Flexibility – two ends of the same stick. What is the best thing about working from home? Flexibility. What is the worst thing about working from home? Flexibility. Our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses are usually two ends of the same stick. That is the case with flexibility and working from home.

Some things are just not flexible. Some aspects of our work from home job are flexible and some are not. For example, our clients do not see whether we get our work done or not as flexible. They are not at all flexible about that. When you do the work is somewhat flexible, but not if you do the work. The clients also do not see whether we get our work done on time as flexible. In our case, there are boundaries that can stretch during the days of the work week but must be met by the end of the work week. Otherwise, the clients are as unforgiving as you are if you take your clothes to the dry cleaner and they either don’t come back or they come back wrinkled and in a mess. When you order food at a restaurant, you expect to get what you ordered and a certain standard of service. When that expectation is not met, the tip for the waiter is what becomes flexible.

Why would the work standards for working from home be any different than the work standards that have existed literally for centuries? It may not seem logical, but the fact is, they are in the minds of many and working from home is just not for everybody. Some people don’t even want to work from home—and that’s OK. Fortunately, many people are not only able to adapt to working from home, they thrive when working from home. Some people effortlessly plug into a work from home culture of self-management and others need the more traditional structure of work.

Steve Jobs said – In most cases, strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. A strength in one situation is a weakness and in another, yet often the person can’t switch gears. It’s a very subtle thing to talk about strengths and weaknesses because almost always they’re the same thing.

That’s why Flexibility is a four-letter word. Although there are aspects of working from home that are indeed flexible, one way to cement work from home success is to get out the big eraser in the sky and erase the word flexibility, because it’s a four-letter word. Flexibility is the enemy of a culture of self-management. We can psychologically burn our bridges to the word Flexibility, just as the historically famous Chinese general, Xiang Yu, ordered his troops across the river and quietly burned the bridge behind them. The troops were more motivated to win because there was no going back. Working from home is a worthy cause. When we put our focus onto all the options we have, it can get way too flexible way too fast and become counterproductive.

Work from home vampires.  There are invisible forces at work out there that work against the positive side of flexibility. There is a flip side to flexibility, it’s evil twin, and there are forces at work that we will call ‘work from home vampires.’ We must be aware of and guard against the work from home vampires to protect our work from home way of life.

Here are a few of the positive sides of flexibility and the flip side, evil twin.

Positive Side                                         Evil Twin Flip Side

Less Time Commuting                           Misuse of Time Gained

Better Meeting of Family Needs             Blurry Lines of Separation Between Work and Home

Options on When to Work                     Difficulty with Family Respecting Boundaries

Increased Productivity                           Need More Structure

 

The price of Flexibility is Inflexibility. Some work from home jobs are much more flexible than others. The more independent the job is, the more flexible. The more the job requires being part of a team, the less flexible it is. For example, with blog writing, you can pretty much blog away at 4:00 A.M. or anytime at all as long as you meet the deadlines as required. With administrative work, the work itself can often be done at any hour of the day or night, however, it may be necessary to keep daytime hours or at least some daytime hours when your administrative work supports others. If frequent communication is needed and input from others, it would be impractical to keep opposite schedules. When there is a need to interact frequently with other members of the team, it will probably put limits on flexibility.

With our appointment setting job, only daytime hours are available because calls must be made when businesses are open and decision-makers can be reached. The business to business outbound calls cannot be made in the late evening or on weekends because business owners and executives are not working those hours. There is however, a window of an available 12-hour work day during daytime hours when taking into account the span of time zones from coast to coast. When choosing a work from home position, it is good to take inventory of your flexibility requirements and choose a job accordingly.

We all want the flexibility, but in order to have it, there is a price. We must pay the price of making ourselves a little bit more inflexible in order to achieve work from home success. The flexibility is always there, but like many good things, it is best used in moderation.

 

Tracie Chancellor
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