I used to be one of many of my friends who would look longingly at the billboards in my town claiming “Work from Home! Make $2,000 per week!”  I was smart enough to know that what they promised wasn’t real; but the potential for having that kind of flexibility was incredibly appealing.

The reasons were many. My elderly parents had recently moved to the town where I lived.  I wanted to see them as much as possible, and to be available if they needed me. In addition, my husband and I had started a hobby art business that was being well-received, and I wanted to concentrate more energy on that.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Perhaps most compelling, however, was my current work situation. After twenty years of climbing the corporate ladder at one company, I had achieved the high status that many years of hard work had promised.  I managed the largest department within my division, and I worked with a wonderful group of 45 employees.

It came as something of a shock then, when I realized that being in the upper levels of management, I was now confronted with a side of the company of which I had been blissfully unaware. I realized quickly how prevalent the politics were at that level, and how those politics—not business acumen, not good work, not the good of the company—were used to make decisions.  It hit me one day that all that my ambition had gotten me was a big paycheck—and for that, I had sacrificed my quality of life.

Paying the Price

By that point, I was regularly seeing a counselor, and as things at work became more stressful, and the hours longer, I began to have panic attacks.  I had trouble finding the energy to go to work at all, or to stay there upon arrival.  I never knew when an attack would hit, and I felt completely out of control. Things got so bleak that eventually I found I couldn’t even drive myself to the grocery store.

Making a Plan

Then, an unusual opportunity presented itself. The company was hurting, and lay-offs were a reality that could not be avoided. It seemed as if this was my chance at a new way to work.  I carefully constructed a proposal explaining how my job could be split into other, existing roles within the company, leaving me with responsibility for only the division’s budget—a part-time role that would be relatively solitary. My plan was structured in a way that would save ten other jobs that would have been eliminated—and would allow me to take on a smaller role that would be more palatable, and give me the room to take on the tasks I truly wanted to pursue.

Unfortunately, I never received a formal answer to my proposal. But in retrospect, there was really no need for one: I had provided the company with a very effective procedural outline that they could follow without me, and, along with 18 others, I was laid off three weeks later.  My plan’s suggestions were adopted as my role was farmed out among those who used to work for me.

At the time, I was struck with a very strange combination of relief from having the weight of the position off my shoulders, as well as the extreme guilt of a breadwinner who suddenly wasn’t able to pay our son’s college expenses, or our house payment.

Resolution

Once I was able to think clearly again, I learned about FlexJobs from a former co-workers who had also been let go. I perused the site, and discovered flexible job openings at progressive, exciting companies, who understood that their workforce was their greatest strength.

As fate would have it, I found a job relatively quickly. I now happily work 20-25 hours per week from my home office, and my world is beginning to open up again. Working with management and co-workers who trust and rely upon each other, who realize how important good work is, and who recognize that work/life balance is also important, I can feel the constricting band around my chest loosening. For the first time in almost 15 years, I have found a freedom and honest pride in my work and workplace. Today, I wouldn’t change a thing.

photo credit: istockphoto.com