In Newsweek, check out my advice for moms who want to start their own business in order to work, and have more flexibility. “Working for myself” can sound like a good option, and I do hear it quite frequently from people (not just mothers) searching for a better work+life fit. But I often wonder if it isn’t sometimes a default option—“since I don’t think I can have work+life flexibility working for someone else, I’ll work for myself.”
While I believe there’s a lot more flexibility in our current jobs than we realize, there are a couple of important truths to consider before you decide to work for yourself as a way to find a better work+life fit:
Brian Reid’s (Rebeldad) post in today’s Washington Post OnBalance Blog–“Flexibility for Those in Less-Than-Flexible Jobs”–confirms, once again, why we need to stop making the objective “work-life balance” and make it “work+life fit.” He discusses how individuals with jobs such as forest rangers, and nurses where your physical presence is required (for the most part) have a harder time achieve work-life balance, and then compares it to the flexibility available to those with technical responsibility can achieve.
Here’s the deal:
• Each and every one of us is going to have a completely different work+life solution depending upon our unique set of work and personal realities–or work+life “fit”. With a forest ranger, there are certain responsibilities and tasks related to that job that will limit some types of flexibility (e.g telecommuting), but could allow another type (e.g. change in how or when they work) outside of the traditional box. The same goes for a nurse. This doesn’t mean their jobs are “inflexible,” in just means the type of flexibility is going to be contextualized to that job.
Often you can find your “fit” not by doing less work, but by working differently. However, there may be certain work+life transitions that require you to reduce the hours you work and the amount of work you do for a period of time. The question then becomes, “How can I work ‘part-time’”? I’m going to share some strategies for making that shift in a way that considers your needs as well as the need of your job:
• Thinking of it as a “reduced schedule”
• Partnering with your current employer
• Using a “part-time” job placement company
New York Newsday Article (9/10/06)–After the Time Out: How to Navigate the Return to the Workforce”by Patricia Kitchen
Check out the advice a team of experts (one of whom was me) gave a mom transitioning back into the workforce after being at home full-time for a few years. Two important take-aways for everyone:
• It’s essential to clarify your boundaries around work before you start working again. Define what you can and cannot do given the fit you are trying to achieve, and then stick with it. You are the only one who can do this.
• You may need to redefine success—what does doing a “good” job look like—and make sure it matches the work+life fit you’ve envisioned above. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and burning out.
I wanted to point out an excellent segment from this past week’s CBS Sunday Morning show entitled, Labor Intensive: Workaholics Take a Decidedly Labor Intensive Approach to Life”.
I was interviewed by the producer of this segment a few weeks back and I was pleased to see that they clearly separated those who happily choose to work long hours from those who work long hours and are miserable. While they may look the same on the outside, they are very different because one is a workaholic and one is not. The difference is that for the one who is happily working long hours it is a conscious choice supported by their work and personal circumstances. For the workaholic, the long hours aren’t a choice, and their realities don’t support what they are doing and they suffer as a result both personally and professionally.