In a Nutshell: Rather than trying to find employment with a flexible schedule, Sara Sutton Fell decided to create her own — and, in one fell swoop, helped a changing labor demographic do the same. The result is FlexJobs, an online platform that connects job seekers with part-time, remote, freelance, and flexible employment opportunities. The job search site provides a variety of search features that help prospective employees secure a job that matches their strengths and needs so they can put their best foot forward. Far from merely providing a niche service, FlexJobs is serving a growing workforce demographic that understands the value flexible work arrangements hold for employees as well as employers. The company behind the platform likewise offers its own workers great flexibility, putting it at the forefront of a movement that is changing the face of work as we know it.
Not many people can claim their unborn children inspired a groundbreaking, industry-disrupting website. But that’s exactly the case with Sara Sutton Fell and her company, FlexJobs.
In 2007, Sara, who was in the third trimester of her first pregnancy at the time, was laid off from work. She began applying and interviewing for positions in her field that offered room for professional advancement. But, as a mother-to-be, she also needed something that offered the flexibility necessary to start a family. She’d worked in flexible positions before, so she knew that such jobs existed, but they proved to be as elusive.
Most people would have kept their noses to the grindstone and continued their search. But Sara was dissatisfied with sifting through job boards looking for legitimate opportunities that also offered real flexibility. So she decided to take a different route — the entrepreneurial one.
“She thought, instead of doing all those different components of a job search, wouldn’t it be great if there was one place she could go to find flexible jobs,” said Brie Reynolds, a Senior Career Specialist with FlexJobs. “And she thought, ‘There isn’t that place, but maybe I could make that place.’”
Rather than being frustrated by her search, Sara instead discovered an opportunity to establish the premier resource for job seekers trying to find flexible employment. And that is how FlexJobs (and Sara’s son) was born.
What Work Flexibility Means, and Where You Can Find It
Anyone seeking employment through FlexJobs can specify the career field they wish to work in, and they can also stipulate the sort of flexibility they’re looking for. Whether it’s the ability to work remotely and telecommute, set one’s own working hours, or work as a freelancer, every listing on FlexJobs must offer some sort of professional wiggle room.
“Essentially, FlexJobs is a job-search website where we list a specific subset of jobs: jobs that offer flexibility,” Brie said. “And that could be any type of flexibility.”
Brie told us one of the most sought-after types of flexibility is the ability to work fully remotely. But there’s also plenty of demand (and opportunity) for positions that allow employees to split their time between in-office and at-home work, work only part time, work hours outside the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, and work exclusively on a freelance basis.
These options are all offered in a surprisingly diverse and comprehensive set of career fields. Brie said the site’s most popular career areas include medicine and health, customer service, computer support and IT, sales, administration, education and training, accounting and finance, and even nonprofit and philanthropic work.
Moreover, FlexJobs caters to every tier of the workforce. The site divides listings into four categories: entry, career, management, and senior positions. So whether you’re just starting out, seeking to move up in your career, or you’re a manager or upper-level employee seeking more flexible working conditions, FlexJobs can help you find something that suits your needs.
FlexJobs’ Screening Process Elevates High-Quality Positions
Every job listing you find on FlexJobs has gone through a two-stage review process. Employers are screened when they join the network, and every position they wish to advertise is likewise screened before it is posted.
“We have actual humans who go through and look at each job, rate it to make sure that it’s not a scam, it’s not an ad, and it’s not a commission-only job,” Brie explains. “It’s a professional-level, traditional job, but one that offers flexibility.”
FlexJobs conscientiously maintains a high level of quality control, which allows the company to ensure that each and every opportunity it lists is completely legitimate.
Likewise, the site also seeks to ensure that it is supplying quality workers. To this end, FlexJobs provides more than 100 skills tests for users to take. These tests cover proficiency with applications, like Microsoft Office, and professional skills, including accounting rules, command of programming languages, and many other specialties.
The results of these tests help job seekers better understand which skills they need to develop and improve as well as those in which they are particularly strong. In the latter case, users can advertise their abilities and proficiencies to prospective employers, some of whom require the test results as part of the application.
FlexJobs also takes this employee-employer connection to the next level with its webinars. These allow job seekers to interact with company representatives, learn what specific employers are seeking in candidates and in applications, and gain more insight into the hiring process of these companies’. When the time comes to apply, FlexJobs also provides users with an in-depth job-search checklist to help them submit the strongest possible application for their desired jobs.
“We take you through every small piece of a job search to make sure you’re hitting all the right points,” Brie said. “That’s really helpful to keep job seekers on track and let them know where they need to polish things up a bit before they start applying.”
As with all good things in life, these features and perks come at a cost; FlexJobs users select a term of use and pay a subscription fee, which allows them to access job postings and membership benefits.
“Job seekers pay for either a month-long membership, a three-month membership, or a one-year membership, and the employers are able to post their jobs for free,” Brie said. “We are completely focused on providing high-quality jobs for the job seekers.”
At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive — after all, job seekers aren’t known for having an overabundance of discretionary cash — but the benefits of this system are substantial. By listing previously vetted jobs at no cost to the posters, FlexJobs creates the largest possible pool of opportunities for its users. And by remaining worker-centered rather than catering to employers or advertisers, FlexJobs is able to focus on providing the best possible services and experience for job seekers.
An Advocate for Better Work-Life Balance
Those services are becoming increasingly important in today’s evolving world of work. Every time large companies, like IBM, Yahoo, or Bank of America, announce that they’re eliminating work policies that, for example, allow employees to telecommute, headlines announce “the end of work flexibility.”
“It’s shocking how much we hear about the (companies) that are ending it,” Brie said, “but there are dozens and dozens more companies that are either continuing on or ramping up their work-flexibility programs.” She said that, for every company that clings to rigid models and scales back worker flexibility, plenty more are starting, continuing, and growing their flexible workforce.
“Companies are looking at this more as a business strategy instead of a perk,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to see that track move at a faster pace than any companies that may be pulling things back.” In sum, formalized flexibility for employees is rapidly becoming a core component of forward-thinking business models.
To emphasize and advertise this trend, FlexJobs annually compiles a list of the top 100 companies offering remote work. This ranking is based on the number of remote positions a given company offered in the preceding year. And, of course, many of these companies are featured employers on the FlexJobs site.
Remote work arrangements have certain benefits for employers.
“Companies that are limiting themselves to just their geographic area, or to people who have to relocate to that area, or people who have to work a set schedule every single day with no flexibility — they’re not going to be able to compete for the best talent,” Brie said. “And we’re really seeing that, especially with the millennial generation not only entering the workforce but becoming senior-level management.”
For this rising generation of workers, flexibility is a fundamental aspect of a satisfying job. They don’t want to sit in an office every day — or ever.
“It’s becoming apparent that millennials see this as a normal way of work, and they’re integrating it into their teams and really pushing it forward,” Brie said. “If companies want to be competitive for talent, they really have to embrace flexibility.”
In the final analysis, FlexJobs caters to what these employees value and desire: balance in daily life. As the saying goes, “people work to live; they don’t live to work.” A fulfilling life is about much more than work, but we spend a great deal of our waking time doing it. Job flexibility allows people to provide for themselves and their families, while achieving and maintaining their preferred lifestyle.
Unsurprisingly, FlexJobs is Flexible with Its Own Workforce
FlexJobs doesn’t just cater to people’s desire for flexible work opportunities. As a fully remote company, FlexJobs has thoroughly embraced the flexible work movement — and no one can attest to that better than Brie.
“I started as a freelancer way back in 2010,” Brie said. “I have gone from freelance to full time. I had gone up to the director level, and then I decided, as I was starting my family, I wanted to pull back a little bit. So, they actually let me transition into a part-time position.
“I’ve experienced every type of flexibility. I work from home full time. I’ve always had a flexible schedule. We definitely walk the walk.”
And she and FlexJobs are helping a changing workforce do the same.