Archive for August, 2011

The Power of a Parking Space–Small Changes, Big Impact

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(We weathered Irene in upstate New York celebrating the life of my cousin’s husband who died recently after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s.  I will confess that “Donna” in this post from August 2009 is my cousin.  She worked full-time while lovingly caring for her husband.  Like all caregivers, she’s a hero for whom a very small change made a big difference.)

When talking about work+life solutions, formal flexible work arrangements tend to get the most attention.  It’s easy to forget that for most of us, most of the time, an official change in when, when and/or how we work isn’t the answer.  All we need is a small adjustment in our work+life reality to make a big difference in our well-being. This is a story of how a parking space transformed one woman’s work+life fit.

I recently met Donna at a conference.  She’s been with the same employer for over 20 years, but for the last five years, she’s worked full-time while caring for a husband who has Alzheimer’s disease.  Even though a caregiver comes to her home everyday, it’s not unusual for Donna to have to leave the office, often unexpectedly, a couple of times a week during the day to coordinate her husband’s care.  Whether it’s taking him to a doctor’s appointment or helping the caregiver deal with a challenge, she makes the 30 minute round-trip drive home.

Luckily her boss and team have been very supportive and understand her need for flexibility.  She confessed that the problem was, “The lack of midday parking close to my office building.”  Getting a parking space near the office wasn’t difficult in the morning, but if she needed to leave in the middle of the day, “I’d find myself driving around for an extra 30 minutes searching for an open space, or parking almost a mile away and then walking 20 minutes.  Believe it or not, the worry of not being able to find a parking space if I needed to leave in the middle of the day was taking a toll.  I’d panic about whether or not I’d get back in time for a meeting and would rush out of the house or a doctor’s appointment earlier than I should have just in case.” (Click here for more)

Strategic Flex and the Weather–Will You Be Open for Business Tomorrow?

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(I’m watching the path of hurricane Irene from my book writing cave. and praying for the best.  I want to ask business leaders the same question I did in February 2010 as a blizzard approached–will you strategically use telework to stay open and not ask employees to risk harm to get to work?  Or will you have to close down?  Here’s the original Fast Company post.)

As we brace for the second wave snowstorm bearing down on the East Coast, I’m remembering an experience I had a few years ago at a major pharmaceutical company widely recognized for their work+life strategy.

As I presented a series of Work+Life Fit seminars to the employees and managers, snow began to fall.  On that particular day, I was scheduled to facilitate one session in the morning and another after lunch.  Midway through the afternoon session, a few inches of snow had accumulated and you could tell people were anxious to get on the road.  Then the most amazing thing happened…

A number of managers in the room stood up and asked their team members to meet them in a group.  As the various teams gathered, you could hear everyone sharing how they planned to work the next day.  Some would work remotely, others thought they’d wait until after rush hour and come in later, and a couple planned to take personal days if they couldn’t find child care for their very young children.

As the teams reached agreement and dispersed, the managers gathered together and opened their laptops in a circle and began to coordinate with each other.  How would they conduct meetings that were scheduled?  Some decided to cancel meetings while others converted theirs to webinars.  One manager who oversaw a manufacturing facility sent emails to the plant foreman flexibly coordinating the staffing for the next day.

I watched in awe.  Finally, the manufacturing manager saw my faced and asked me, ‘’Why are you smiling and shaking your head?”  At this point, all of the managers in the room looked up.  I responded, “Do you realize how much money you are saving by flexibly coordinating tomorrow’s work in anticipation of the snow?”  You could tell they were a bit confused.

They didn’t see what they were doing as unusual.  It’s how they flexibly managed their business and in their culture.  So I pointed out, “See your competitor down the street?  Do they use flexibility as easily and strategically as you do to maintain operating continuity even if it snows?”  Another manager said, “No they don’t.”  I continued, “Okay, so who’s open for business tomorrow and who isn’t?”  Now they were smiling and shaking their heads, “We are.”

This group of managers knew that their company supported flexibility, but it was the first time they consciously realized how they were using it to meet a business need–staying open when nature strikes!

What about you and your organization?  Will you be open for business, or not?  Are you having coordinated conversations today about how everyone plans to work tomorrow, or if they plan to work?  Or will you just take your chances?

It’s About Time AND Energy

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(As I spend August in my writing cave with my next book, I asked FSG biz manager, Linda Cannilla, to pick some of her favorite posts from our blog archives.  This classic was originally published on FastCompany in November, 2007.  I agree with her that this is important info that can’t be repeated too often.  What do you think?)

My colleague’s been having a tough time. A number of relatives recently died, and she had a minor health scare. The other day she said,

“I’m getting a personal experience of how work and life is about time and energy. On paper, I still have the same number of hours I always did to get things done, but I just don’t have the energy. And I need to find a new “fit” that deals with all of these energy-draining circumstances, or I am going to hit the wall.”

Time and energy. Time management tools will only get you so far in finding a better “fit”or balance if you don’t include the critical component of energy. And yet we don’t hear anything about it. Adding energy to the equation is so important that when I wrote my book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You, five years ago I devoted an entire chapter to the concept. You’d think by now our culture would have caught on, but I’m beginning to see signs that might change.

Other work+life experts are incorporating energy (www.reneetrudeau.com) into their process. Another sign of change is the bold front-and-center headline “Are You Heading for an Energy Crisis?” on the cover of last month’s Harvard Business Review (October, 2007), for Tony Schwartz’s “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” article.

What does it mean to manage your energy? In a competitive, 24/7, high tech, global work reality it isn’t enough to clock your hours. You need an intuitive understanding of the sources of energy in your life, and the uses of energy.

Just as the personal and professional demands on your time are going to change throughout your life, so are the demands on your energy. The good news is, however, unlike time which is a finite resource, energy is renewable. But you need to be aware of when energy is being depleted to order to implement strategies to maintain and increase it. If it’s not part of your awareness, you will be continually frustrated when your detailed work+life fit time analysis keeps coming up short.

Schwartz’s process and my book include many of the same energy strategies—meditation, exercise, eating well, taking planned breaks from work, being with friends and family, and pursuing avocations. But our time-focused culture hasn’t figured out that the time spent on these activities is not a net loss. Quite the contrary, when the energy gain is included in the calculation, the time and energy increase is an invaluable positive net return.

So challenge the conventional wisdom that time is the only factor in managing your fit. Experiment with investing some of that precious time in energy enhancing activities (which by the way don’t actually require that much time), and begin to benefit from the positive net time and energy return.

Do you have a time and energy management strategy you’d like to share?

My Book/Life Fit

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I’m writing my second book!  It’s the solution we’re currently missing from our work+life “fit” toolkit.  And I’m very excited.  You will hear much more about it in the coming months.

What makes this book even more fun than my last book is imaging what it’s going to be like to share the result with YOU live on this blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Fast Company, and Forbes Woman.  I often find myself thinking, “I wonder what everyone is going to say about (insert)…”

If you’ve ever written a book, however, you know that it’s an intense process that requires a lot of consistent focus.  Inspired by Deborah Siegel’s SheWrites post, “5 Steps Toward a Better Book/Life Fit” I’ve decided to devote the remainder of August to finishing the first solid draft.  As a result, I’ll be cutting way down on my blogging and social media.   I will post occasional updates of my progress on Twitter @caliyost , hashtag #mybook.

Even though I’m taking a break until early September (unless I finish earlier), I’ve gone back and looked at some of my favorite posts from the past 5 years.  So for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the oldies but goodies from the Work+Life Fit blog.  Let me know what you think.

With that, I’m diving deep into my writing cave!  See you live in a few weeks. Enjoy the remainder of the summer.  <click, click, click>

Flex And The C-Suite: Barbara Taylor Of BDO USA, “Don’t Be The Last Person To The Party”

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The “Flex and the C-Suite” series periodically showcases leaders who have made flexibility in the way work is done a key strategy for achieving business results smarter and better. In other words, they get it.

Barbara Taylor is the General Counsel of the national professional services firm, BDO USA, LLP. For the past five years, she has also been the senior leader champion of the firm’s award-winning BDO Flex strategy.

Our group has had the privilege of working with the internal BDO team helping them develop and implement their business-based approach to flexibility in how, when and where work is done. In our interview, Taylor shares important insights into why work+life flexibility is a strategic imperative and about the process the firm has followed to make it part of the culture.

Cali Yost: What are top challenges/opportunities you see for business over the next year or two?

Barbara Taylor: The economy will continue to be a very big challenge for some time. For BDO, this means a very competitive business environment and the pressure to do more with less. In addition, the 24/7 global work environment is here to stay. The challenge with that is how to manage work, schedules and resources across every time zone and keep up with everything that happens in the course of a continuous global workday.

I think the opportunity that comes from the challenges is that any business that can figure out how to manage those dynamics (such as matching people with client demand, maximizing use of space and resources, equipping teams to work across time zones) will have a distinct competitive advantage.

Cali Yost: In your opinion, how does work+life flexibility help an organization address those challenges or seize those opportunities?

Barbara Taylor: I see flexibility as one of the main tools that organizations can use to manage the business environment. At the core of the issue is that there are only 24 hours in every single day and people need to sleep at some point! Using flexibility–allowing people to shift their start/stop times, equipping people to work from home, and empowering them to flex around their work demands (e.g. after 3 am conference call, they sleep in and start work at 11)–are relatively simple ways to use flexibility to meet business demands.

At BDO, we have also started to think differently about people’s schedules and workloads over the course of a year. Making people more productive doesn’t just mean making them work more. It can mean re-thinking how to match their schedules with client demands. In accounting, there are times of the year we need people to be as productive/billable as possible. At other times of the year, we have more staff than work. There is an opportunity to use flexibility to better match salary costs to client demand. If someone reduces their hours during slow times it allows the employee more time for their personal lives and to recharge and also provide a financial break in salary costs for us. Then, that person can come back refreshed and highly billable during crunch times.

Flexibility also helps us manage growing real estate costs. When we open new offices, we have think about who can go to offices located in the suburbs, who can work from home, and who can share offices, which has real bottom line impacts.

Cali Yost: What three factors have been most critical to the successful implementation of flexibility at BDO? (Click here for more)

(This post originally appeared in FastCompay.com)

For more about how to make work+life flexibility part of an organization’s culture and business model, sign up to receive our “Make Flexibility Real” Newsletter and join me on Twitter @caliyost.