Have you ever seen people golfing, biking or shopping in the middle of the day and wondered: "What kind of job do they have? Why aren't they at work like everyone else?"
You may be surprised to know there are more than 27 million people who work flexible schedules, allowing them to vary the time they start and end their work days. More and more, employers are recognizing and accommodating the need for flexible work schedules.
Nights Turn Into Days
Dave, a bond trader, chose to start his career working the European markets. This required him to work overnight hours, usually starting between 10PM and midnight and finishing around 7AM.
Though he never had to deal with traffic and was able to save $1200 a month in childcare costs, these hours were tough for a family man. He got three hours of sleep at a time, leaving him unrested and often crabby. "As tough as it was, I felt I had to do this schedule in order to move to advance," Dave says.
Those long nights paid off. Now on the trading floor, Dave says he feels like he has a life again. His hours are still nontraditional: 5:30AM to 2PM. He's now able to be home when his kids come home from school and finds time to coach his kids' sports teams.
Longer Hours Lead to More Time for Yourself
Many people would complain about working 12-hour days. Not Michael, an ICU nurse in Arizona. "It's an adrenaline rush to work in the ICU," he says.
He works a 12-hour shift three days one week and four days the next. "The schedule works out great for me," he says. "I typically work 6AM to 6PM, but occasionally rotate to a nighttime schedule of 6PM to 6AM."
The daytime shift allows Michael to get to work early, work similar hours to others and still be home at a decent hour to spend time with his family. In addition, he is given added responsibility during the daytime shift to train newer staff.
While working nights isn't always the most desirable, Michael find the positive in it. During the night shift nurses have less administrative duties and more time to do their actual job. "Nightshift nurses usually have more autonomy and more decision-making power because there are typically less doctors on staff during the night," he says.
Working a 12-hour shift allows for more family and personal time. "On my days off, I've been able to pursue other things that interest me like working on my master's in exercise physiology," Michael says.
Shift Work Means Being Flexible
Firefighters might just have the most enticing work schedule -- 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. But don't let that schedule fool you. "There are many shifts when we don't get any sleep," says Chris, a suburban Chicago firefighter. "It all depends on the call volume. We respond to so much more than fires."
"Even though it is great to have the 48 hours off between shifts, the family isn't on your schedule. Many times when I need to sleep, they are ready for me to play or be productive," he says. Firefighters are expected to use their 48 hours off duty to catch up on sleep and be ready for their next shift.
While firefighters only work 80-100 days a year, Chris says it's a full-time job. Still, it does provide him the flexibility to spend time with his family and complete house projects. It has even allowed him to start his own small business.
"The downside is that your schedule is done for the entire year, you don't get weekends or holidays."
Flextime Fits Working Mom
Tricia thinks she has the perfect schedule for a professional working mom. As a senior business analyst, she works a flex schedule Monday through Thursday, from 6:30AM to 3:30PM. Fridays have a shortened schedule of 6AM to 10AM.
Six years ago, her employer started the flextime scheduling which allows employees to work four longer days during the week and one shortened work day. "Employees are allowed to flex their time as they choose during the week, making it very appealing," Tricia says.
"I'm an early riser, so I like to get going early," Tricia adds. "After work, I don't have to worry about rushing home, feeding the baby and putting her to bed. I've actually got time to play with her before the nighttime routine has to start.
"I don't ever want to leave my job. It fits my life perfectly."
Copyright 2007 CareerBuilder.com.