Whether you're a working parent, you're struggling with chronic health problems or you're simply in search of a way to reduce your daily stress, there are more careers that offer flexibility than ever before.
A Trend towards Work-Life Balance
Flexible work schedules, telecommuting and job sharing are three of the most common ways in which companies are helping employees in search of work-life balance.
Job sharing occurs when two employees split the duties of a full-time position. One person may work the first half of the week, while the other takes over for the second half. In this arrangement, salaries and benefits are typically awarded on a prorated basis according to the number of hours each person is scheduled to work.
While job sharing can offer great benefits for those in search of rewarding part-time work, this arrangement does have its drawbacks. Good communication skills are a necessity, since projects will still need to be completed when you're away from the office. Finding a partner with a work style similar to yours may also prove rather difficult.
Careers most often shared tend to be in areas requiring routine tasks. Types of routine tasks easily divided include clerical, secretarial and production duties. Traditionally, some jobs have been considered ill-suited for job sharing arrangements; these include managerial, supervisory and public positions; however, managerial positions have begun to adopt job share arrangements more than ever. Other professional careers where job sharing is possible include teaching assistants, instructors and support workers.
Telecommuting, also known as telework, e-work, e-commuting, working at home or working from home, is an arrangement in which an employee is allowed to perform some or all of his duties at home instead of in the company's main office. It often makes use of a broadband Internet connection, video conferencing, virtual private networks and other forms of technology.
While there are employers that allow employees to telecommute on a full-time basis, it is more common for this to be a part-time arrangement. For example, the employee may work from home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to the office on Thursday and Friday for face-to-face meetings with his or her colleagues.
Some of the key requirements that make a career suitable for telecommuting are the need for concentration free of outside distractions and a minimal need for face-to-face interaction. Many highly skilled professions that depend on creative or scientific results are suitable for telecommuting arrangements. Jobs, such as writers, journalists, scientists, professors, instructors, consultants, analysts, accountants, architects, researchers and designers are candidates for telecommuting. You may also start your own home business with these professions quite easily, providing you with a flexible schedule.
Flexible Work Schedules
A flexible work schedule is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional 9-to-5 workday. At a business with this type of work arrangement, an employee may vary his or her starting and departure times to fit personal needs. However, he or she must still work a required number of hours per week and agree to be present during any "core" hours the employer requests. Contrary to popular belief, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address the issue of flexible work schedules. This is considered a private matter between the employer and employee.
Various companies are open to flexible work schedules, but it depends largely on the industry and specific corporation.
Individuals who are self-employed also tend to have a very flexible work schedule. If you choose to start your own business, you will need to learn new ways to market your product or services to a list of clients. Jobs suitable for flexible work hours include freelance tutors and instructors, freelance writers, editors, sales positions, home customer service representatives and many more.
Finding Careers that Offer Flexibility
When searching for a job that provides flexible work arrangements, keep in mind these helpful tips:
- Consider your employer's perspective. Keep in mind that it is not your employer's job to make it easier for you to balance work and personal obligations. When discussing flexible work arrangements, it's best to pitch your proposal in terms of benefits for your employer. For example, you may wish to mention ways in which telecommuting can help the company reduce overhead expenses.
- Build your skills. Not surprisingly, the people who are most likely to be offered work accommodations are those who are considered to be the most valuable employees. Make yourself someone who would be difficult to replace.
- Think small. If you're looking for a new position, research has shown that companies with 50 to 99 employees are most likely to provide careers that offer flexibility. The 50 employee mark is crucial because this is the point at which companies must obey provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
If you are interested in learning more about flexible work options, check out the following helpful resources:
- FlexJobs is a great resource for finding out what kinds of real opportunities for flexible work are out there. You can use many of the site's resources for free, though you will need to join if you want to get the information you need to apply for the pre-screened positions posted on the site. You can subscribe for a full year for less than $50 or sign up on a month-to-month basis for just under $15 per month.
- Work Options outlines several types of initiatives designed to promote a more flexible workplace and provides tips on getting your boss to approve your proposal.
- Working Mother publishes a list of 100 companies that provide careers that offer flexibility.