What image pops into most people’s heads when we say flexible working? A mother with kids who is frantically trying to “do it all”. Even with the advent of “all roles flex” organisations, people are still hesitating to go for it, and ask for what they need. Let’s be honest, when flexible work is categorised for working mums, it can isolate and breed guilt on their part. It doesn't serve their co-workers either, who are left to feel perhaps, their lives are not as important or worthy of flexibility.
The fact is flexible working is great for business. The narrative that flex is just something nice that organisations do for their people is simply not credible. There is a considerable amount of data to support this position and the rhetoric needs is shifting.
Some of the reasons you may want to ask for flex may be:
1. Your 'Biological Prime Time'
Research shows that we all have different body clocks and therefore our productivity, creativity and overall energy peak time may not be within 9-5 timeframe. So it seems illogical to push yourself into a standard window of work every day and then be expected to produce your best work.
Think about what you are delivering at any given time and what is required. If your report, design, piece of copy requires you to do some deep thinking, and you know that your best concentration time is after 8pm for example, then flex provides the opportunity to schedule your day in a way to maximise that window. I work best between 8-11pm, so if I take a couple hours during the day to go for a run or such, I do not feel guilty. If anything it makes my prime time even more productive.
2. Health and Wellness
Even if your New Year resolutions are a distant memory by now, chances are you have been thinking about how to get more exercise, health and overall wellness into your life. Being able to adjust your schedule and vary your location of work, as well as your start or end times will give you a much better and wider schedule to work with when trying to fit some exercise in for instance.
Working from home cuts commute time, reduces stress, and allows for more hours of sleep. It also creates a more conducive environment for meditation throughout the day, and makes fitting in a run, swim or an exercise class easier. You can also plan your lunches to be healthier rather than being tempted by coffee breaks, runs to delicious but not so healthy café/restaurant options.
For those of us struggling with mental health issues, all of the above: reduction of stress, increase of sleep, meditation opportunity and ease of access to exercise, all make a vast difference in coping and aiding recovery, and cut down our need for sick days or stress leave.
3. Other passions
Lives that are lived well are lives lead with purpose. For you this purpose may come from something outside of work. It is a sad state of affairs within our society, if we have to wait until we retire to volunteer and create positive change in our community. There could be a cause, an event, an organisation that will give you great pleasure to be a part of, and that passion and purpose will make you a more productive person at work.
You may be, in your heart, an artist that gets their incredible amount of ‘flow’ from spending some time creating, or performing and your mental health, and overall wellbeing will benefit from spending some time doing what fulfils you.
You may have that idea for a ‘side hustle’ that you have been dying to try to get off the ground but can never seem to get there. All of the things you learn running a small side business will be a fantastic asset to your organisation as well. Not only that, but an employee who is connected to community, fulfilled and living a life of purpose, is also one much more likely to be engaged at work - watch this TED talk for some inspo.
4. Creativity and innovation
If we are looking to do our best deep thinking, highly focused work, we need to be able to isolate ourselves from distractions. We need focus in larger chunks of time than office environments allow for. If you have a good space to work from at home, use it to get this quiet, focused time. If not at home, libraries are fantastic as well.
Research on creativity and innovation has shown that by just changing your environment and altering what you are surrounded by in terms of space and sound, can increase creativity levels in our brain. So if you are working on something that requires a different way of thinking, try a new space and see how just by changing the background can stimulate the brain in different ways and enhance how your ideas are formed. Coffee shop noise levels have been shown to be quite conducive to work, but cliff tops, parks and many other locations may work just as well for you.
5. To save some money and lower you carbon footprint
Sit down and have a really good think about your expenses, and how much of your weekly budget is influenced by you going into work – the commuting expenses (tolls, petrol, public transport tickets, parking, etc), the coffees, lunches out, shopping temptations etc. If you really want to get depressed, look at this calculator Ford has put together that calculates your commute over a lifetime and equates in movies watched!
Now have a think about how much you could save on an annual basis if you chose to work from home once in a while and what a difference that could make towards that down payment on your first home, trip overseas or a new gadget you have been eyeing.
On the flip side cutting out the need to commute will also have a positive impact on your carbon footprint and reduce congestion in our ever-growing cities. If organisations spent time encouraging people to reduce their commutes we could all get so many other personal benefits, as well as reduce the need for excessive infrastructure projects needed and then re-distributing some of that tax money towards things like health, education, or even simple tax cuts.
So go on, ask for your version of flexibility and do something great for yourself, your well-being. But remember, this is not a selfish act - your choices will also benefit many others: the frazzled working moms who can let go of some of the guilt, your organisation, our environment, your community. It's a win-win.
Connect with us to find out what flex could look like in your organisation or contact Juggle Strategies Co-Founder, Maja Paleka directly at firstname.lastname@example.org