When I was growing up, my mom was always home to greet me when I walked in from school. She made sure that my sister and I knew that we were her priority.
But she also worked full-time. In order to juggle both work and family, she worked from home and set her own hours, which she made possible by starting her own business. And she did all of this as a single parent. My dad, who had been the breadwinner of our family, died of cancer when I was five, which left my mom not only devastatingly heartbroken but also suddenly fully responsible for our family’s financial and emotional well being. An operating room nurse by training, she wasn’t willing to sacrifice time with her kids in order to return to the grueling and unpredictable hours of hospital life, so she reinvented herself in a new career that afforded her the flexibility she needed.
My sister followed suit. A decade older than I am, she started telecommuting when she was a few years out of college and decided to move from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains in order to pursue her passion for skiing. Her New York-based employer didn’t want to lose a talented employee, and so she became their first remote worker. 20 years, and three kids, later, she’s never set foot in an office—and never stopped working—since.
With these strong working women as role models, it’s no real surprise that I would be sold on the value of work flexibility. It’s been clear to me from an early age that doing a job isn’t about where you work or when you work, but about getting the work done and doing it well.
But while my mom had the flexibility she needed in the ‘eighties and my sister had it in the ‘nineties, here we are in 2013 and it’s still a struggle for most workers to obtain.
I’ve had to battle for it myself. At my last job, flexibility was a dirty word. So when my then-boyfriend (now husband) broke his back in a fall and I asked to be allowed to work from home throughout his recovery, my request was denied. I spent the following two and a half years trying to change my employer’s outdated policies. I scoured the research showing that flexibility is a win-win for business and individuals, and I put together proposals and reports making the case for a flexible workplace. But it was like hitting my head against a brick wall. Ultimately, I had no choice but to walk away, and I handed in my notice.
But I wasn’t willing to accept the status quo. Instead, I started a website all about the need for change: www.StartAskingQuestions.com. And I found a home at an organization where flexibility isn’t just allowed, it’s institutional. I’m desperate for the day that all organizations recognize that flexibility is the only way forward, and as the Director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, I’m thrilled to be part of the movement driving us closer to that goal.
Readers, who are your work flexibility role models? Does working a flexible job run in your family? Share your story in the comments!
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