Workplace Flexibility Through My Years

I was thinking about the great debate on who needs more flexible work options, how old they are and why they need them recently. Probably mostly because of the great Jack Welch brouhaha that has taken the focus of flexibility at work and put that focus squarely back on why women don’t succeed in the world of work…raising a family is bad for your career. I want to be clear once again. The ability to have a flexible schedule at work so you can manage your life whether because of family issues, hobbies, education and other interests is not for parents only. It is for all, young, old, mommies, daddies, Double-income-no-kids couples, singles, all!

So just a reminder why people flex…with a walk through my varied flex paths.

In my 20′s…

To take care of life (go to the doctor, dentist, grocery shopping, schedule the cable guy) – I was lucky enough to have an insane job in an ad agency that gave me every 3rd Friday off.

To attend graduate school – I wanted to get my Grad degree but the University I chose did not have a part-time program. Many classes were only offered during the business day. I worked it out with my supervisor that I could take time off to attend classes as long as my work got done. And it did!

Because the nature of work demands it – I worked at a small independent TV station. We had 2 edit suites (way back in the non-digital stone age) and everyone needed to use them. You scheduled you work time for when you could get the interview, book the production team to shoot it, book the edit suite to use it. Work included many nights, weekends, and regular days. No one watched clocks, we had shows to produce…they got done well and aired live at the scheduled times…that was what mattered.

In my 30′s

Because clockwatching is not a profession – I worked on the Olympics – it was 10-month gig that probably should have been a 4 month one. My company was a group of clockwatchers, but honestly in production, there isn’t much to do if there isn’t anything to produce daily. And all of our production was scheduled for a couple weeks in February. So I took flex upon myself. By taking very long lunches. When it was time to work, I worked my tail off and often didn’t take lunch but when it was slow, I took full advantage and flexed as I saw fit.

To reconnect with priorities – Just after my Olympic gig, my husband sold a retail company he had started not long after we had met. For 8 years we had been running in different directions. We took a year off, traveled the world and spent lots of quality (and sometimes not-so-quality) time together. It was wonderful.

To care for a parent – Then my Dad who’d had heart issues for much of my life received a life-saving heart transplant. The first year after transplant is hairy, and critical. I took a job at a non-profit where I was able to work part-time and work almost entirely from home, with no one watching the clock. This way I could help out with my father’s care as needed anytime that did not interfere with work.

To have a child – Dad was stable, my husband and I having slowed down a bit decided it was time. I decided temping was the way to go as I could dictate my own terms. Turns out while temping for a company, they wanted to hire me…while I was pregnant. Before being hired I made it clear I would only work part-time and flexibly once the child was born…if that didn’t work for them, they should not hire me. It worked, I was hired.

40′s

Because they refuse not to – Sadly, Dad took a turn for the worse (inevitable in these kinds of cases) and I was back to helping mode with my Dad, plus I was a Mom who likes having time for her little one and my husband was looking into a job at much bigger firm than one he was currently at, and finally my flex got taken away at work. I sucked it up for a bit, but finally decided no way. Flex was more important…I left and started my own business.

I’ve had only one job in my work life that has not included working flexibly and I can not imagine working without flex ever again. These are not mommy/women issues. These are issues many people face throughout life.

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