Embracing Change: How to Maintain Flexibility in the Workplace

“Flexible” isn’t a word you associate with your job
For most of us, our careers dictate large chunks of our lives. Even if we enjoy the work, it’s still work done on someone else’s timetable, in which we have little say. Workplace flexibility is a growing movement to change that, giving us control over our jobs instead of the other way around. It involves adjusting any or all of the three factors at play: when you work, where you work, and how you work.
The workday, as seen on TV for decades, is largely considered “the 9-5 grind.” It’s a solid chunk of eight hours, though more frequently 8-5 seems to be the norm. Regardless, it’s when everyone goes to work, and when everyone comes home. With 24 hours in the day, however, there are other options. If you need to work eight hours per day, consider placing them at a different time. Are you a morning person? Working from 6AM – 2PM takes advantage of your peak time, and still leaves you a long afternoon for yourself.

Of course, many offices are only open for specific hours, and there isn’t the option to come to work three hours before everyone else. Days can be flexible as well as hours; work four 10-hour days and take Friday off, or, particularly if you are employed part-time, work three days one week and four the next. The “when” of workplace flexibility focuses on how many hours you need to work to maintain your financial comfort and to manage your tasks, and then arranges those hours in the most convenient way.

Many jobs require you to be on the scene every day, due to specialized equipment, company software, or client meetings. There isn’t necessarily much flexibility in where the work can be accomplished, but you may be able to rearrange your hours to have more non-working time, at home or wherever you’d prefer.

Depending on the situation, telecommuting can be a viable option for part or all of some positions. One day a week, or maybe three half days per week, you may be able to work from home or from a local library or coffee shop, where you can write emails, hold conference calls, and schedule meetings. Think critically about what could take place outside the cubicle, and how that could work into a schedule that meets both your needs and your company’s.

The “how” of workplace flexibility is where creative ideas really start flowing. How do you work best? Do you work a set number of hours per month, or even year, instead of per week? Could you share your position with someone else, where each of you works half a week, or every other week? What may seem like off-the-wall solutions might become more of the norm as people begin to arrange work to fit into their lives, as opposed to vice versa.
This is an area of particular interest to new parents, who may want to reduce or rearrange their working hours to spend time with a new baby. Employers who are willing to accommodate new interpretations of the workweek will find themselves with more dedicated, grateful employees, who are more fully present during the times they are in the office.