The Power of Y.O.U. and 4 Steps to Work-Life Flexibility

“We love flexibility because it creates optionality. And options create freedom. If you have options and freedom, you will feel and be empowered.” ~ Nancy Friedberg 

I was recently interviewed for a new podcast, called Glisten Up, on the topic of “Is your Work-Life Flexibility Working for You?” You can listen to the podcast here. Initially, I was invited to share my success strategies for achieving “work-life balance.” I happily jumped at the invitation, but under the condition we rename the podcast to “work-life flexibility” instead. Why? Work-life balance is a fallacy and no longer exists. Today, there is NO separation between work and life. Instead, the two need to be skillfully blended in such a way that creates maximum flexibility for optimizing employees’ mental and physical health while providing the highest levels of client service.  

It’s easy to lose sight of the Power of Y.O.U. (your own uniqueness) when you get sucked into the endless demands of work. You may feel adrift without the required focus and intention to stay true to yourself, the path you want to take, and the life you want to live – that is until a crisis occurs. I’ve witnessed this time and again in my three decades of coaching leaders and career changers through radical change. 

Employers are predictable in that when a crisis occurs in the world economy, it signals some sort of wake-up call. Employers typically react to employee existential angst by scrambling to implement new initiatives for attracting and retaining the best talent. Unfortunately, it’s often too little, too late, and consequently, this results in “brain drain,” which carries a high cost to the bottom line. What’s more, the current generation of employees, including Millennials (ages 25 to 40) and Gen Z (ages 18 and 24), are leading the way in a mass exodus in the hopes of finding more progressively run companies that will support their career opportunities and flexible work schedules on mutually beneficial terms. 

Below are four steps for creating work-life flexibility:    

1.) Know Your Core Values and Know What you Want 

Thirty years ago, I launched my side hustle as a Consultant and Career Coach while I worked for a former employer who welcomed me back for a part-time, three-day-a-week job in my specialty, Human Resources. My boss only wanted me part-time and supported my endeavor. Blessed with the good fortune of a flexible arrangement, it was a win/win for both of us. My primary motivation for being my own boss was to serve and care about my clients and my children with maximum flexibility. I knew I had to write my own ticket for working on my terms while not compromising my core values of family first and being mission-driven about talent development. What are the core values you live by that have driven your best decisions to date? 

2.) Have a Vision and a 5-year plan 

If you have no plan, you plan to fail. I’m not a big fan of acting on impulse or winging it when it comes to career/life planning and development. While this may sound obvious, I’ve had plenty of clients who wanted to quit their jobs on the spot out of desperation. Instead, I suggest having a clear vision for where you want to be in 5 years and a plan with specific milestones for getting there. In 1993, I launched my 5-year plan, starting my side hustle as a Career Coach and Consultant. The plan included a three-year horizon to build up a sufficient client following and income to leave my Corporate HR role, which included full benefits. Pregnant with my first baby during year two, I enthusiastically worked my side hustle and corporate job six days a week. By year three of the plan, I broke even with my earnings and had my firstborn, a son. I took a three-month maternity leave with full benefits. At the end of year three, I put myself in a position to part ways from my corporate career and launch Career Leverage, Inc. full time. I knew year five was the make-or-break year, so I continued to hustle through year 4, steadily growing my business while pregnant with my second son. By year 5, my business became profitable; this time, I financed a short one-month maternity leave after my second son was born before returning full-time to my practice. The reward for my planning was the flexibility to spend quality time with my boys on the day I took off and focus with a clear mind on my clients’ goals. With commitment and staying power, I had realized my 5-year plan and coached clients to do the same. Are you willing to create and follow a plan to get the flexibility you desire? 

3.) Be Clear on What You’re Willing to Sacrifice 

I recall countless times people telling me how lucky I was to have a career with great flexibility. I’d nod with a smile and laugh to myself, thinking, “they have no idea!” Nothing happens by magic. A trade-off involves making a sacrifice to achieve a specific experience, and you need to accept those trade-offs to gain it. Having work-life flexibility doesn’t mean you get to work less, per se. It means you have access to more control over when, where and how you work. A client of mine worked with me on a 10-year plan to transition from a 20-year marketing career with a top publishing company to pivoting to a Research Manager role she desired for her final act before full retirement. This client was no stranger to the benefit of long-term strategic planning to realize her dream after mid – life. While working a demanding full-time job, she earned her master’s degree in library science. By the time she retired from her corporate job, she quickly landed the job she had targeted. Working for a national advertiser in Research and Information Services from her late 50s and into her 60s, she was able to work a more manageable work schedule. She is now fully retired and feels free to embrace her next chapter on her own terms. What are you willing to give up in the short term to gain the flexibility you want in the long term? What are your deal breakers and deal makers?

4.) Know Your Options to Create the Right Kind of Flexibility

There are ten types of flexible work arrangements: flextime, compressed workweek, flexplace, expanded leave, job sharing, work sharing, phased retirement, partial retirement, work/family programs, and flexible vacation time. In my example, I chose to work a permanent part-time job three days a week while working my side hustle on my days off. When I launched my business full time, I worked a compressed workweek (10 hour days) with Fridays off to do special activities with my children. My clients with elder care needs have benefitted from taking expanded personal leaves to care for aging parents. In contrast, others have used this option for a sabbatical to recover from burnout. Flextime and flexplace are more popular options used by employees who want to cut down on their commuting time and set their hours to accommodate their more adaptable work style. Most employers have been forced to let go of their attachment to face time in exchange for a trusting employer/employee relationship where completing quality work is done in varied locations and at various times. Have you clearly identified your unique needs to gain the right kind of flexibility?

Your 30 day Power Challenge

  1. Define the top 3 core values you’ve lived by that have driven your best decisions to date? 
  2. Are you willing to follow a plan to get the flexibility you desire? Start at year 5 and work backward. 
  3. What are you willing to give up in the short term to gain the flexibility you want in the long term? What are your deal breakers and deal makers?
  4. Have you clearly identified your unique needs to gain the right kind of flexibility? List your top 3 needs and select a flex option that meets your lifestyle needs. 

Power Resources and Tools

Podcast Series: Glisten Up? Is Your Work-life Flexibility Working for You?

Book of the Month: The 4 Day Work Week by Andrew Barnes

I want to hear from you. Send me an email, and please let me know how you do with this month’s 30-day power challenge, along with the power resources and tools. You can also connect with me via my website: www.careerleverage.net to learn how my services can benefit you and set up a complimentary discovery call with me. 

Are you ready to take action and be accountable for your desired results?

Do you want challenge yourself to grow professionally and personally? If your answer is YES to both for creating sustainable change, then contact Nancy to learn more about the steps for getting there.

Nancy Friedberg

Nancy Friedberg, M.A.

Master Coach and President, Career Leverage, Inc.
Marshall Goldsmith Certified Stakeholder Centered Coach
Certified Now What? Facilitator

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