One good thing I’ve been seeing in 2020 is a shift in employers’ willingness to consider different work options for their employees. We are getting to the place (yes, thanks to COVID) where it is acceptable to be on a video call without full makeup, and fitting in a mid-day walk or trip to the gym is encouraged. We still have a very long way to go, but it’s progress.
If we look back a few years, here is what the Government of Canada said about flexible work in September 2016:
Flex work, as it is commonly known, plays an important role in addressing the realities of today’s workplace, society and economy. For employees, it offers a way to better manage the often competing demands of paid work and their family and other personal responsibilities outside of work. For employers, flex work helps foster productivity as well as inclusive and supportive work environments that attract and retain talent. [ source ]
That sounds great, doesn’t it? Flex work is not just for parents, it’s for everyone who has multiple demands in their life, or wants a more productive work schedule.
But how do we actually “better manage the competing demands of work and family“ when it comes to flex work?
Rewrite the Rules… or Not
Even if you think flex work is impossible in your role, ask ! Pitch an idea. Those unprecedented times we live in provided a different view and therefore opportunities to challenge what we knew as “norm”. And once the rules have been rewritten, it could lead to new ways to revamping your current role incorporating flex work.
Once you are in a flex work position, it’s likely you’ll have to look at whether to change when and how you work. If you have spent your life working 9-5, you might not even know when your individual best working time is. experiment with some different “shifts” and see how things play out. Whether you get your best work done early in the morning or late at night, create your own rules for when you clock into work. It might be an adjustment for you and your employer, but I have found that the results of working within your natural energy cycles speak for themselves. For moms, factoring in what times of the day our kids need us the most will be part of this experiment.
There are some great online support groups out there for moms doing flex work. Consider joining one, and reading in detail about how moms are finding different ways to apply flex work in their lives.
Plan for the Next Task
Flexible work can mean losing the option for a slow start to your workday- something more traditional workplace often have built into their culture.
As your final “to do” at the end of each work block, plan what you’ll do next and for how long. This save a little mental energy and can help with more abrupt transitions between family life and work life (i.e. if you have three minutes left between sending your child to school and starting work, it’s already easier if you already know what your first task is).
Track your progress
When flexible work means not working within sight of your boss, it may not be obvious to them what you are getting done each day. And for some employers, having to shift their own mindset to flexible work goes against a lifetime of doing “management” one very specific way.
Whilst it may not be “your job” to help your employer transition to different ways of work, regular communication is key. Keeping them appraised with your progress, challenges and accomplishments will send the message that you are still doing the job done.
I have to say, employers who allow flex time are generating a lot more loyalty within their employees. If you can get the right flex agreement, you’ll be far more likely to stick with the company – and be happy to do so!
If you are in management and have employees beginning flex work, look for ways to prove the benefits, such as measuring outputs instead of inputs.
We are still learning about true flex work – and balancing family land work life – and I am excited to see how this can enable women to do more of what they love and what they are good at without having to fit into an antiquated work model.