How to Change Your Work Life to Change Your Personal Life
The different aspects of our lives all overlap, to one degree or another. We’re all filling multiple roles throughout the day; some of yours might be professional, spouse/partner, parent, friend, sibling, child, caregiver, teacher, neighbor, volunteer, commuter, personal accountant, just to give some ideas.
But one area where people often spend the majority of their waking hours — work — tends to impact all the other aspects of our lives.
If you’re feeling like your professional self is somehow at odds with the other parts of yourself, it could be that some friction exists between when, where, or how you’re working, and the parts that make up the rest of your life.
Every year, my company FlexJobs conducts a survey to find out how professionals see flexible work options as impacting their personal relationships, health, and lives outside of work. We found that 55 percent of professionals report that their work-life balance is terrible or needs improvement and 68 percent feel stressed by their current work-life balance. These results are dismaying, and they show that change is needed to find a better way to make work fit with our lives and not constantly compete.
One of the most fundamental and impactful shifts that can happen from a business standpoint, and one that I embrace for our team, is to have a culture of management that considers each of our staff members as “whole people” and not just as workers.
This means acknowledging that not only do people have a right to a life outside of work, but that people’s performance at work can (and often is) influenced by how well or poorly their outside lives are going. We try to not brush that fact under the proverbial rug, and rather to do what we can to help support each other to be successful in both our work and personal lives.
Flexible work arrangements help immensely in accomplishing this. While this isn’t a magic bullet, and I imagine we do other things well, I would say that work flexibility such as telecommuting and flexible schedules have empowered us to create a more sustainable, successful, and happier staff than anything of our other efforts. And we must be doing something right, we’ve been recognized by Entrepreneur and Culture IQ as one of the Top Company Cultures in America for the past two years.
How Workplace Flexibility Impacts Our Personal Lives
What does it mean to be a flexible workplace, and how does that impact both our professional and personal lives?
The beauty about work flexibility policies and options are that they are not one size fits all. The key is finding what works for you and/or your company. Options include things like remote work, flexible scheduling, part-time or freelance roles, job sharing, compressed workweeks, and more.
For my team, being flexible means that everyone works remotely from their home offices 100 percent of the time. No one spends precious time and energy commuting to and from work. Instead, people reinvest that time and energy into themselves however they see fit. We also utilize flexible schedules where our teams have, to a great extent, control over when they start and end their workdays, and we offer extensive paid time off.
And the positive impacts we see among our team aren’t unique. On Thrive Global, I also wrote about 4 Stats that Show How Flexible Work Options Contribute to Well-Being. The vast majority of professionals — 94 percent — feel that changing their work lives to be more flexible would have huge, positive impacts on their lives, including relationships, friendships, stress levels, happiness, health, and much more.
Here are some of the many ways professionals say flexible work changes their personal lives for the better:
Family and Friendships
- 87 percent said it would create more time to spend with family or friends
- 68 percent thought it would help them be a better friend
- 93 percent of working parents with children 18 and under living at home thought having a job with work flexibility would help them be a more involved parent
- 83 percent thought it would help them be a more attentive spouse/partner/significant other
- 51 percent said it would benefit their romantic relationship, and another 26 percent were hopeful it would
- 50 percent thought it would increase time available for dates/date nights
- 46 percent thought having a flexible job would improve their sex life, and another 28 percent were optimistic it would
Personal Health and Wellbeing
- 90 percent thought a flexible job would help them take better care of themselves
- 89 percent believed it would decrease their levels of stress
- 63 percent thought it would increase the frequency they exercised
How to Change Your Work Life to Be More Flexible
First, define flexible work for yourself.
What would your ideal flexible work arrangement look like? A “flexible job” is a professional-level job that has a telecommuting, flexible schedule, freelance, or part-time component.
Every flexible job uses different combinations of flexibility, so think about how you’d prefer to work, and which flexible work options would match with your life needs.
According to the survey respondents, 100 percent telecommuting remains the most popular choice of flexible work for job seekers (72 percent), then flexible schedules (52 percent). Part-time schedules (36 percent), and freelance work (34 percent).
Inquire whether you have access to work flexibility in your current job.
Because the majority of flexible work programs are offered on an ad-hoc basis, with individual managers having discretion over who works flexibly, it’s often not clear what your options are. So, ask.
80 percent of companies offer flexible work options, but 64 percent have no formal policy, and 44 percent don’t even market flexible work options as an employee benefit.
You may need to ask the HR department, your manager, or your coworkers to get a clear picture of whatever flexible work options might exist in your company.
Seek a new, more flexible job.
Flexible work options are growing, so if your current employer just isn’t willing to help you change your work life for the better, there’s never been a better time to search for new, flexible opportunities.
Search online for job opportunities by using the right keywords for the type of flexibility you want. If you want to work from home, use keywords like “telecommuting,” “remote job,” and “home-based job.” If you want to have a “flexible schedule,” try that phrase, along with “flexible hours,” and “set your own schedule.” You might also consider looking for professional part-time work, or stepping out as a freelancer or contractor.
Also, ask your friends, family, neighbors, and professional network contacts how they work, rather than what they do for a living, and you might be surprised to learn that some of the people you know are working flexibly. Learn from them to strengthen your flexible job search.
In thinking about what it takes for each of us to “thrive,” the way we work it’s clear that having more flexibility in when, where, and how we work reduces the friction points in our lives and allows us to truly thrive, at work and everywhere.