Flexibility is more than just “nice to have” for working parents. If they want to spend time with their families, attend school or other events, and take care of children who are sick or out of school, work flex is practically a necessity.
Fortunately, many employers understand that reality and are taking steps to offer the flexibility parents want and need.
Unfortunately, the different wants and needs of non-parents sometimes don’t get the same attention and understanding from managers. But if companies don’t treat all employees the same when it comes to flex, many problems can arise.
Here’s why flexibility is great for non-parents, too:
A Time article notes that employers who keep parents from their children will have workers who are likely to be “unhappy, unproductive, and unmotivated,” adding that “retention at the company will be an issue. But childless workers can also feel as though they’re constantly picking up the slack of workers who have children—or as though their personal lives are not treated with the same level of importance as those of parents.”
Jacquelyn Smith, Director of Content Strategy at FlexJobs, Remote.co, and 1 Million For Work Flexibility, found this to be the case when she landed her first flexible job. A few people asked her why she needed a remote job when she didn’t have children.
“I was shocked and appalled by these reactions—and found myself wanting to justify my decision—but I quickly realized that they came from a place of misconception,” Smith says. “For whatever reason, there is this false notion floating around out there that work flex, and telecommuting in particular, is for parents, and parents alone. But it’s not!”
While the reasons non-parents seek flexibility have nothing to do with children, that doesn’t make their motivations any less legitimate.
“People want and need work flexibility for all different reasons,” Smith says. “Maybe they live in a rural area with few professional opportunities; or they have an elderly parent or sick partner to take care of; or they are a military spouse who frequently relocates; or they simply just want more flexibility in their life. Those of us without children shouldn’t feel the need to justify why we want or need more balance or flexibility in our lives.”
Smith realized she wanted flex when she moved to the suburbs and her commute expanded to more than three hours per day.
“Those were 15 hours per week that I could be spending on things like exercising, cooking, hanging out with my nieces, doing errands, or visiting my elderly grandparents,” she says. “The commute was beginning to stress me out, which I feared would eventually take a toll on my marriage and overall well-being.
“I also wanted a remote job because, in the little experience I did have working from home, I realized I am the type of person who is much more productive when I’m in a comfortable environment over which I have control. I also wanted to adopt a dog, which I knew would be a whole lot easier if I worked remotely.”
Smith’s reasons for seeking flex are echoed by many other non-parents, and the list of motivations could run on and on.
For example, in a BBC News article marketing professional Ryan Lock said he sees flex work as “something that empowers you to work where and when you feel you can be most productive, be it home, the office or a coffee shop.”
Likewise, business requirements analyst Darlene Handley said in a CNBC article that her ability to work from home and on a flexible schedule allowed her to “pursue her goal of writing a screenplay, fix up her house, and help with an organization that neuters feral cats.”
That ability to build a more balanced life, make time for personal development, and stay involved in community organizations and causes can be extremely valuable to anyone, regardless of family situation.
And workers’ positive feelings about flexibility will continue when their circumstances change. For example, Smith says she is especially grateful for her flexibility now that she is about to become a parent, even though her plans to someday become a mother had little to do with her original decision to seek remote work.
“No matter your age, geographic location, professional field, family situation, health, or personality type, work flexibility can change your life for the better,” she says. “It may not be for everyone, but it can be for anyone.”
That’s a mantra that all company executives and managers should memorize. And when they implement flexible work policies, they should ensure that those guidelines are fair and equitable for all employees, regardless of their family situations.
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