Aquent, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and Work+Life Fit, Inc., collaborated to survey hundreds of working professionals and corporate executives on the subject of flexible career paths and work arrangements.
There were many interesting findings (some of which have recently been written about in Fast Company and Time, among others), the most interesting being that, as of this writing, a majority of those surveyed (58% of the men and 68% of the women) would consider taking a break from the workplace for a period of time. The most common reason for such a break is parenthood (63%), but is followed fairly closely by a desire to pursue life or an avocation outside of work (43%).
Aside from drawing your attention to this survey and the insights it provides both jobseekers and employers, I also wanted to highlight the work of the woman behind Work + Life Fit, inc., Cali Yost. Cali’s unique perspective, which is reflected in the name of her company and the book she has written on the subject, is that we must discard the old paradigm of achieving a work/life balance. This traditional schema suggests that “work” and “life” are separate and even opposed to one another, which quickly turns the “balancing act” into a “battle” where one side or the other must win. Instead, she focuses on finding ways to combine work and life so that they “fit” together and complement each other.
Both technology and culture are conspiring to create ever new combinations of work and life that Cali’s book encourages people to explore. Far from navel gazing, this sort of exploration has become vital to both the personal satisfaction of job seekers as well as the ongoing success of the companies recruiting and hiring them. Figuring out and “operationalizing a flexibility strategy,” as she puts it, is not only critical for business growth, Cali believes that the time is rapidly approaching where it will affect their very survival.
Of course, just as it is counterproductive to pit one’s “work” against one’s “life,” it is equally unhelpful to see “flexibility” as an issue pitting workers against their bosses. Cali insists that people should be striving for a “work + life fit partnership,” in which employees keep the business in mind when presenting their vision for a work relationship that fits their needs, and employers create an environment where the conversation can take place in a constructive way. By working to ensure that the solutions fit the situation, rather than struggling to maintain a precarious balance between conflicting interests, everyone ultimately realizes the benefits of flexibility.
Or am I being hopelessly naive and unreasonably optimistic?