What Does Flexible Working Mean?

January 4, 2017
Flexible Working
Flexible working at the beach

Squeezing in some work at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Flexible working feels like a bit of a global goal at the moment, with as many as 80% of North American companies offering some type of flexible working arrangements.

“I think everyone could use some more flexibility in his or her life and I think the expectation will be that jobs in the future incorporate at least some of these aspects.”

What I’ve come to discover is that the term ‘flexible’ means something different to almost everyone I speak to. Recently I’ve been interviewing a number of people who are working remotely and one of my first questions is always “why do you like being location independent”. Their answer is usually “I like the flexibility” so I began to probe a little deeper on what they meant when they said “flexibility” 

For Dani (a graphic artist), it meant being able to live her life as the night owl she naturally is – so not getting up before noon if she doesn’t want to, but working late into the night when necessary. Her husband doesn’t get home from work until after 11pm so for her, this means she gets to spend more time with him.

For Nikki (an author), it means being able to travel, sail and rock climb whilst still working wherever she is in the world.  

Flexible working frees up time for sailing!

Nikki playing dingy captain at Marina Cay in the Caribbean

For Mike (an Environmental Consultant), it means working from home and being able to see his two young children whenever he takes a break and not losing an hour or two of each day to commuting.

For my partner Sue, flexibility means not having to sit at the same desk in the same building for 8 hours, 5 days a week.

For me, it means a little of everything. About 5 years ago my boss, at the time, made the mistake of introducing me to the Four Hour Work Week. I don’t think I ever really felt the same about work from that moment on.

I began rethinking whether certain tasks were worth my time and became much more intentional about what I spent my time on. With 3 children, flexibility means the freedom to work from home on teacher training days and when the kids are sick. It also means having the time to volunteer once in a while or to take my kids to appointments without having to take vacation time. 

Flexible work frees up time to spend with family

The family watching the sunset on Cooper Island

As a family that likes to travel and has aspirations to live on a sailboat at some point in the future, I needed a job/career that I could do from almost anywhere.

I was fortunate to have a very understanding boss who was willing to work with my requirements on number of hours and flexibility with those hours. Soon thereafter, fate stepped in, in the guise of my husband getting a great job in a different city. This meant my options were to leave my current job, or move cities and take my job with me. I opted for the latter and loved it.

“I’m interested in looking at ways in which more traditional jobs can become flexible ones”

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker, which vastly improves my chances of working a flexible job. I’m interested in looking at ways in which more traditional jobs can become flexible ones and the trend towards the gig economy.

I think everyone could use some more flexibility in his or her life. I think the expectation will be that jobs in the future incorporate at least some of these aspects.

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