How to Be Flexible at Work (With Tips and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 29, 2020 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated December 29, 2020

Published December 12, 2019

Flexibility is an important skill to master, whether it means having the ability to overcome stress or simply to adjust to changes quickly. Having a high level of flexibility makes it easier for you to live a less stressful and hectic life. While flexibility is important, many people struggle to achieve it for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, improving your flexibility is possible. In this article, learn how to become more flexible in life and your career.

What is flexibility?

The word “flexibility” technically means the ability to bend without breaking. However, people often use it to describe the ability to adjust to changes in your life without creating stress or drama. Being flexible in life means that you can change your plans and adapt to new situations easily.

People often want flexibility in their careers as well. Schools and training programs typically fixate on a defined career path, but most people’s careers do not follow such predictable paths. The ability to be more flexible in a career means that you can learn new skills and assume responsibilities outside of your original position. This can lead to promotions and greater possibilities in your career.

Benefits of being flexible at work

Flexibility is important in your everyday life for a variety of reasons. Being flexible can help you avoid being overwhelmed or stifled by change. You will also have an increased ability to direct your development and personal life rather than being a passive participant. Some of the benefits include:

  • Adaptability to change

  • Managing the unexpected

  • Staying employed

  • Life satisfaction

Adaptability to change

Being flexible in your life allows you to adjust to changes without negative side effects. For instance, if your company asks you to work overnight shifts after you have been working 9-5, flexibility allows you to make the change smoothly.

Managing the unexpected

In many cases, an unexpected event can require adaptability. For example, you may need to pick your child up from school early because they are sick. In this case, you’ll need to calmly respond to the situation. For instance, you may be able to arrange to work from home so you can address all your responsibilities at the same time.

Staying employed

Businesses evolve over time. Staying flexible can ensure that you grow along with the company and maintain your employment. For example, if your print magazine decides to switch to a digital model, flexibility can guide you to change your approach to journalism and keep working for the publisher.

Life satisfaction

Another benefit of being flexible is having a more enjoyable life. Flexibility can reduce stress and expose you to new experiences, which could be one of the keys to a happy life or a successful career.

Related: 11 Online Jobs for Work Flexibility

How to be flexible at work

Developing flexibility in your personal life can also help you be more flexible in your work. Some kinds of change may be predictable—such as changing jobs, moving to a new house or having a baby—so you will have time to prepare. Other kinds of change—such as losing a job or getting injured or sick—can arise unexpectedly. However, you can still prepare yourself for them using several simple self-improvement methods:

  • Accept that change is inevitable.

  • Become more confident.

  • Set stretch goals and challenge yourself.

  • Overcome limitations where possible.

Accept that change is inevitable

One of the most important things you can do to increase your flexibility is to accept that change always occurs. However, change can be beneficial for you by providing you new and interesting experiences or significantly improving the conditions in your life.

Accepting that changes are coming can reduce some of the fear and anxiety you may experience when your circumstances change. This can help you develop new, effective problem-solving strategies. 

Become more confident

Confidence can make you hopeful about the future and feel like you can handle what comes next. Finding ways to make yourself more comfortable with potential changes will likely raise your confidence. One way to do this is to be proactive about the changes you want to see in your life. If you exert some measure of control over future changes, you will feel like you have more influence over them. This can boost your confidence and remove some of the fear of unforeseen changes in your life.

Set stretch goals and challenge yourself

Stretch goals are long-term goals that require extra effort to achieve. If you have stretch goals, make sure you are making consistent progress toward them. Achieving a stretch goal shows dedication, which can develop into more positive work habits and career success. 

Depending on what your stretch goal is, you could take extra measures for achieving it. For example, you could pursue a new college degree to increase your chances of earning a promotion or changing careers.

Overcome limitations where possible

To become more flexible by overcoming limitations at your job, you could consider taking classes or special training to learn how to manage specific situations, work with team members and develop your problem-solving skills. When you have more skills to apply to your current job duties, your employer may offer you more independence to complete your work in the way most appropriate for you.  

What makes a flexible job?

To improve the flexibility in your life and career simultaneously, try to find a flexible job. Careers with flexibility have relaxed requirements so you can adjust to changes in your schedule and responsibilities. Flexible jobs come in several forms, including:

Flexible schedules

Some jobs let you choose your working hours. In these, you will have more control over when you perform the necessary tasks so you can work around other commitments and fit more into your day. You will also likely be able to make last-minute changes to your schedule to accommodate issues like emergencies or picking up a sick child from school. Having the ability to do this can significantly reduce your stress.

Many jobs allow schedule changes and flexible schedules to some degree. While there are set working hours, you might be able to take time off or make up hours by working from home. Employers often understand that personal responsibilities can impact your work and that you may need to prioritize other tasks.

Freelancing is an example of a job with an extremely flexible schedule. Freelancers who are paid on a per-project basis can largely choose their work hours. You might work in the middle of the night or during the day as long as you complete and submit the work by the deadline. 

Flexible responsibilities

Many jobs also have flexible responsibilities. Every job comes with a core set of tasks, but it is not uncommon for you to add new or change existing responsibilities. These changes allow you to adapt and learn new things so you grow as a professional. For example, a freelancer could choose their responsibilities by accepting specific types of work. You might write mostly science articles, but choose to work on a new campaign for a fashion magazine. 

How to make your job more flexible

Here are some steps you can take to add flexibility to your career: 

  1. Identify what flexible arrangement you want.

  2. Be realistic about what flexible arrangements are possible.

  3. Speak to your supervisor.

  4. Research your options at your current job. 

  5. Search for a flexible job. 

1. Identify what flexible arrangements you want

Establishing set goals is an effective way to improve your career circumstances. You can start by examining your job and determining what you would like to keep or improve. For example, if you would like to have the option of arriving at work at any time as long as you work eight hours, you can start developing a plan for requesting this change from your supervisor.

Related: How to Ask for a Raise (with Script Examples)

2. Be realistic about what flexible arrangements are possible

Once you choose the arrangements you want, make sure they are realistic. If you work in a big office and few people work irregular schedules, you likely need to work standard hours, too. Changing your responsibilities may also be limited since there are specific jobs that only certain people in the organization can do. If you want to make changes, they will need to be within the rules and policies of your workplace.

3. Speak to your supervisor

Once you have your goals set, bring your requests to your supervisor. Make sure you have a compelling reason for the changes to increase your chances of having them accepted. You could also state what you appreciate about your job and what you feel your best contributions are.

4. Research your options at your current job

Think about the specific flexible arrangements that you want in your job, and research how you can facilitate them. For instance, you may need resources like a portable computer or a specific type of internet connection at a remote worksite. Knowing the specific requirements for a more flexible position can allow you to make a more effective request for flexibility from your supervisor.

5. Search for a flexible job

If you want more flexibility than your job can offer, consider looking for a new position. You should research company workplace environments. Some companies are very upfront about their amount of flexibility, while others offer clues in their company culture. For the best results, ask the company directly about its flexible job opportunities.

Read more: How to Find the Best Jobs for You

Jobs that offer flexibility

Here are several jobs you may consider for a flexible career:

  • Sales representative

  • Graphic designer

  • Management consultant

  • Photographer

  • Freelance Writer

Sales representative

National average salary: $59,831 per year

Primary duties: Sales representatives sell products directly to other companies or consumers. They work remotely in many cases to have the flexibility to coordinate with their prospective clients and visit them at their offices.

Graphic designer

National average salary: $17.56 per hour

Primary duties: Graphic designers create graphics for a wide variety of media types. In many cases, graphic designers create visual marketing material for products like book covers, packaging, and billboards. There is a strong need for graphic designers since the vast majority of products and services need graphics to advertise. Many graphic designers work remotely since their primary work format is on a powerful laptop.

Management consultant

National average salary $80,180 per year

Primary duties: Management consultants are standalone professionals who help managers improve their core skills. They assist in developing management structures within companies and guiding managers through a variety of specialized tasks. Most management consultants are self-employed or work for major consulting firms with a lot of remote work.

Photographer

National average salary: $15.01 per hour

Primary duties: Photographers capture pictures of events or objects. Many companies hire them to take pictures of projects. Most photographers are self-employed and take pictures of events.

Freelance writer

National average salary: $24.89 per hour

Primary duties: Freelance writers work for companies by developing written content for different platforms. Many companies hire freelance writers to develop blog posts, website content, product descriptions, white papers and marketing content to name a few options. They often work remotely and on a project basis. Freelance writers are self-employed and work whatever hours it takes to get each project done.

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