How to Get the Nerve to Go for Flexible Work Opportunities

What you need to know about flexible work opportunities

Flex Work words of wisdom
Liz McGrory

An interesting thing happens when you become a working mom.  You gain a new perspective on the world.  For one, you’re in charge of another human being and inherit a motherly instinct. And second your values and priorities go through a major shift.

For some, job dissatisfaction occurs because your career priorities and this new family priority clash.  Frustration rises when you return to work trying to “get back to normal” working at your previous speed, at the same caliber, with the same commitment.

  Something has to give, but what?

If you are trying to answer this question consider researching one or all of these flexible work options:

  • a part-time schedule
  • a flextime schedule
  • telecommuting/working from home schedule
  • freelance/contract work. 

I recently spoke with Sara Sutton Fell the CEO of FlexJobs.com, one of the biggest, reliable, and well-known flexible work job board websites out there.  Here’s Sara’s story:

Sara started FlexJobs while pregnant and launched when her baby was three months old.  The business idea was born out of her frustration to find the flexible work for herself.  She wanted to stay available and professionally active and although flexible type work was out there she found they were buried, and hard to find.

The goal that drove her to start this company was to make it easier for others to find flexible work.   Using her previous experience from her first company, which was an entry level job board site back, FlexJobs was born in 2007.

I asked her some questions about working moms going from full-time to a flexible work schedule.  Here’s what she had to say along with my suggestions, too.

Before you leave the workforce, consider a flexible work schedule

We know that 43% of mothers leave the workforce after having a child (thanks to Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In).

  I asked Sara to share some tips for new Working Moms who are contemplating if a flexible work would be a better than leaving the workforce.

Sara’s first tip was this,

“Do your due diligence by looking around your company for flex examples.  Are there any telecommuters?  Has anyone successfully cut back their hours or work flex hours?  Once you find these people take them out and get their story.  Gather as much data as you can to see what your options are.”

Her second piece of advice was to be honest with yourself. 

“What would really fit for you?  Do you know all of your options?  Telecommuting can be hybrid [meaning you can work from home some days and others you are in the office].  Do you have an office at home that would work for you?  Would part time at 20 hours work for you?”

I agree with Sara.  Have you ever imagined what life would be like if you had a flexible work schedule?   Change can be a challenge but mentally preparing can ease the transition.

  • How would you start your day? 
  • What would you do every day? 
  • What would it feel like to not drive to work every day?  How would that feel? 
  • Imagine spending time with your children this summer that doesn’t happen after 5pm

Because you are mentally prepared when (and if) you make the switch you’ll think “Oh yeah, this is what I imagined it’d be like.”  You have set personal expectations of what your new life would be like.

Another thing I’ll add is believe that the right flexible job is out there for you.  After you follow Sara’s advice of doing due diligence within your company, go check out the job board on FlexJobs.com.  They have gone through all the work from home scams out there in hopes to find you the right flexible work opportunity..

What are the biggest challenges a working moms may face when switching to flexible work schedule?

Sara said,

“Self-discipline is a common challenge I see.  Trying to really focus when you are working and then focusing on your family, that juggling act, can be hard.  It’s an important line that needs work and focus.  When I come home I like to decompress for 15 minutes to get work out of head.”

Next, Sara stressed the importance of having adequate child care.  

“Being professional is important. Not all jobs are flexible when kids interrupt it.  It can damage your professionalism.  You can’t change your definition of professionalism [when you take on a flexible work schedule] and you still have to live up to the expectations of the job.  When you’re at work you’re at work.  When you are successful at your job you can live up to those expectations.”

“With kids [around], you are constantly figuring things out and are at the mercy of your children.  To succeed in the way you did before you had kids don’t undercut yourself by going without proper childcare.  You are doing yourself a disservice.  This goes back to being honest with yourself.”

I’ll add that the lack of a structure is challenging.  I recommend creating a plan that supports your new priorities.  Your workload may have changed, if you’ve cut back your hours. How can you efficiently adapt to the extra time you’ll have on your hands. 

Some working moms become overwhelmed with all the possibilities to catch up on housework or passion projects.  Prioritization is important because in some ways you’ve become your own boss. You will have more time and energy that you’ll want to do more.  To get a handle on this new lifestyle create a plan on what you want to do with your time.

Where the flexible work job force is headed

Sara, along with others, are working on spreading the news on work flexibility through the 1 Million for Work Flexibility initiative.

Sara explained they are bringing together the different stakeholders that are involved in education needed to make work flexibility more common such as HR thought leaders, researchers, plus the people who need work flexibility. 

Sara said,

“A lot is happening for many reasons and it feels powerful.  It will continue moving forward and will become wide spread.”

She shared that it’s trending generationally where work flexibility allows the younger generation to be mobile.  Especially because we can learn from anywhere at any time, not limited to the geographic location, plus the younger generation wants work flexibility and mobility.  They want work/life balance more than ever.  They are a big driver for work flex. 

“The makeup for our family and society with single parent families changes our needs and ability to be good parents.  If you’re both working it’s hard to be there for your kids.  Technology is allowing us to work flexibly.  It’s only moving forward.” 

We ended our talk with exciting news.  On June 8th, FlexJobs is hosting their first conference, TRaD Works Forum.  Their goal is to help companies formalize a process for their flexible work options instead of just adhoc to promote fairness among employees and track ROI (only 3% of companies track the RIO on flex work!)

I asked this question to inspire you to consider flex opportunities.  So much work is being done to bring you flex work opportunities!  There are many possibilities out there for you if only you become audacious enough to look for them. 

Now I'd love to hear from you!

What is holding you back from going for a flexible work job?  If you've already made the switch, what piece of advice would you share?  

If you have any questions about flexible work either let me know over on my Facebook page for feel free to reach out to the great team over on FlexJobs.com.