When I started working at PRA as a full-time employee just over two years ago, I figured the working schedule would function similarly to my previous jobs. While I was aware of the paid leave bank (PLB), flex time, and the options to flex Holidays when I began my position, it all sounded too good to be true. I thought that surely, should I utilize these benefits, I would need to find work coverage and face potential guilt trips for taking any personal time outside of work, as I had at past jobs. There was no doubt in my mind that I would have to make a case for myself each time I needed to utilize these benefits to make space for doctor’s appointments, family emergencies, or personal obligations.

To my surprise, I could not have been more wrong about what to expect at PRA. In fact, PRA goes so far as to explicitly outline the importance of life-work integration in our Employee Handbook:

“PRA supports life-work integration and overall wellness of staff through many of the policies and programs we have developed over the years. The cornerstone of this effort is the flexible work schedule or flex time, whereby employees may deviate from their regularly established work schedule.”

Up until recently, I only utilized flex time strictly for necessities. However, I started to reconsider how I was using this benefit and enriching the “life” part of my life-work integration. As someone who graduated with a degree in art, was previously employed at a textile mill, and continues to create artwork in my free time, I yearned to be part of a creative fine arts community again. Then, as if by fate, a local gallery in Troy that I have followed for some time called Collar Works posted a call for volunteers, and I sent in an application. When my application was accepted, I checked in with my supervisor to see if it would be okay to flex two hours each week around my volunteer time, and within a week, I started volunteering at the gallery.

Now, it has been just over two months since I started. Typically, I gallery-sit, greet visitors, and provide answers about the artwork within the ongoing rotation of shows at the gallery. I’ve also gotten to help prepare for an art opening and do some art handling. But above all, being surrounded by other artists and folks interested in art and having the opportunity to see and talk about a variety of work in different mediums and from different points of view has been the most inspiring and energizing experience. I’m so grateful to work for a company that not only allows but encourages making these scheduling adjustments and to have used these policies to make my experience possible.