Welles: Lessons from ‘CEO of Me’

What’s your flexstyle? Integrating your work life and home life might not be the answer for you.

Work life — the expression refers to the quality of our lives at work and at home. A new book shows you how to take charge of your life at work and home and achieve the kind of flexibility that lets you have a
life.  “CEO of Me,” by Ellen Ernst Kossek and Brenda Lautsch and published by Wharton School Publishing, is not a casual read.

The book gives you a lot to think about if you are at the breaking point and want to take charge of your life.  

The authors emphasize the importance of identifying your “flexstyle” and then give you tools to do it. With examples and checklists, the book helps you understand whether you are by nature one of the following three types:

  • An integrator is someone who blends work and nonwork activities.

  • A separator is someone who keeps work and nonwork activities compartmentalized.

  • A volleyer is someone who sometimes integrates work and nonwork aspects of life and at other times separates them.

Although you might think that integrating work and life is the right thing to do and feel guilty if you don’t, the book makes you challenge that assumption. Work/life integration has pitfalls and advantages. 

Each flexstyle has its strengths and weaknesses. Any one of them could lead to difficulties, depending on what is happening in other parts of your life. The book examines each flexstyle and offers alternatives.  

In the midst of uncertainty and change, how do you create a decent work life?  The authors point out that you can change your flexstyle as your circumstances, priorities, job and personal life change. Understanding your flexstyle and others can help you can take charge of yourself.  

The book is full of suggestions and tips, some easier than others to apply. It offers strategies for gaining control of your life, such as negotiating with others at home and work about the amount of flexibility you require.   

Gaining control means making others aware of your needs and life’s demands on you. It might also mean gaining support for work life flexibility. You should recognize when you need to set priorities and cut back on multitasking.

No matter what your style is, you must make trade-offs and be flexible enough, with the support of family members and co-workers, to cope with whatever comes your way.  

As one Amazon.com reviewer commented, “I had to challenge my assumption that work/life integration is always good [and] to consciously explore alternatives that might work better.”

People who feel most conflicted, stressed and unhappy are those who are forced to separate their work and personal lives. The trick is to find a balance and be flexible, even about your flexstyle.  

Welles (mailto:jwelles@1105govinfo.com) is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

Judith Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md.

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