So, when you talk about flexibility, one of the first things that it is important to acknowledge is that it doesn’t work for every company. Manufacturing companies have to have people on the floor at certain hours. People who work at the front desk can’t pick up and leave without notice.
But, for a large portion of the workforce, I’m seeing a new willingness to work with employees in new ways. The other day I sat down with two women who “share” a position at a popular national brand. Each of them worked three days a week, with one day over-lapping. Their manager already had told me what great jobs they did and how well the arrangement worked, and the work they brought to the table spoke for itself. The work was wonderful. It was strategic. It was insightful. Together, they managed a dozen or so people. Those people also felt good about the situation.
Soon after that, I was talking with one of our clients and he said he was leaving early to avoid traffic. That wasn’t the first time he’d said that, so I was thinking that maybe this was a regular thing. Sure enough, when I paid attention, multiple people at that company mentioned flexibility in a very matter of fact way during conversation. “My kids were home sick, so I’m working at home,” said one women. What else can you do when your kid is sick, but it interested me that she didn’t say, “My work is going to kill me because I can’t be there, and I’m worried I might get fired.” She said it with a confidence and a no-fuss air that let me know that this was OK.
And, these people are not at entry-level positions, which flies in the face of the conventional thinking that you have to sacrifice any desire to rise through the ranks if you work a flexible schedule. In addition, they are at popular national and global consumer brands that people line up to work for, so that signals to me that this mentality isn’t just for small upstarts.
Flexibility is a funny thing because even when a company gives it to you, you have to hold up your end of the bargain. Yes, from an accountability standpoint, meaning that you still have to hit certain goals and milestones, but also from the standpoint that you have to make it happen. Our CEO once said to me, “There’s always more work to be done. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.”
If you’re looking for food for thought about flexible work schedules, there was an article this week in CNN Money about that topic. Quoted in the article was John Parry, CEO at Solix, Inc. “We don’t really care when people come,” he said. “We trust Solix staff with million-dollar funding decisions, so we should trust them to work flexibly.”