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Taking charge of your flexible life

Review of 'CEO of Me'

Ceo of Me


Further Information

This book about work-life balance takes the view that flexible working isn't in itself the solution for leading a more balanced life.  There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Written by two of the USA's leading academics researching into these issues, it offers guidance and a new analysis of the impacts of the new world of work on our lives.

Further details are on Ellen Kossek's website

For the 'Me Generation' it is no doubt a natural ambition to become 'CEO of Me'.  That's the title of am insightful new book by Ellen Kossek and Brenda Lautsch.  The aim of the book is, as the subtitle says, to help their readers create a life that works in the flexible job age.

This is a book about work-life balance that moves beyond the usual prescriptions for working more flexibly to dovetail work life situations.  CEO of Me recognises that flexible work is not in itself a panacea for all work-life issues and conflicts. 

Flexible work patterns are emerging in the context of other far-reaching changes in the nature of work.  New technologies, new models of organisation, 24/7 operations, the long hours culture and opening up to global markets - these all combine to make work an altogether different "place" to be.

Work is no longer something that you leave behind at the factory gates.  Mobile communications are making it ever more difficult to clock off at the end of the working day.  Work now consists largely of generating, shirting and processing increasing amounts of information.  And this information can follow us wherever we go - both technologically and psychologically.  More flexibility can, if handled badly, increase the pressures as boundaries blur between work and the rest of life.

Flexible working creates the possibility for us to bring all the hassles and problems of work home with us.  The authors call this "the flexibility con".  Here at, we're a touch twitchy about this phrase, but take a collective deep breath and move on to the substance of the matter!  Because this is where the book moves into more sophisticated territory, recognising that people deal with this differently.

At the heart of the approach in this book is a process for analysing your 'flexstyle', and seeing if it's the flexstyle that you want.  Then doing something about it if you need to.

In the terminology of Kossek and Lautsch, it's about whether you are an Integrator, a Volleyer or a Separator.  Do you integrate home and work, separate it, or have bursts of integrating and separating?

Within each of these three flexstyles, people tend to sink or swim.  So amongst Integrators, there are Fusion Lovers who love it, and Reactors who struggle as they feel overwhelmed and out of control.  Amongst Separators, there are Firsters - who have clear priorities about what comes first - and Captives, who feel trapped in either career or family.  Volleyers divide into Quality Timers and Job Warriors.  Again, it's the degrees of control and satisfaction that make a difference.

Building on this framework, CEO of Me provides guidance and exercise to help people make changes in their lives to suit their particular flexstyle, and negotiate a new flexstyle and lifestyle that is more on their own terms.

All this might create interesting issues for bosses who have to run teams of people who are CEOs of Me.  This might make herding cats look easy.  But this reinforces the message about a) needing new styles of management (see our article on Management 2018), and b) the need for companies to address work-life balance issues and flexible working strategically.  It's the worst of all worlds for a company to make a succession of ad hoc arrangements to meet employees needs and aspirations. 

CEO of Me provides a final chapter for managers to help them address the issues and to change corporate culture.  The authors strongly advocate a practical approach and metrics to evaluate the success of work-life balance initiatives, both in terms of the employee's satisfaction and in terms of company performance.

As the authors say:

"The challenge centers on how to create workplaces that welcome a variety of approaches to managing professional and personal responsibilities.  Such workplaces enable each person to bring her best contributions to the table - whether that table is in the corporate conference room or the family kitchen".

Here at Flexibility, self-help and motivational books normally bring on a Pavlovian reaction - shut them quick before the vacuity under the gloss eats away any capacity to think coherently.  CEO of Me is a self-help book, but one underpinned by extensive research by the authors, and offering a thoughtful analysis of, and path through, the new world of work and its personal impacts.

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