Flex Jobs: 3 Real Parents Explain How They Found Them

Rebecca Webber

flex timeThere’s a reason it’s called “the grind.”

The standard workweek grates on many of us, but especially those who have children at home. They’re stuck in rush-hour traffic while their babies are getting baths and bedtime stories, their grade-schoolers are struggling with multiplication, and their teenagers are up to who-knows-what.

A recent study conducted by LearnVest revealed that more than half of workers would prefer a flexible schedule, or even a job-share. Two in three wish they could log their weekly hours over four days instead of five, and 43% want to work remotely.

But since these arrangements aren’t easy to find, especially with several high-profile companies ending work-from-home status for employees, many people end up feeling like work-life balance is impossible.

RELATED: Companies That Let You Work From Home

Not so for these three parents, who each found a different way to secure the flexible working arrangements that let them keep their dream jobs and keep up with their families. So, how did they do it, and what does it look like? We asked.

how to get flex time“I asked for it.”

Teresa Coates, 43
Media Relations Specialist, Los Angeles

Earlier this year, Teresa Coates landed an amazing gig managing social media for a fabric company in Southern California. One catch: The single mother had to relocate from Portland, Ore., to Los Angeles for the full-time office job.

She found a home close to a good high school for her 16-year-old daughter and near Coates’ own sister, but it was 40 miles—and 1–2 hours, depending on traffic—away from her office. “The commute is hell in L.A.,” says Coates. “It’s really about as bad as you can imagine.”

Coates would leave at 6 a.m. every morning and get home 12 hours later, too exhausted to cook dinner or even hang out. Her daughter was not coping well with the schedule, and neither was Coates. Moving closer to work wasn’t an option—they had already searched the area thoroughly without finding another location that was safe, affordable and had good schools. Coates started second-guessing her decisions, but thought one thing might help: flex time. “My friends encouraged me: Just ask! If they say no, they say no,” she says.

After three months on the job, she sat down with her boss. “I said, ‘I know everyone commutes, but I’m a single mom whose daughter has anxiety,’” recalls Coates. When her boss asked  what she wanted to do, “I said, ‘I’d like to work at least two days a week from home,’” she remembers. Her boss agreed to give it a try. They settled on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the office, with Monday and Wednesday at home, and decided to reconvene after six months to see how the flex time was working out for everyone and if it could continue.

“It was the best thing I ever could have done,” Coates says. “Our stress and anxiety levels are immeasurably better.” She still works from 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. every day, but saves herself six hours in commuting time each week (along with about $30 a week in gas). On her work-from-home days, she’s able to drop her daughter off at school, pick her up and cook dinner. On the days she commutes, her daughter walks home from school or gets a ride from her aunt.

RELATED: Why I Don’t Need Work-Life Balance

Coates is thrilled with the new schedule; her coworkers are adjusting. At first, she says, there were a lot of “Well, if you were here…” comments. But after a few weeks, everyone started to adjust.

“I really prefer the mix of being in the office and at home,” she says. “I work very effectively in the distraction-free zone of my home, but it’s also nice to get out of the house.”

  • robin

    It would be nice if the option for flex hours were available to everyone and not just to parents. I remember witnessing a workplace that frequently offered flex hours and preferential shifts to new mothers. But, single fathers were not given the same options. Additionally, another coworker, while going through a very traumatic divorce was refused when she requested another shift/hours.

    • Siobhan Green

      I agree. In fact, that is why our firm, Sonjara, offers flexible hours to all employees, regardless of circumstances.

      In addition to employees who need the time for their kids, we have also had employees who are finishing college degrees, employees who volunteer in their communities at a high level, and employees who have had personal circumstances where flexibility was essential.

      We don’t offer flexibility as a favor to some people, but instead because we believe it makes for better culture, productivity, and employee satisfaction across the board. Our incredibly low turn over and high morale show the benefit of this approach.

  • nkdeck07

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  • GrantWriterGetsIt

    I really hope to see these opportunities continue to grow (for EVERYONE not just parents). It really is crazy that in a world where we have 24/7 access to email, computers, phones, etc. that we still think work can only be done Mon to Fri, 9 to 5. I applaud people who are working to break the mold and pave a new way for living life and having a career without it being miserable.

    I currently work at a job where I have a flexible schedule and can work from home at least once a week. I also have every other Friday off, which is worth its weight in gold. Recently, I turned down another job offer because when it came to discussing a flexible work schedule, my would-be supervisor could NOT get her head around a similar work schedule. She thought I wanted to work 90% and could not understand that I just wanted to have a bit of a say around when I get my work done. The nature of my work doesn’t require daily face time with colleagues or clients (I’m a grant writer). She insisted that they were a 9 to 5, Mon to Fri company and then “people go home and have a weekend” – it was shocking to me that she couldn’t see the merits of having a little extra “flex time” to live life and decompress, while still getting the job done well.