Are you tired of working 10 and 12 and 14-hour days? Do you want more time for yourself or your family? It’s okay to admit it! And, admitting that you need or want more time for things other than work does not mean you are any less professional or any less committed to your work. It simply means that you are setting healthy boundaries to protect your priorities and avoid becoming expended, depleted, and overwhelmed.
Today, in a work world where competitive pressures are the name of the game and huge work loads the norm…In a work world where we face constant change and corporate cultures that tell us that we must constantly do more, be more, and bring in the sales or else…it is no wonder that a growing number of workers are saying “enough” and seeking more reasonable and balanced alternatives.
In my work as a job search coach, resume writer, and career marketing specialist, I am in daily contact with people in all different phases of career transition. While many still pursue careers on the traditional corporate ladder, and most of these clients find this an extremely rewarding path for a variety of their own reasons, there are a growing percentage—and the number seems to be growing every year—of individuals who have made a conscious decision to buck the trend and take a step off that ladder. These clients tell me that they want to regroup and carve career paths for themselves that allow for more flexibility and for what has been coined “work-life balance.” The changes aren’t always as dramatic as you might imagine. Often the solution is as simple as negotiating a more flexible work arrangement within the corporate structure.
If the above sounds like you, but you are hesitating to make the move because you aren’t quite sure you fully understand your options and how to make them work for you, the following explanation of some of the more popular flexible work arrangements may be just the inspiration you need.
Flex Hours – If you are happy working a 40-hour week, but prefer not to work the typical five or six days per week, negotiating for a schedule based on flex hours may be just what you are looking for. For example, with a flex schedule, rather than working five eight-hour days, you might work four ten-hour days and take a full three days off for yourself. Of all the options, this one has the potential to be the least disruptive. You will still be working the same number of hours; you’ll just do it in a different configuration.
Job Sharing – Although not common, job sharing is becoming more popular and more accepted. This is a good option if you love your job and want to remain on the same rung of the “ladder.” However, it does require, in most cases, taking a cut in pay, so it may not be for everyone. Job sharing entails taking a job that might normally require 40, 50, 60 hours per week and essentially cutting the responsibilities down the middle to be shared by two people. This arrangement requires constant communication and cooperation, but it can be effective under the right circumstances.
Portfolio Career – If you are ready to leave the corporate world behind, or at least leave some of it behind, a portfolio career may be your best option. While many of us have been raised to believe that a full-time job is really the only secure work arrangement, a portfolio career may actually be more secure because it involves multiple streams of income. If one source dries up, you always have the other sources. What is a portfolio career? It is a career that is built around your skills and interests through a variety of part-time jobs, which may include some combination of part-time employment, self-employment, freelancing, consulting, and temporary jobs. If you truly enjoy flexibility, freedom, and variety in your work, and can tolerate the unpredictability, you may want to consider a portfolio career.
The culture of the business world tells us to maximize everything, push the limits, and pursue more. The three flexible work arrangements described above might be the perfect solution to help you avoid overwhelm and the many negative effects of overload. You do, of course, have many other options as well. Consider phased early retirement, turning down a promotion, relocating to shorten your commute, telecommuting, moving laterally or even into a downward position. The choice is yours.
While you might experience resistance as you begin to set clearer boundaries between your personal needs and work, always remember that you and only you are in charge. If you know your priorities and you truly want to create more work-life balance, you can’t just wait for someone else to come and make the changes for you. You must make them yourself!
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