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Editorial
What Is Work Flexibility?
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Jennifer Parris

You may love the work you do. You may find the projects you work on fascinating, and you might even dig your boss, too. But your hour-long commute to and from the office every day? Not so much.

That’s where work flexibility comes in. Flex allows people to continue working in the careers that they’ve built, in the jobs that they love, but on their terms. Meaning, you can ditch your daily schlep into the office, start working at 5:00 a.m. if you’re a morning person (or 11:00 a.m. if you’re not), and be able to get a better handle on the work/life juggle.

But if you thought that work flexibility only came in one flavor, think again. There are a wide variety of options when it comes to the world of flexible work, and there's no one-size-fits-all. Here's a closer look at the various types of work flexibility to help you determine which one (or ones) would make the most sense for your career—and your life.

Telecommuting

There are a few different names for telecommuting jobs (remote jobs, work-from-home jobs, etc.), but they are all essentially the same concept. A telecommuting job means that you can work from home—or even be a digital nomad and travel the world while you work, as long as you have a solid Internet connection. Telecommuting jobs can be full-time or part-time.

Part-Time

Want to work but not have to log in 40+ hours a week? A part-time job might be just the fit for you. Part-time jobs can be telecommuting or in-office, and are typically under 35 hours a week. If you’re already in a job that you love but can’t commit to a full-time schedule anymore due to personal commitments (such as having a baby or taking care of an aging parent), you might want to schedule a meeting with your employer to find out if you can reduce the number of hours you work and be a part-time employee. Of course, this might affect your salary and benefits, so it’s a good idea to talk to HR about it first to know of any potential ramifications.

Freelance or Contract

Let’s say that you want to have complete and total control over your work schedule—and life. And frankly, who doesn’t? With a freelance job, you’ll achieve just that. The great thing about freelance work is that you choose who you want to work with, when you want to work, and for how long. If you need chunks of time off between gigs (e.g., to go back to school or travel the world), you can do just that with a freelance job. Typically, freelancers will have more than one gig going at a time, and many can make upwards of the same salary of a full-time position. The downside: you need to always be on the prowl for new work, since freelance jobs have definite end dates.

Compressed Workweek

If the idea of having a free Friday every week to do as you please sounds perfect for you, a compressed workweek just might do the trick. The idea of a compressed workweek is what its name implies—you’ll work a typical 40-hour workweek, but in four days instead of five. Meaning, you might work longer days Monday through Thursday, so you can have your Fridays free. Compressed workweeks are typically workplace-bound, so you would most likely have to go into an office. But the benefit of having every Friday free to do what you need outisde of the office might make your longer workdays worth it.

Job Sharing

In a job sharing situation, two part-time workers will work together as one to perform the duties and tasks of one full-time position. Job sharing usually happens when you’re already in a job but need to reduce your hours. Another part-timer might be brought on to pick up the slack, or a second worker also looking to work a reduced schedule might join you in the job share. Being able to work seamlessly together (and get along) is a must in this type of job, but the benefit is that you can still hold onto your job title and you already know the ins and outs of your job without having to search for a new position.

Alternative Schedule

Perhaps you don’t really mind your commute into work. What you do mind, though, is the crush of people pushing their way onto the bus/train, or being stuck in traffic for what can seem like hours on end. An alternative schedule just might be the answer to your commuting woes. In this flexible schedule position, you can start your workday earlier (say, before the traffic gets too heavy) and then get to leave the office earlier, too (again, before rush hour starts). It allows you to work in the office, which you might find that you prefer than working home all alone, but without having to waste your time—and your life—idling away in traffic. That said, telecommuting jobs can come with a flexible schedule as well—there's often more than one way to flex.

If you’re ready to find a better way to juggle work and life, a flexible job is the next logical step in your career. And it won't just be good for you: numerous studies have shown that employees with flexibility are more productive. And for each telecommuting employee, a company stands to save $10,000 annually in real estate and office expenses, etc. Plus, if your company prides itself on being eco-friendly, well, there’s no greener way to work than to be able to telecommute.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to flexible work, but by finding the right fit for you, as well as for your employer, flexibility can have vast benefits and be a true win/win for you both.

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Jennifer Parris once tackled a daily four-hour commute. Now, as a contributing writer for 1 Million for Work Flexibility and the career writer for FlexJobs, she commutes to the corner office (in her house, that is) in under 60 seconds. She was formerly the Senior Writer at Working Mother Magazine and has written for several publications, including Parenting, Latina, and other women's interest titles. She resides in CT with her husband and children. To help work flexibility become the workplace norm, join the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement at www.workflexibility.org.

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