“You’re a freelance writer. That’s the coolest job – you get to work from home!” I was a bit taken aback by this comment from a friend of mine, despite the fact that I often receive similar reactions to my career. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job – but as a self-employed writer, I’ve sacrificed a lot (including steady pay and affordable health care) for the chance to work at home and be with my daughter. Sometimes I forget how desirable a flexible work situation is, and how lucky I am to have one.
In a recent study, Mom Corps found that mothers aren’t the only ones willing to make sacrifices. Everyone, from fathers, to millennials, to baby boomers, recognizes that flexibility is not only key to work-life alignment, but essential in keeping up with the demands of an ever-evolving (and changing) workplace. In the following guest post, Mom Corps CEO Allison O’Kelly examines the study’s findings, and looks at just how far employees will go to find flexibility, and achieve alignment.
Desire for Flexibility Driving Some to Give Up Salary, Others to Start Businesses
By Allison O’Kelly, founder and CEO of Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com)
Benchmarking is important when it comes to understanding the pulse of the American workforce in regards to workplace flexibility and finding alignment. The drive and desire for both of these things varies somewhat by location, age, income level and personal circumstances. That is to be expected. But the trend is following an upward trajectory across nearly every segment.
General awareness of workplace options and availability is growing. Professionals recognize that they don’t have to be a mother to want or justify flexibility. Organizations such as Work+Life Fit, Families and Work Institute and the Center for Talent Innovation are doing some amazing and influential work on this front through their research, advocacy and creativity.
Each year at Mom Corps, we commission a study on the workforce preferences of working adults across the country. When we counsel professionals wanting and requiring flexible work options, it is important for us to know how realistic that opportunity this is for them. We also want to know how to address this topic with companies and organizations when they ask if offering flexibility is really something they “need to do.” (A resounding yes, by the way, for many reasons.)
Our expectations of the study were high this year as the dialogue around flexibility and “having it all” were such hot summer topics. Statistics show us that flexibility is increasingly important to working adults – not a surprise. But what did catch our attention was the lengths people are willing to go to obtain that flexibility.
It’s an election year which tends to breed reservation and anxiety. There is persistent uncertainty around unemployment for much of the country. We are still hearing from employers that they are hesitant to hire, and streamlining and cost reductions remain top priorities. And no real economic rebound is expected for 2013, or 2014 for that matter. Now the news isn’t all doom and gloom, but it adds emphasis to my point that, despite all that, professionals are willing to take a cut in salary in order to have more freedom in the way they work. We found that 45% of working adults are willing to give up some percentage of their salary for more flexibility. That’s remarkable.
As I’ve considered the “why” behind employees’ greater willingness to trade salary for flexibility, a couple things come to mind:
- Demographics are shifting and work styles have to shift with them to maintain a productive workforce. Just one example is the “Sandwich Generation.” Just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition to between 7 to 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a long distance (Pew Research Center). Their needs are much more pronounced these days, and those are the professionals who are best in a position to ask for flexibility – higher positions, more proven in their careers, and not afraid to ask.
- Priorities are shifting and companies have to shift with them to retain talent. Flexibility is not just a “mommy thing,” although we are pioneering and advancing the initiative significantly. We see dads with an increasing desire for work options, but children aren’t the only driver of flexibility. Millennials don’t think “face-time” is a requirement to do their job. Boomers want semi-retirement so working part-time looks good to them. There are also those who have to work a second job and need options to accommodate that.
Another interesting finding this year is that more than half (52%) of working adults would be interested in starting their own business to achieve better work/life balance. The inferences here?
- Professionals are growing more confident in their skills specialties and what they have to offer the market.
- The market is cycling back to support small business enterprises (all political points aside).
- Peers are finding success as entrepreneurs and encouraging others to launch out on their own.
- There is a slow but steady confidence in the state of the economy, or at least its plateau.
The most significant repercussion of these findings for both professionals and employers is that more professionals feel like they have somewhere to go, other options even in a tight economy. They are, at the least, thinking outside their current positions and companies. They know they aren’t trapped by the lack of jobs or the competitive market.
What about you? Would you give up salary for more flexibility? Or, have you considered entrepreneurship as a means for gaining more freedom and work/life balance? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Allison O'Kelly is the founder and CEO of Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com), a national flexible staffing firm dedicated to connecting progressive employers with professionals seeking flexible work options.