A close friend of mine recently recounted a conversation she had had around workplace flexibility. Her colleague, who is a mother of two, said to her:
“For you young professionals, it seems like work is always expected to be your number one priority. Everyone is so understanding about my needs as a mom that I feel like I have so much more workplace flexibility to do what I need to do.”
In the world of work/life balance, working parents are king (and queen). And they should be — they are sleep-deprived superheroes. They’re doing their best in their 9-5 just like the rest of us (or 8-4, 7-3, part-time, we’re talking flexibility here, folks) and raising other human beings on top of that. Serious kudos.
Creating a culture to allow for daycare drop-offs, no-questions-asked when your kid gets sick at school in the middle of the workday, and all the other curveballs parenthood throws at you is paramount. And that’s why so much of the (amazing) content we’re seeing out there surrounding workplace flexibility features parents.
But what if you’re not a parent?
Workplace Flexibility for All
Speaking as a young professional myself, navigating these waters can be hard. There can be a lot of irrational guilt and anxiety associated with taking time off and requesting flexibility. Because is there really any reason why you can’t be working, when you have no one to take care of other than yourself?
To more seasoned professionals that may sound ridiculous, but I have heard the same sentiments echoed time and time again from friends, classmates, and acquaintances. So it’s not just me.
So what types of workplace flexibility are important to non-parents? There’s lots to choose from, but I’ll tell you my flexibility story (because as you know, there always has to be a story).
I’m in a long-distance relationship. My boyfriend Bryan lives two-and-a-half hours away, so not too far but far enough that we’re limited to weekends. I coach youth basketball on Sunday late mornings, so driving down Friday evening after work to leave early Sunday morning makes for a pretty quick weekend.
For anyone familiar with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, I feel the need to mention I’m going from DC to the eastern shore. Factoring in city gridlocks + Friday night beach traffic makes for a major YIKES.
Making it work for YOU
One day, I had a crazy thought. What if I worked remotely from Bryan’s house on Fridays the weekends I’m down there? Not only would that significantly extend our time together, but by leaving on Thursday I could avoid the weekend beach traffic. All around, it would be a major improvement to my mental health and our relationship. A big thumbs up in a shoe-shining chair for that!
While I knew our co-founders would be more than happy to arrange for this setup, I was still nervous to ask. Requesting flexibility for my 9-month long relationship seemed almost frivolous, but I knew it would make a significant difference for me. So I went for it:
Me: “Hey Scott, do you mind if I work from Salisbury on the Fridays of the weekends I’m down there, to avoid traffic and extend my time there?”
Scott: “Yeah, sure, great idea. Hey, by the way what’d you think of the Caps game last night?”
None of this is earth-shattering; more and more, work/life balance is becoming a priority for individuals in the workplace. And more and more, companies are making major moves to accommodate these needs.
So why limit our conversations, and content, about this topic to working parents? The more stories of flexibility that are shared, the more conversations we can inspire surrounding work/life balance. All on the path of creating a better working world.