A couple weeks ago I was having one of those mornings. I’d given up coffee for the thousandth time the Monday prior (thanks a lot, anxiety) and woke up feeling groggy and out of sorts. As I rolled out of bed, I found myself thinking about all of the things I hadn’t gotten around to so far that week - nagging, relentless chores like that load of laundry I meant to do, or the burnt out bulb over the bathroom sink. Those little things that a person can put off almost until The End Of Time if they allow themselves to. I felt fed up and frustrated, so I decided to do something about it.
What I did was what I always do when that particular brand of frustration sets in - I got out of bed and got to work, knocking out not only a desperately needed load of laundry but also a few of the little household fixes and chores that I’d been putting off for months. By the time I finished and was ready to put myself together to head to work, it was 9:30 a.m. and I was feeling a hundred times more capable and ready for the day than when I first woke up. When I walked into my office later that morning I was relaxed, clear-headed, and ready to focus on crushing my to-do list.
This is just one example of the many times I’ve taken advantage of the flexibility of my schedule to help me bring my A-game to work. Sometimes that flexibility looks like showing up at 8 a.m. because I woke up ready to kick some ass. Other days it looks like rolling in closer to 10 because Jackson and I are on opposite schedules that week and the only hours we can sneak together are in the early morning. Occasionally, it even looks like spending a quiet Sunday afternoon in my office knocking out high-focus tasks and taking off early the following Friday. No matter what, as long as enjoying my flexibility helps me focus and produce high-quality work, I feel nothing but good about it.
I put in a set number of hours each week at my job because, as with most positions, that’s how my employment agreement is structured. In my view, it’s up to me to make sure those hours are well spent and driven by outcomes that I need/want to achieve. I’ve enjoyed a high level of autonomy and freedom in my nonprofit career so far, which to me has always implied an unspoken trust and agreement that the return for my freedom is the highest quality work I can muster.
I’m a firm believer that, whenever practicable, allowing employees the freedom to manage and structure their work life as they see fit results in a happier workplace, healthier staff, and better quality outcomes. Of course, there are plenty of positions where a flexible schedule doesn’t work, and there are certainly a number of people who prefer or benefit from a set schedule. But for folks whose positions don’t require a great deal of rigidity and who are motivated and fully engaged in their work, the option to choose a flexible schedule along with a bit of autonomy and trust helps, I think, to encourage a culture of self-care (or as I like to refer to it, self-maintenance) and focused, results-driven work.
Imagine what we could get done if all organizations - particularly in the nonprofit sector, where I’ve already found this approach to be fairly common - encouraged a movement away from the stereotypical Monday-phobic daily grind and towards a more results-focused (as opposed to time-focused) workplace. Consider how many more people would feel truly supported in achieving and maintaining good mental and physical health if they knew they could arrange their schedule around medical appointments without having to explain themselves, or take a long break in the afternoon a few times each week to hit the gym or go for a walk. That's a culture I can get behind.
Do you have a flexible work schedule? If so, what has your experience been? If not, what do you think would change if you did?