About three months after the worst part of the recession hit, I spoke to a group of formerly employed mothers who were hoping to get back into the workforce. Many of the women in the audience had not planned to re-enter the job market, but unexpected changes in their financial realities forced them to take the leap. As I listened to their stories, almost every one of them said the same thing to me, “I loved my time with my children, but I wish I’d known there might have been another way I could have kept working and had some flexibility. I just didn’t know there was any other option besides quitting.” They didn’t see the possibilities.
Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You:
“When faced with work/life conflict, it’s easy to become extreme in your thinking about how to resolve it. It can indeed seem like you have to quit or walk away from an opportunity without asking for a change, no matter how small. However, the reality is very different. Hopefully, by now you understand that there are an infinite number of ways to creatively fit work into your life. Considering all of the options that lie somewhere in between the two extremes of all work and no work represents a new, more moderate ‘in between’ way of fitting work into your life.
The trick is to choose a work+life fit that suits not only your work and personal realities, but also your comfort level. The beauty of having so many choices is that you can start out small and then, once you’ve tested the waters, perhaps make an even bigger change…” (Click here from more and to print or download PDF)
Takeaway Action Tips:
Watch Your Language! The choice is not “all or nothing,” but the black and white language we use to describe our own work+life fit choices and the choices of others reinforces it even though the reality is actually full of gray. That doesn’t mean that you can’t step away from paid work for a period of time, but it is not the only choice. Unfortunately, the language our culture and especially the media uses to describe work and life is extreme, and often inaccurate. The excerpt highlights a number of examples where the language and an individual’s work+life fit don’t match. There’s the “stay-at-home dad,” who actually works from home editing operas, or the “stay-at-home mom” who actually ran her husband’s construction business for years.
Small Changes Make Big Difference. Don’t dismiss the power to improve your work+life fit with small shifts in how, when and/or where you work and manage your life. Many examples in the book describe big work+life fit changes such as telecommuting two days a week, or working three days a week, but the same steps apply to small adjustments that can have a big impact. For example, leaving once a week an hour earlier to get to an exercise class doesn’t sound like much, but it can make an enormous difference.
If You Can’t Have the Fit You Want Right Away, Start with Incremental Changes. Maybe you really want to work from home two days a week. You would be less distracted and get more work done. Plus, you wouldn’t have a 1-hour roundtrip commute. But in this environment, you’re afraid to ask because your boss has never had an employee work virtually. Therefore, you decide to start by presenting plan to work from home one day every other week (twice a month) for three months. Then you’ll review the plan with your boss, and if all is well, propose increasing to one day every week.
Always See the Win-Win for You and the Business. The flexibility you need to manage your work+life fit can be a huge win for your employer. But you’re going to have point out how it’s mutually beneficial. For example, if you work from home, you could be more productive and get more work done. If you shift your hours to come in earlier and leave earlier, you can provide live customer service to clients in Europe. If you reduce your schedule to three days a week, your manager saves a portion of your salary. Remember, partnering to help you flexibly manage your work+life fit is good business. Put the benefit to your employer front and center.
Yesterday’s Work+Life Fit Role Models No Longer Apply, but They’re Very Powerful. We Need to Create New Role Models for Today’s Reality. This is a tough one. Whether you are a new parent looking for examples of how to flexibly manage work and your new role as a mother or father, or you are approaching traditional retirement age but want to keep working, it’s natural to look for role models. Unfortunately, you aren’t going to find many. First, twenty years ago, work itself was different. Technology has transformed our ability to work much differently than the previous generation did. Second, demographics have changed. More mothers work because they want to and have to. Fathers have different expectations about their involvement, by choice and necessity. More retirees are living longer and don’t want to or can’t afford to just play golf. Work+life fit decisions people made in the past weren’t wrong, but now, we need to create our own role models.
For the other part of today’s “Work+Life in 5 Days” segment, click here to go to my Work+Life Fit blog–What is Work+Life Fit? (Day 1)
Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:
Day 3: Challenge Roadblocks — Fear