Emma Plumb Talks About 1 Million for Work Flexibility

LiquidSpace is a proud supporter of the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement. We believe work isn’t a place we go, it’s something we do – and our platform helps professionals find and book great spaces to work, when and where they need them, and in tune with their personal style and needs. Emma Plumb, who leads efforts for 1 Million for Work Flexibility, shares more about the movement below along with her remote working style.

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Tell us about your background, and why you are so passionate about work flexibility.

I first “officially” became really passionate about work flexibility in 2009, but I think the seeds were planted well before that. Even as a new college graduate a decade earlier, I knew that the typical office life wasn’t for me, and as a result choosing a particular career path was a struggle — so I took on a wide variety of projects, including travel writing for Rough Guides as well as working as an educational technology consultant in Bermuda.

Emma Plumb headshotUltimately when I did settle into a “traditional” job as a web producer for a large foundation in New York City, I was uncomfortable with their rigid policies (no working from home, no flexible hours) from the start. But the situation became untenable for me when my then-boyfriend (now husband) broke his back in a fall and I requested to work from home during his recovery — and my request was denied. After learning from the HR director that I was the third person in just that one week to make a request for flex (all denied), I decided to try to create change from within. After two years of researching the benefits of flex, submitting proposals and reports, and holding meetings with senior management, I realized I had to move on when even the organization’s president told me he refused to budge on the issue. So I quit my job, started blogging about the benefits of work flexibility, and decided I wanted to help promote change on a broad scale.

How did the 1 Million for Work Flexibility Movement get started?

The 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement is the vision of Sara Sutton Fell, who’s also the CEO and Founder of a company called FlexJobs, a professional job service that helps job seekers find the best flexible jobs available. Sara launched FlexJobs about eight years ago out of a personal need for a flexible job herself, and a passion for helping others in her situation. She’s committed to expanding access to flexibility for workers across the country, and she decided to launch an advocacy effort to call for widespread change.

I was fortunate to connect with Sara just at the right time: she brought me on board to help lead the 1MFWF movement with her, and we launched in October 2013.

We have two main goals with 1MFWF:

  1. There are tons of fantastic organizations out there that support flex — flexible employers, advocacy groups calling for change in the workplace, researchers studying the bottom-line impacts of flex, etc. So we are excited to be uniting those voices in a pro-flex coalition, and we have more than 70 groups on board to date (including LiquidSpace!).

  2. We’re creating a community for workers nationwide to join and voice their support for work flex. We want to help educate, mobilize, and offer resources for workers who need flex — with the goal that by gathering a ready audience of people willing to show their support for work flexibility, we will be able to harness this energy towards advancing flex on a broader scale than ever before.

What advice do you have for individuals who wish for more work flexibility?

I would say first and foremost, it’s critical to realize that you are not alone in having that wish! And also that we all have to stop thinking of work flexibility as a perk or a benefit for workers — flex is a business strategy that’s good for the bottom line.  Sara shares great tips for how to ask for more flexibility in a Maria Shriver feature story on NBC News, and we hosted a webinar on that topic with helpful advice as well.

That said, I know from personal experience that there are plenty of employers who are still extremely resistant to change — and of course, that’s exactly why the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement exists!  To help shift that narrative, we’re eager for folks to join us in showing their support for this issue, and to engage with us about this issue on Twitter and Facebook. We also encourage everyone to check out our blog to learn more about the benefits of flex, to read stories of workers who have found the flex they need and employers who are embracing flex, as well as to find out about local and national events, legislation, and other efforts supporting the advancement of flexible work options.

What is your remote work style?

I am a 100% virtual worker, and typically I work from my home office. All I really need in order to do my job is my laptop and my phone, so I could be more mobile, but when I’m home I tend to stick to a routine that keeps me at my desk (where I sit by a window with a great view and lots of natural light!).

That said, one of the best things about being a remote worker is that location truly doesn’t matter — which means that if my husband and I want to travel, I don’t have to worry about running out of vacation days — I just work from wherever we are. Last winter for example, he and I were able to spend five weeks working in Hawaii. Around the holidays we typically spend a few weeks in England with his family, and I work from there.  And sometimes when I just need to run a bunch of errands that will take me away from home for a chunk of a day, I just bring my laptop to fit work into the mix.

Of course, it takes some extra planning to work from somewhere other than home. Solid wifi and cell connections are critical — as is being somewhere quiet, especially for calls. Having access to a service like LiquidSpace is perfect for finding a comfortable and professional spot to work, wherever you are.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I think it’s always worth noting that the way we work is within our control. The only reason we’ve gotten locked into our traditional office-bound, Mon-Fri work culture is by our own design — a design that dates back fewer than 100 years. It’s not as if we’ve been working the same way for millennia! And workplace demographics don’t look anything like they did in the early 20th century. There is a better way to work — better for us as individuals, better for employers, better for the economy. All we have to do is let go of our fear of change and embrace a new standard. We hope that the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement will help assuage any doubts and demonstrate that change just makes sense. Please join us!

Topics: work flexibility, workplace freedom

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