Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Is Longevity Key to Flexibility?

Okay, I don't which of you lurking readers out there works for the New York Times, but you've really got to stop leaking them all of my best ideas. Because articles like this one keep coming out, and I'm nowhere to be mentioned; in fact, my comment didn't even make it through their gatekeepers! There are always things to quibble with in articles like these (dads do more than "help," single parents have it worse, etc, etc), but in general, I'm happy to see any piece published that shows anyone can capably work and be an asset to their employers, even if some flexibility is required. I think it's great to further that part of the agenda.

The part that made me laugh in self-recognition was that I *just* posted about the need to keep asking for flexibility only a few weeks ago. Like the woman in the Times piece, it took years to establish myself at my firm before I was allowed to work from home on a regular basis. I've attributed that fact to technological advancements that have made it easier, and the changing times in general that made it more acceptable, but I also think the third fact, that I'd been working there for so long, was also a key part of the argument. I'd built and established trust with my employers, and had a proven track record of delivering good results. Without that, would I have gotten what I wanted?

I've only worked for two companies in my 13.5 year career, which I think is somewhat of an anomaly these days (check out that awesome "for over five years of service" award that I just dug out of my basement to photograph). I've been fortunate to enjoy career advancement without having to move companies all that often, and I like to think that I play an indispensable role. Truth be told, I know I'm not irreplaceable, but it doesn't hurt when I can pull up meeting notes from 2011 and further along a relationship today.

When Hannah was born, I was able to adjust my schedule to work 8 to 4 without any complaints. Of course, for that job I often logged back on the computer as soon as I got home to handle anything that might have come up, but this was before Blackberries became industry standard. And the other side to that truth is that I loved my job, and wanted to do well, so of course I went back to do more work after Hannah and I arrived home. But a schedule adjustment is somewhat easier to tolerate than working from home seems to be.

If I switched companies now, I think I'd want to be upfront about my need for flexibility. I know I'd be unhappy working somewhere that ended up making my home life more complicated. But I also know that I have a sense of loyalty to my current employer for making my work-life balance less challenging. Regardless, I'd hate to think I'd have to start from scratch and work to build up my reputation all over again were I to make a switch.

So what do you think? Is flexibility becoming more of a standard thing, or do you need to have built up some equity first? Recent job changers, what has your experience been?

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