Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 21 of Gratitude: Flexible Work


I have a great job.  What you do for work is going to take up a huge part of your life, and although this is a pragmatic transaction (your time in exchange for the money you need to live) people almost all agree that a happier life results from finding work that you love - work you want to do even if you weren't being paid for it.

As a Director of Religious Education, working full-time, I have quipped that I have the reverse of what many working people I know have: They have 5 or 6 days a week of rigid work and 1 day to figure out how to get everything else done, while I have 1 day a week of rigid work and 6 days a week to do everything else and get ready for that one day.  It's a pretty sweet deal.

Don't get me wrong - flexible work does not mean No Work.  A flex day is not a day off.  And sometimes flexible goes both ways - most of my meetings have to be in the evenings and that means less time with my husband, I work weekends and that means no normal weekends with my husband, I get random work calls on my cell phone at any old hour, and I find it hard to go out for coffee by myself without running into someone for church who would like me to sit down and talk with them for a bit ... sometimes for impromptu pastoral care sessions.

When I go on errands, they are usually mixed, with a list for church and a personal list.  I'll separate my purchases at the check out line and saying "I need to use two different charge cards today" rolls off my tongue on a regular basis.  My family is used to the line "I just need to run into church for a little bit ... I'll try to be back soon".  And of course holidays have no real meaning for a religious professional, and I'll never get to enjoy a 3-day weekend with the rest of the world.

But ... if you can take your work to the beach with you, how cool is that?  I love 85% of my work, and would do it even if it wasn't my job.  (I'm giving it 15% for attending boring or unpleasant meetings, which not all meetings are, cleaning up after others, moving heavy furniture around at church, and the other less-fun but necessary tasks).  And I get to read or write or plan while watching my kids play on the beach, or at the park.  And, yes, I've also brought my work to less fun places, like dentist or hospital waiting rooms - but that is also a blessing to be able to do.

I am very grateful for this flexible work.  There is a lot to be said for a change in work culture that requires a bit less "face time" in the office and transitions us to a focus on productivity rather than time-spent working.  If you can get it done on the beach, why the heck not?

(Caveat - I do see some necessity for face-time for work teams, and it is nice to be able to pop down the hall and ask a co-worker their opinion real quick.  But overall I still think a lot of professions and groups could have less face-time and more flex-time if we had a small culture shift and worried more about product and less about controlling people.)

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