The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has been felt by everyone in differing ways. But it has become apparent that for many women, it has been a catalyst to rethinking our careers and reassessing what’s important.

As the new year gets into full swing, I want to address some of the key trends I’ve seen my clients, and women generally, in the hope they’ll help support you to rethink your career, create more flexibility at work and a more joyful, aligned life on your terms.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be tackling the following scenarios women face when rethinking their career. Regardless of your circumstance, one or more of these will no doubt feel relevant to you:

So, if you wondering how to support your own career with a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle in 2021 and beyond, keep reading!

Why balance is so important

We often talk about goals fulfilment and career progression as though once we achieve the goal we suddenly be happy. But the truth is, if we are not enjoying the process of achieving the goal, we won’t enjoy the result itself once achieved.

Now I know how easy it is to get caught up striving for the next promotion. From my own experience, as well as that of so many successful, talented women I now coach, the title rarely provides the satisfaction we think it will.

The truth is, it’s only when our goals are truly aligned with our greater purpose that we derive genuine satisfaction. Because no matter how career-focused we are, our career is only one part of our lives. That is why it is important to recognise the other aspects of our life, define our priorities and desires and then ensuring we have balance and flexibility at work to reflects those desires.

So consider, how can I take a truly balanced approach to my life and career? Consider these areas of your life:

  • Relationships with family & friends
  • Wealth
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Romantic relationships
  • Career
  • Contribution; &
  • Fun & recreation

Flexibility at work benefits everyone

We have long lived with the idea that flexibility is something that working mums need in order to ‘have it all’. But the truth is flexibility is not just for mums (or carers of any type for that matter).

Flexibility at work is something that should be available to everyone regardless of their lifestyle or carer responsibilities.

As a society, we need to rethink careers and change narrative around what it means to have a successful career. We need to ditch the idea that flexibility at work needs to be justified. Instead, we should promote the research that lasting career satisfaction is supported by a balanced lifestyle.

What that looks like practically will be different for everyone. It might mean taking a long lunch to exercise or a late start once a week to attend a language lesson or to volunteer at a charity. This will be different for each of us, so you do you.

But it is also important to note that organisations embracing and indeed embedding flexibility also reap benefits including increased employee retention, improved employee satisfaction and lower operational costs.

What genuine flexibility looks like

Flexibility at work can take many different forms. It can include:

  • Flexible work locations including working from home
  • Flexible hours
  • Job share opportunities
  • Part-time roles
  • Condensed hours; and
  • Options for leave purchase

What works for one, will not work someone else. But in order to create genuine change, we need to have the often daunting conversations with our employers about what we want.

We also need to change the expectation of what flexibility at work means and articulate the benefits to everyone, including the organisation. We need to advocate for open discussions and promote a ‘new normal’ in terms of flexibility at work for our own sake and our peers.

How to advocate for genuine flexibility

2020 saw us collectively embrace technology to support our working from home and collaboration out of necessity. But as 2021 gets into full swing and with the pandemic largely under control in Australia, we are seeing a shift back to staff being required back in the office.

Many are grateful for this return to normality, but for others, it feels like a step backwards in terms of flexibility.

Here are some tips to help you advocate for genuine flexibility at work:

  • Be open about how you embrace flexibility, rather than keeping it on the ‘down-low’. Consider adding a note to your email signature to communicate this to both internals & externals
  • Support colleagues when you can to maximise their options for flexibility. This may mean scheduling things at different times to accommodate others needs
  • Be clear about desires and expectations for short and long-term flexible options. By being willing to have open discussions and consider how it might work for all parties

Final thoughts on flexibility at work

Career success and satisfaction, and indeed improved organisation outcomes, are not predicated on working harder or longer.

True balance and flexibility at work mean we need to stop equating being busy with productivity or results. Instead, let’s support a balanced lifestyle for ourselves and everyone else.

For additional resources, check out WGEA website.

If you’re rethinking your career or searching for more joy, balance and alignment in your career and life?

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