is the most important focus for me currently. The plus side is that I continue to be part of the working community developing and sharpening my skills which will definitely be an advantage for the future.

Working a flexible schedule is no easy task. In fact, it is quite challenging and requires a lot of self-discipline and organization. Below are some of my tips on how to succeed as a flexible worker:

  • Establish a schedule and stick to it. This is critical to keeping family life and work life balanced but separate.
  • Be a master of time management. When working flexibly you need to squeeze out each and every available minute from your day.
  • Avoid multi-tasking. Focus only on one thing at any given moment.
  • Have a plan in place for short-term child care arrangements. An urgent project can always arise.
  • It’s all about “virtual” communication and collaboration. Make technology your best friend. Emails, instant messaging, and video conferencing will be your handy tools.

Work Flexibility has made it possible for me to Make It Work.

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com