So you’ve snagged your dream job and skillfully negotiated your flexible working conditions. Your boss is fully behind you and your colleagues totally get your need to leave the office early. “Hooray!”, you high-five yourself, “I’m living the dream!”
But what if you wake up with a jolt? What if it dawns on you that your reality is anything but a dream? Perhaps your four-day job is really a full time job you just squeeze into four by avoiding people, lunch and even bathroom breaks? Or you can only manage your three-day job because you’re on your laptop every evening after you’ve put the kids to bed? Or, for the fifth week in a row, your work-from-home-Friday has been sacrificed because others have scheduled meetings that can only happen in the office?
And if that’s the case, is the resentment starting to build up? Are you feeling exhausted and burnt out? Dropping the ball at home? Wondering if flexible working is even possible? Considering throwing in the towel altogether?
We hear similar stories often!
However, we can reassure you that it IS POSSIBLE to live your flexible work dream! You just need to take control.
Remember, your organisation has supported your flexible arrangements. Therefore it’s up to you to honour those plans. Stick to your guns and don’t let scope-creep or time-creep sap your motivation at work, compromise your wellbeing or prevent you doing what you want or need to do in your own time.
It IS POSSIBLE to live your flexible work dream! You just need to take control.
Here are five practical ways you can safeguard your flexible work arrangements:
Have regular “big rocks conversations” with your boss. The “big rocks” are the key priorities in your role which must first fill the “bucket” - that is, take your capacity, time and attention. The “pebbles and sand” - your lesser priorities, can be poured in to fill the gaps - but only if your capacity allows; otherwise, they can be delegated or redirected to others. Review your priorities regularly together and created shared expectations.
Guard your boundaries. No-one else is paying attention to your workload or your ever-growing cross-department or multi-stakeholder deliverables. Because you’re great at what you do, work will keep finding you until you say STOP. Managing upwards is essential for you to contain your job. Tell your boss when they’ve given you too much work. Ask for help and brainstorm solutions. You will also have to frequently remind others who work with you that you work flexibly. Set expectations calmly but firmly.
Make your job count. Work smarter, not harder. Try to “craft” your role by aligning your responsibilities with what you enjoy doing and do best. Can you shift the non-energising parts of your role away over time? You’ll be more efficient, effective and deeply satisfied.
Sway. In reality there may be times you have to work longer hours, go into the office more than you’d like, or travel more than is convenient. Try to think of your work and life more in terms of “sway”. If you sway towards work much more one week, make it up by swaying back towards your home life the next week.
Be kind to yourself. Some days and weeks you’ll feel like you’re nailing flexibility and some weeks you’ll fall short or feel frazzled. Either way, take time to fill your “wellbeing cup”. When you feel good you’ll function well at work and in your life. Diarise self-care or enjoyable activities when at home, as you would diarise a business meeting! Put a line in your schedule when you go for a walk at lunch on work days. Detach from what’s happening at work when you’re in life-sway and give your full attention to what’s at hand.
You’re working flexibly for a reason. If you’re feeling out of balance, think back to WHY you want flexibility and the advantages and joys it brings. And then re-commit to making flexibility work for you, by climbing into the driver's seat and taking control.
We’re in your corner!
Deb and Kate