For parents desperate to find some way to juggle responsibilities at work and at home, the promise of work flexibility is like a beacon of hope. They tell themselves that, if they can just find the right position that lets them shift hours or work from home, everything will be fine.
If they struggle to build that perfect flexibility, however, they may wonder whether their hope is in vain.
Such is the challenge recently outlined by Anna Davies in an article for Refinery29. She writes about her struggles to find a job that offers the flexibility she needs since she became a mother four years ago. And she knows she is not alone in her trials.
“Of course, this is a problem facing scores of parents who are struggling to manage their families and their work,” Davies writes. “And while some have found flexible schedules that allow them appropriate compensation and advancement, others have experienced stalled careers, inflexible managers, and a precarious balancing act that force them to weigh family against job advancement.”
This problem becomes even worse when companies promise flexibility, but don’t back up their supposed ideals with the reality of their corporate cultures.
“One Harvard Business Review analysis found that even companies that offer flexible schedules may have a bias when it comes to those schedules actually being implemented,” the Refinery29 article says. “This ‘fake flex’ culture—a company that offers unlimited vacation but discourages employees from using it, for example—can be especially insidious for working parents.”
In the face of these kinds of problems, perhaps it’s fair—and it’s certainly natural—to ask whether work flexibility is a fantasy. However, plenty of other examples support the idea that it is, in fact, a reachable goal, though one that will likely require sacrifices and considerable effort to attain.
In fact, people who have successfully built flexible schedules often find that they are able to succeed at work and feel less stressed at home, the Refinery29 article says.
“Flexibility doesn’t equal not getting the job done,” says Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder and CEO of career coaching tool Landit, in the article. “I personally find that those of us that have personal priorities actually get more things done because we are highly focused, prioritize well out of necessity, and are committed to delivering the highest value priorities.”
If you’re in this position, start by deciding exactly what flexibility you need to manage your responsibilities at home. Think carefully about your career goals. As you do so, you’ll find areas in which your hopes and desires conflict, but you should also be able to discover the ways in which they gel effectively.
As you seek the right mix of flexibility, don’t sell yourself short. Focus on your ability to be highly productive, no matter how many hours you’re working. And seek out mentors in people who have built successful flex careers.
“Finally, know that the key to flexible work is remaining, well, flexible,” the Refinery29 article says. “There will always be emergencies at work. There will always be outbreaks of hand, foot, mouth at daycare. And there will always be times you feel overwhelmed.”
“Although it’s challenging—and the guilt may always be there—you can be present for your family and still crush it at work,” Tatum says in the article. “My tip is to schedule yourself first, then your key family and personal events, and work will fill in everything else. It’s a more intentional and fulfilling way to manage all aspects of our lives.”
No, work flexibility isn’t “just a fantasy,” but it is also not likely to be a dream scenario right from the start. You may go through a few different positions and suffer through some starts and stops before you land in the right spot. But if you stay patient and keep trying, you can meet your flexwork goals, building the balanced life you want for yourself and your family.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com