Here’s the message I’ve been spreading for women in and out of the workforce—one that can never be said enough:
Always work in a flexible way that fits your life for long-term financial security and the ability to fund a long retirement and all of life’s you never knows.
This message seems simple—and achievable—but as I coach current and returning professional women about blending work and life, I meet so many who are not aware of today’s flexible work landscape. I meet so many who don’t believe it’s truly possible to blend work and life. It is—and these 20 tips can help any woman move toward more flexible work in 2020.
- Broaden your horizons! The more than full-time, tied-to-your-desk corporate job is no longer the only work option. There are actually six different types of flexible work in all industries—along with endless entrepreneurial ventures you can dream up on your own. Get a free guide to all your options.
- Don’t assume that a full-time job is by definition inflexible. Today a full-time job can be flexible in terms of hours, number of days (think “compressed work week”) or work location. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it, too (all the advantages of full-time benefits in a flexible work structure). Visit fairygodboss.com to get the inside scoop on which companies are truly flexible.
- Reframe your thinking on what it means to have a part-time job. It used to be that part-time jobs were pretty much limited to retail or answering phones at a doctor’s office. Today there are professional part-time jobs in all industries—and if you work at least 30 hours for an employer that has 50+ employees, you’re eligible for employee benefits. Here’s a quick example of higher-paying part-time jobs that are out there today.
- Ditch the idea that working at home means crazy get-rich-quick schemes or junior-level work. Today employees all the way up to the C-Suite are working at home all or part of the time. You can be a full-time telecommuter who works only remotely (check out a wide range of listings, for example, on flexjobs.com).
- But make sure you really are cut out to work at home. It sounds great, but it’s not for everyone. You need to have the right home office set-up (a private, quiet space–not the kitchen table), and be very disciplined, self-motivated and OK without colleagues down the hall. Read “What Women Need to Work at Home”.
- Check out co-working spaces. As an employee or an entrepreneur you can work close to home in a burgeoning number of cool co-working spaces. You get the feeling of camaraderie, there’s always someone to talk to near the coffee machine and there’s a general buzz of active and creative thinking. Hayvn is one example of a great new co-working space near my suburban home.
- Consider a job share. It’s a less common form of flexible work…but it’s growing. If you have complementary skills with a colleague, a job share can give you flexibility without losing career traction. (Learn how from U.S. job share expert workmuse.com.)
- Capitalize on your expertise and start a consulting practice. As the last of the Baby Boomers reach retirement age, employers are losing a lot of intellectual capital. Now they’re much more open to consultants who offer deep niche expertise. As a consultant you’re perceived as a leading expert in your field…and you reduce employment risk with less dependence on the ups and downs of one employer. Check out these statistics that tell a great story about thriving independent consultants and then read the next tip about freelance workers.
- Become a freelancer and work when and how you wish. Freelancers tend to work on shorter-term projects and be less interested in starting a full-blown consulting practice (less need for websites, LLCs, etc.). As employers look to cut costs and reduce office space, freelancers are in hot demand and growing in number. Get ideas, resources (and insurance!) from freelancersunion.org.
- Make sure you’re “Type E” before hanging up your own shingle. Lots of people dream about creating their own product or service—and being their own boss. But in reality, very few people really have the skills and versatility to wear many different entrepreneurial hats and be in sales mode all the time. Do some research about the pros and cons by chatting with members of women’s groups that cater to a wide range of entrepreneurs—like whatwomenwantnetworking.com.
- Assume, at any household income level, that flexible work is always a practical part of life. There are too many life you never knows…and today work can both fit and fund life. Read “2 Surprising Life You Never Knows Women Need to Fund”.
- Be devoted to both financial and physical fitness. All the pilates or spin classes in the world won’t help you if you run short of funds in retirement. Financial fitness is not the result of huge salaries…it’s the result of consistent earning, saving and investing. Consistency is possible because flexible work fits every age and life stage. Read “Exercise Toward Financial Fitness, Too”.
- If you have young children, consider childcare the necessary—and temporary—cost of working. When you’re working in a more flexible way, however, the traditional childcare model might not work as easily. If you’re working less than full-time hours, it can be hard to find part-time help. Be creative and think outside of the usual sandbox—especially how you can share childcare with other parents. And don’t ever let the cost of childcare keep you out of the workforce: plug your numbers into the Center for American Progress Childcare Cost Calculator to see why a work hiatus will cost you so much more.
- Take a long, hard look at how you spend your time. It’s part of our culture now to say we’re crazy busy…but do you really have to be? A quick fix for greater work and life ease is accounting for how you spend all your time, zeroing in on what are actually priorities and cutting out the fluff. (A great, eye-opening resource: lauravanderkam.com.)
- Ask for the flexibility you want…in the right way. In your current job you can’t just float a simple ask…like “Can I work from home on Fridays?”. You have to make a comprehensive, professional pitch that shows very clearly how any new arrangement will work both ways. Look into flexible work proposal templates at workoptions.com.
- Aim for smaller employers. The corporate giants are still figuring out how to offer flexibility to huge global workplaces. Small to mid-size employers can be more nimble and more creative in offering less traditional work options. Read “Good Things Come in Small Packages…”
- Consider networking your best flexible job search tool. No one should rely on job boards to find any kind of job (with the exception of very high-quality, well-curated job boards like FlexJobs—see #4 above—job boards are big black holes). Flexible jobs tend to be less advertised anyway…so you need to continually expand your personal network and create new connections on LinkedIn. Read “How to Make Networking Connections Count”.
- Tap into companies specifically focused on helping women find flexible work. Many companies are cropping up to help women find less traditional professional work in certain regions or nationwide. Check out my Flexwork for Women Alliance to know who to contact.
- Create forums to discuss best practices for blending work and life. None of us have this whole work and life thing totally figured out. The more you voice your challenges to other women, the more likely you are to find solutions. Create informal discussion groups with working friends. Participate in parenting or women’s employee resource groups at your company—or volunteer to start one. Show your HR leaders this video—my take on why corporations need to do more to help women blend work and life.
- Develop your own brand of ambition and success. Read my book, Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office Doesn’t Work for Every Woman & What to Do Instead. You’ll find more detail on each of these tips, and more!