This has been quite the year. I turned the big five-oh and celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. I pulled my back out loading the dishwasher, had my first colonoscopy, and now need to wear my glasses not just some, but all of the time if I want to see clearly. My son got his driver’s license (I’m admittedly the worst side-seat-driver ever), my dad celebrated his 85th birthday despite his ongoing struggles with Parkinson’s, my mom retired… the list goes on.  

Often, I’m asked, “How do you keep it all together?”—being a mom of three teenagers, a wife, being there for my aging parents, enjoying a wonderful career, actively engaging in spiritual pursuits and focusing on my fitness… again the list goes on. On the surface it looks like I have my “sandwich generation” act together. But this past year in particular, I’ve been pondering life’s big questions, like, “Why are there so many highs and lows?”, and “Why can’t I sustain a steady state of contentment?”  And I’ve concluded that that’s not real life. The trick is to “ride the tide”—to enjoy the high tide while not allowing the low tide to take me under.

As Director of Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives, I have the privilege of leading Sodexo’s “Flexibility Works!” initiative in the United States.  This work/life initiative is comprised of both formal (Flexible Work Arrangements) and informal (occasional) flexibility. I am seeing a shift in the culture of our company where managers are more empowered to propose the flexibility they need. This is confirmed in a recent management survey where 83 percent of respondents believe their supervisor encourages work/life balance, and 88 percent agree that Sodexo embraces and supports flexibility.

After working on this flexibility initiative for about a decade, it seems this “labor of love” is paying off, with a large proportion of the workforce experiencing greater job satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity (survey results: 73 percent have greater job satisfaction, 62 percent are more loyal, and 53 percent are more productive because of their ability to work more flexibly). While there’s far more to do to create a systemic culture where flexibility is the norm, we’re getting there.

I don’t take my own Flexible Work Arrangement—a combination of telecommuting and flex time—for granted. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have the autonomy that it affords. This much appreciated flexibility, or perhaps more accurately called “fluidity,” helps me readily respond to the highs and lows of life’s demands. I often begin work before dawn or work well into the evening, which means also I might run a late-morning errand or take a 9 a.m. cycle class. I’m grateful that both my employer and my supervisor support me—and like my colleagues who responded to our flex survey, I too am more satisfied, loyal, and productive. Plus, my schedule is conducive to collaborating with global colleagues, and I know that being flexible is a far more creative way of working.

Today I sit squarely in the sandwich generation, and more days than not, I’m proud that I’m keeping it all together. I know it’s a good day when my family is content and feels cared for and I’m making a positive difference in people’s lives at work.  And I know that having flexibility in my job enables me to ride life’s waves a bit more gracefully—to truly enjoy the high tide when life is at its best, and navigate the difficult waters when necessary.  

photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com