I can’t say I was born for work flexibility, because I’m told I actually showed up the day of my birth.
But “not being there” seems to have been a huge part of my life ever since.
Whether it has been telecommuting, flex-hours on a part-time basis, working the late third shift, or being the manager of people who are working across four time-zones, I have been blessed with a 360 degree, full-spectrum immersion into work flexibility.
Most people’s first experience with work flexibility happened, well, in the workspace. For me, however, it started in high school, where I would frustrate both my mother and teachers by “strategically” not showing up for classes, yet still ace assignments and tests.
There has only been one stint in my life where work flexibility was an absolute no—and that when I was in the army. I served, did it well, and made some friends for life.
But I also knew that whatever I did next needed tons of flexibility to make up for all the rigidity that came with wearing a uniform.
And that need for flexibility has been my North Star ever since—my career compass, so to speak.
As a journalist, I volunteered to do stories that fell outside the daily grind—putting my hand up for special projects, or stepping up as a guinea pig in a short-lived telecommuting program.
And when the opportunity arose, I volunteered to go into politically and militarily unstable flashpoints. As the current situation in the Middle East has reminded us yet again, there’s something about conflict and political instability that makes it a great place for work flexibility. It doesn’t do as much for personal safety though—a fellow journalist was murdered the year I was in East Timor in 1999.
After a few close calls, my life priorities shifted because I met the woman who would become my wife, and my appetite for risk plummeted.
Upon returning to civilization, I began to figure out what my next steps would be.
It was not an easy decision, but as my friend Henneke Duistermaat often says, it was all about taking that first small step.
Then the next.
And then another.
Those steps combined led to me starting my own scuba magazine that was the ultimate work flex gig—for me, and for every single one of my employees. Our team was always somewhere underwater, diving with Great White Sharks off the coast of South Africa, squeezing into the wrecks of World War Two vessels, or hovering in the midst of a thousand barracuda.
Fast forward 10 years of being my own boss, and I find myself among the ranks of the employed again.
This time, it’s a Seattle start-up called MightyCall that provides a hybrid Cloud and mobile app service that lets small businesses with small budgets sound like a million bucks and treat their customers like royalty. As it turns out, MightyCall is no slouch when it comes to work flex—I have the privilege of working from home two days a week so that I can help with my homeschooled children’s curricula.
The freedom and independence that work flex has given me has been, and continues to be, long lasting in every possible way.
As an employer, work flex has allowed me to work with people from not just across the country, but the world. It has also allowed me to retain the best employees, including a few who might otherwise not have been in the workforce.
People like the recently retired, an expectant mom, a recovering combat veteran, and of course, several women who deserve medals for the seemingly effortless way they juggled part-time work with the demands of their offspring.
I consider it an honor that many of them choose to remain my friends even though they no count on me for a paycheck. Either that, or they pity me.
As an employee, work flex has allowed me to take on the role of the primary caregiver to our three children when they were little, while my wife toiled away at an unforgiving corporate career.
Work flex has been such a huge part of my life, I cannot imagine working in or owning a business where it is not the status quo.
In fact, if all goes according to plan, the next time I am compelled to “be there”, it’ll be when it comes time for me to find my private spot six feet under.
Then again, maybe I’ll call that in too.
photo credit: Edmund Tee