by Christy Williams | Featured Contributor
She’s been called the queen of remote work.
And she knows that finding meaningful work that actually fits in with our lives and allows us the flexibility we need on a daily basis can feel almost impossible.
She would also be the first person to tell you that it’s not.
Sara Sutton Fell is the founder and CEO of FlexJobs. And this woman is fierce.
She has founded not one, but four companies—one of them when she was eight-months pregnant with her first baby. And she does it all with a constant focus on the “why” behind what she’s doing.
If there is an entrepreneur who inspires me to focus on my “why” and do what I can for others, this woman is it.
For those who may not have heard of the website, what is FlexJobs?
FlexJobs is the leading online service for professionals seeking telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time, and freelance jobs. With flexible job listings in over 50 career categories, and opportunities ranging from entry-level to executive, freelance to full-time, FlexJobs offers job-seekers a safe, easy, and efficient way to find professional and legitimate flexible job listings.
What makes FlexJobs different than other job search websites?
First, FlexJobs’ mission is to help people find jobs that make their lives better, jobs that specifically offer flexible work options. And we are committed to doing this with integrity, intelligence, balance, communication, and care.
Secondly, we pre-screen every job and company before posting them to our site. This allows us to weed out the scams, shady business opportunities, and other less-than-ideal jobs that are so pervasive on other job boards.
Also, our primary clients are job seekers—not advertisers or employers—and so our goal is really to create a better job search experience for them. In order to do that, we are a membership site, so job seekers pay a small subscription fee to access our database of clean, flexible jobs. In return, we offer a top quality, clean, friendly site with great flexible jobs, excellent customer support, and a satisfaction guarantee.
What, in your own life, led you to come up with the idea for starting FlexJobs?
I founded FlexJobs in 2007 while I was pregnant with my first son, after I experienced first-hand the frustrating search for professional jobs that also offered flexible work options. I knew that I wanted to continue on my career path, but it was important to me to have more flexibility than a traditional full-time, on-site job would typically allow, so that I could better juggle the responsibilities of work and a family.
I wished that a trustworthy site existed that would have done the legwork of screening these jobs! But in looking thoroughly through the competitive landscape, I realized it didn’t, and so my wheels started turning.
But starting a company with a newborn wasn’t to be taken lightly, and in my own soul-searching, I just realized that I so deeply believed in the importance of flexible work—and having a baby simply reinforced that in a powerful way. Overall, I believe that a modern workplace should address the needs of today’s workforce, and that utilizing workplace technology to support telecommuting and flexible work will achieve societal, environmental, and economic benefits for both employees and employers.
How do you think flexible work can help people to create meaningful work in their own lives?
Flexible work can allow people to live lives where their responsibilities aren’t constantly in direct competition, and it enables people to have more control over how best to accomplish their goals. For example, for me, working from home and having a flexible schedule has allowed me to be more fully present with what I am doing at the moment—whether it’s at work or at home—because I don’t feel as anxious, stressed, or even angry I’m missing out on the other.
I believe flexible work options can help empower people to be more honest with their priorities, and that honesty, in turn, supports being mindful of what makes us happy, fulfilled, and proud of our decisions.
What does meaningful work look like in your own life?
I believe that no matter what job I have, or anyone has, that you can have meaningful work, at least in elements. I’m lucky in that I believe in the mission of my job, and I love what I do. But I also try my best to make my colleagues and our customers happy—as well as try to improve my abilities and skills to continue to do both better. So having meaningful work means choosing to put good into the world in whatever ways you can even if it’s not obvious.
As a side note, these videos highlight that what I’m talking about can be done in all kinds of ways!
When you were formulating the idea of FlexJobs in the beginning, did it occur to you that helping people find flexible work could also have a positive impact on our environment, or was that just a welcome side effect?
That was definitely part of my thinking when I founded FlexJobs. I hold a BA degree with the focus of Society, Technology, and the Environment from the University of California at Berkeley, so I’ve long thought about ways to have a positive environmental impact through my work, and I knew the environmental benefits of flexible work, as well as the many societal and personal benefits.
Flexible work can be inherently environmentally-friendly. Telecommuting helps people consume less gas or oil, put less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and better control their own home’s environmental impact because they aren’t commuting to an office every day.
Flexible schedules also reduce commuting times, helping people avoid peak rush-hour traffic jams. And flexible work helps companies reduce their environmental impact by reshaping the way business is done: less office space, less equipment, and less energy to heat, cool, and maintain the infrastructure that traditional offices require.
As a 100% virtual organization, and one that is committed to environmental sustainability, how do you support and/or encourage your employees to commit to that sustainability, too?
FlexJobs is dedicated to making environmentally aware decisions for how we run our company and our individual home offices. We consider the environmental impact that our decisions have, and we commit to trying to lessen the impact wherever reasonably possible.
One initiative we have helps employees maintain a green home office by reimbursing them for houseplants to offset VOCs and CO2, and for CFL or LED light bulbs used in their home offices. We are also a carbon-balanced company through TerraPass. Through this partnership, FlexJobs has reduced its carbon emissions by sponsoring clean energy and carbon reduction projects.
As an entrepreneur and busy mother of two young children, how do you stay mindful and find balance on a daily basis?
Practicing mindfulness is definitely something I try to do daily, starting with the simple moments. Whether it’s feeling the sun on my face as we walk to the car to take my kids to school, taking an extra deep breath before responding to one of them asking a question for the 3rd time (without listening to the first or second response!), or hugging them for an extra few seconds before bed. I always try to be mindful that every moment has meaning, and that I have the opportunity to appreciate that in a way that makes me happier rather than unhappier.
Also, although it’s not daily, I practice Bikram yoga, and have for almost 20 years. Doing Bikram has grounded me incredibly in my life as a busy working mom, and quite honestly, is a sanity-saver for me. I also try to meditate regularly, either when I wake up or before I go to sleep.
Finally, I try to be very mindful of my focus during the day as it relates to whether I’m working or whether I’m with my kids. Because I work from home, it’s easy to blur the lines between work time and personal time, letting them creep into each other, which I don’t believe is a good thing. So I aim to have clear boundaries on when I’m working, as well as to give myself permission to unplug from work when I’m done and focus on my family and personal life.
As a successful entrepreneur and founder of several different organizations, what’s next for you?
In addition to FlexJobs, over the last few years, I’ve founded 1 Million for Work Flexibility, which is right in line with my belief that everyone should have access to flexible work options, and that both companies and individuals (and the environment!) benefit from work flexibility. I’ve also started Remote.co, a one-stop resource for people and companies to learn best practices for remote work so that we can all benefit.
We also recently hosted our second annual TRaD*Works Forum, which brings together the best and brightest minds in the telecommuting, remote, and distributed (TRaD) work community. It’s a great gathering of individuals from the corporate, government, and nonprofit worlds who all see remote work as a huge opportunity with awesome social, business, and environmental benefits.
If you could give our readers one piece of advice for finding or creating their own meaningful work as entrepreneurs, what would that advice be?
Trust your instincts as a very valid part of the equation. It’s important to be responsible and consider your instincts along with other priorities, information, and factors. But I have learned that my core intuition is often a more reliable guide to how I can find my own happiness and authenticity in my career (and life), and so I am very conscientious with it.
Sara and FlexJobs would like to offer you a chance to try their service and find your own meaningful work that you can do from home in your pajamas. As a reader of She Owns It, please use the code SAVE30 to receive up to 30% off your subscription to FlexJobs.com.
Photo credit: Sara Sutton Fell/FlexJobs