Those who serve in the military know that they will be called upon to make all kinds of personal and professional sacrifices during their careers. People who are not part of the armed forces should respect that service and show gratitude all of the time, but especially each May during Military Appreciation Month.
While honoring those who are active personnel in the military, however, we should also take a moment to remember sacrifices made by soldiers’ family members. And one way to help military spouses, in particular, is to offer flexible work options.
Building a career can be especially challenging for the husbands and wives of service members. In addition to serving as temporary single parents when their spouses’ units are deployed, they also face the reality of frequent moves to new cities, which makes it difficult to climb the corporate ladder and keep a consistent job.
To work through this struggle, many military spouses depend on freelance work, taking full advantage of the emerging “gig economy.” However, not everyone has training in a career that fits well with freelancing. For them, true flexibility—whether that means telecommuting, shifting hours, job sharing, or other options—is the key to success.
According to an article from Federal News Radio, the more than 641,000 spouses of active duty service members depend heavily on flex. The article shares the story of DeNinno Zukunft, first lady of the Coast Guard and its ombudsman at large.
As a 25-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, she said she faced many challenges while building her career.
“Sometimes you’re going to get a position, you think, ‘Do I really want to do this? I’ve got to go through all this’—for me I always had to go through training. Every time I moved I had to learn new things,” she said in the article. “There’s a lot of companies out there that are willing to be flexible, that are willing to work with spouses who are looking for employment.”
When FlexJobs asked its members how flexibility would make their lives better, military spouses sounded off with similar comments.
For example, a member named Jessica said, “A flex job would mean security, gainful employment, and the satisfaction of accomplishment that are so challenging to secure when my spouse is being relocated and/or deployed for the military.” Another, named Regina, said a flexible job “would make my life better by allowing me to take my job with me, wherever I may go in the world.”
“Military family respondents identified spouse employment as the greatest financial impact associated with military service, and consistent with previous years, 77% of military spouse respondents reported that being a military spouse had negatively impacted their careers,” the report says. “Survey results indicate employment for military spouses is an increasing expectation and financial requirement for today’s military families.”
While the military can take steps to help families overcome that challenge, the report said, other entities also can play a part. For example, the report says, “state governments are uniquely positioned to provide relief from military spouse professional licensure and certification challenges.” And business owners “can seek out military spouses, veterans, and transitioning service members as a desirable and talented labor demographic and recognize the value of their experiences when they are applying for employment.”
As we recognize and honor men and women in uniform, we must also remember the struggles their spouses face in the workplace. And as we remember, we should take action: encouraging military spouses to seek flexible work and helping them do so; supporting a push for more workplace flexibility in general; and urging government and business entities to help.
That would be an excellent way to show true appreciation for military personnel and their families during this month.
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