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Flexibility Comes First

Often, we tend to focus on compensation and benefits when negotiating job contracts. We forget to question how a job will accommodate one’s life and personal needs. Ideally, a company and employment should be flexible to fit your life, not the other way around. In this blog post I’ll talk about what I consider to be important in an employer.

Life is complicated - you never know what it’s going to throw at you. Maybe you, a partner, or a family member falls ill, or perhaps a global pandemic hits and throws all of our lives into disarray. For me, the stresses of life are far more manageable when I know my team and my company are willing to adjust and adapt to help me get by.

For example, caring for ageing parents is something that many of us will deal with. For me, it necessitated my return to Ireland for two months this summer. Once I discussed this with my manager, we put together a plan - I would fly to Ireland, work remotely for as long as necessary and book whatever last-minute PTO days I needed to spend with my family along the way. I had a similar response from my team. They offered to step in, take my on-call rotations, reschedule our recurring meetings, and help out with anything I was working on. It’s all well and good when a company tells you they’re flexible and have a good work-life balance, but to see them step in and help when you need it is invaluable.

Another example, from when I first started at Meltwater, I joined a team of engineers in Berlin, Germany. Since then, team members have relocated to Mexico, Sweden, Norway, and the USA (where I live now). Anyone who has moved countries will tell you that it’s no easy task. Things like finding a place to live, registering for tax, getting a drivers licence, coordinating the move - these all take a significant amount of time and stress. As the pandemic raged havoc on international flights, I was able to deal with a constantly changing schedule, booking last-minute appointments to finish up life in Berlin and start life in Boston.

It’s not just having a flexible schedule or being able to work remotely. It’s about having an employer willing to accept that change is constant and that they too need to adapt to their employees’ lives. In my team, we have some strategies to help remind each other that “we’re all people after all”. There may be days when you might have to deal with a sick child, or you have to travel to care for relatives. Knowing that you can share these things with your manager and your team helps. By getting their support, you can focus on the problem at hand rather than adding work to your list of stresses.

The last twelve months have been both busy and stressful for me. I moved from Germany to the USA, travelled back and forth to Ireland to help care for an ageing parent, and did it all during a global pandemic. I’ve come to realise that there’s more to an employer than compensation, benefits and exciting tech - knowing that I can deal with the stresses of life and that my company and my team have my back is worth even more.

Image credits: niceillustrations.com

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