(This article appeared in our weekly email newsletter. Click here to get your copy delivered to your mailbox.)
We all have those moments when we realize that something so obvious to us is unclear to others. It happened to me the other day when the organizer of an event at which I am speaking said, “Why is your company called the Flex+Strategy Group / Work+Life Fit, Inc.?”
I love it when people ask this question, because it gives me an opportunity to explain the intentional symbolism behind the name. So in case you are also curious, here’s what I said:
Flex+Strategy / Work+Life Fit is the partnership that organizations and individuals need to create for flexible work to succeed. You can’t have one without the other.
It’s “Flex+Strategy” for business because flexibility in how, where and when work is done needs to be executed as part of organization’s overall plan to achieve its goals.
Unfortunately, a majority of leaders and employees don’t see work flexibility as a core strategy to get the job done and manage their lives. In most cases, it’s still perceived to be an optional, nice-to-have, perk or benefit. (2011 Work+Life FIt Reality Check). The goal of “Flex+Strategy” is to position work flexibility where it rightfully belongs so that both the business and people can benefit.
People can’t manage their work and life, day-to-day and at major transitions, if they don’t have flexibility in how, when and/or where they do their job, which brings us to “Work+Life Fit” for individuals.
If we stopped at “Flex+Strategy,” it would reinforce the outdated bias that organizations and managers need to do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to making work flexibility a success. That’s not accurate, but again that’s what most of us think. According to the 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check, 73% of respondents answered “true” to the statement, “work life flexibility is only possible if my employer and/or boss provide it.”
The reality is that your employer or boss can’t “give” you flexibility. They can support it as a core strategy (see above). But then it is up to each of us to capture what is available and use it to manage the unique fit between our responsibilities on and off the job, every day and at major life transitions.
In other words, your employer and boss can support working from home periodically, but they can’t tap you on the shoulder and say, “You know what. You need to get that leaky pipe in the basement fixed. Why don’t you work from home tomorrow and meet the plumber,” or “You must be thinking about retirement soon. Why don’t you put together a proposal to continue working as a consultant for the group?”
Initiating a plan that makes sense and then understanding how to coordinate, collaborate, and communicate responsibly to get the job gets done is up to us. This is a modern skill set we all need, but most of us don’t have. The good news is we can learn.
Organizations must directly link work flexibility and business strategy, and everyone needs to learn how to partner with their manager, customers, colleagues and family members for flexible work success, on and off the job. That’s why we are the “Flex+Strategy Group / Work+Life Fit, Inc.”
And with that the event organizer replied, “Got it.”
Do you have a question you want to ask or a comment you want to share? Connect with us in the way that is most comfortable for you:
By harnessing the power of the small stuff, we can make it through the big stuff. When facing a big change, the simple weekly TWEAK IT practice restores a sense of control in what can feel like overwhelming chaos.
That was the advice I shared when I recently appeared on the TODAY Show with career coach, Maggie Mistal. Two years ago, I helped Maggie deal with the early, unexpected arrival of her son, Mercer, when she was only 27 weeks pregnant and on vacation in Miami.
Suddenly, Maggie and her husband, Craig, found themselves in an unfamiliar city, trying to take care of their fragile new son, work, find a place to live and take care of themselves.
They had to become their own advocates, and focus on the small, everyday victories–or “tweaks” that created the foundation of everyday well-being and order they needed. And, thankfully, today Mercer is a happy, healthy, thriving two-year old.
Watch the segment to hear Maggie’s inspiring story and to learn the four tips for “tweaking” your way through a big change and beyond.
(Fun bonus: Around 1:46 minutes you can see my husband outside the TODAY show window in the bushes!)
I recently appeared on Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Daily Circuit” to discuss the current state of flexibility in the workplace following the announcements that Yahoo had discontinued formal telework, and Best Buy no longer supported its Results Only Work Environment.
I talked about how my new book, TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, is the modern skill set that everyone needs, but few people have, to meet their employer halfway for flexible work success.
It was a very interesting conversation. Listen and tell me what you think.
(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)
Life was simpler when we worked 9-to-5, in the same office, on the same days, and we had the evenings and weekends to take care of the other parts of life. Today, more of us work from different locations and across time zones, and, if we aren’t careful, our other priorities get lost in the shuffle.
We can telework from home two days a week to avoid sitting in traffic, or shift our hours to meet the plumber before going to the office. But to do this successfully, we have to coordinate, collaborate, and communicate with others in a way that wasn’t necessary back in those simpler days.
My experience is that many people still don’t understand what this extra level of effort looks like in action. Here’s how three people recently figured it out and found satisfaction on and off the job.
“I’ve Accepted That I’m a Coordinator”
Rich is the owner of a small accounting firm, and divorced father of two who shares custody with his ex-wife. He has office space, but for the most part he and his staff work remotely from their respective homes.
He’s a believer in work flexibility. But he had to read my new book, TWEAK IT, before he understood that the coordination he did on a regular basis was a necessity, and not an annoying burden:
“One thing I’ve accepted about my work+life fit is that I’m basically a ‘coordinator.’ I feel like I spend a decent part of my day organizing things. In the beginning, it made me mad. But now I realize that part of my life really is about arranging my work, my kids, friends, girlfriend, my own stuff, etc. It’s very key to getting everything done. And if I don’t take the time to get it right, then many things can suffer.”
“It Never Crossed My Mind to Collaborate with My Colleagues”
This past week I got a call from a senior level administrator at a nonprofit. He didn’t want to retire completely for a while, but he was interested in proposing a plan that would allow him to work remotely for a period of time each year in order to be closer to his grandchildren.
We talked about his job responsibilities, and whether or not they could be done well if he weren’t in the office regularly. For the most part, the answer was “yes,” except for the rare instances when a particular issue flared up. His physical presence would be required; however, another senior person could step in initially until he got there. Although these events were infrequent, they were important. And if he couldn’t figure out how to address them, his superiors would have trouble supporting his proposal.
I suggested that he reach out to a few of his peers at similar levels and ask if they would be willing to play the “on call role” for him. And then, to make it fair, offer to cover for them on vacation, or in a way that would be most helpful to their work+life fit.
He paused and responded, “It never crossed my mind to collaborate with colleagues, but that makes complete sense for all of us.”
“I Could Ask My Team to Call Me If They Really Need Me”
The truth is that we don’t talk to each other when we want to work flexibly throughout the day.
In our national 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check survey, we asked, “When you make those occasional changes in how, when and where you work, who do you discuss those changes with?”:
• 79% said “your supervisor”
• 63% said “your spouse, family or partner”
• 52% said “your colleagues”
• 45% said “those you supervise”
Imagine how much easier it would be to come in a few minutes later in the morning so that you can meet the plumber, or leave a few minutes earlier to attend your son’s soccer game, if we communicated with and supported each other more openly.
For one woman who recently attended a speech I gave, the challenge was to stop always eating lunch at her desk. She genuinely felt that if she walked away for 30 minutes, something would happen and, therefore, she could never leave.
I challenged her. “Is there another way you could be available but not necessarily at your desk eating?” She responded, “Well, I guess I could bring my phone with me, and I ask my team to call me if they really needed me.” She hadn’t thought to ask.
If we want to take back our life, we have to coordinate, collaborate, and communicate with each other in a way that wasn’t required in the past. And many of us still don’t understand what that means or looks like. As the stories above illustrate, the potential personal and professional payoffs make the effort worth it.
How do you coordinate, collaborate, and communicate with others so that what matters to you–on and off the job–actually happens?
On Saturday, I appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss Yahoo’s decision to no longer allow employees to telework and to explain why I wasn’t surprised by the announcement.
The complete segment is below; however, here are the main points I emphasized:
- The issue is not Yahoo specifically. The real story is “how to make flexible work succeed for both business AND people?” It’s not necessary to throw the “flexibility baby out with the bath water” when it’s not working.
- There are many steps an organization can take to fix and reposition work flexibility when it’s failing. You don’t have to make it all-or-nothing: work from home all the time, or come into the office ever day.
- Flexible work was broken at Yahoo. They most likely (as evidenced by they fact telework was referred to as a “benefit”) didn’t implement telework correctly to begin with.
Here are the three things every organization needs to do to avoid becoming Yahoo, and now Best Buy:
- Train your people–Most “abuse” of work flexibility is cluelessness: We all need to learn how to use flexibility to manage our everyday work+life fit in a way that works for us and our jobs. It is a modern skill set that most of us don’t have and we all need. My new book TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day (Center Street/Hachette) shows everyone “how to.”
- Put the technology in place to encourage sharing, collaboration and communication and then expect people to use it. Many organizations do not invest enough in this extra layer of systems and support.
- Have clarity and accountability about expectations not only about results but how the job will get done effectively and efficiently for everyone. Review and revise often. And if someone isn’t using work flexibility as expected, they don’t get to continue.
This is not about Yahoo and Marissa Mayer. The real story is how do we make work flexibility a powerful strategy that helps both business and people succeed? If we can stay focused on that, then we can use this moment to make it better for everyone. What do you think?
Yesterday, I was interviewed by NPR’s Laura Sydell about Yahoo’s decision to revoke the ability to telework. She shared my thoughts on All Things Considered.
What do you think about Marissa Mayer’s surprising choice to bring everyone back into the office?
In my new post on Fast Company, I explain why I think she’s actually done us all a big favor.
I recently appeared on Huffington Post Live to discuss “Elder Care for the Baby Boomer Generation.” Joining me on the segment was TWEAK IT elder care expert, Denise Brown, founder of Caregiving.com, the amazing, online information and support community that helps men and women succeed with the difficult task of caring for adult family members.
After the segment, I asked Denise to share specific tweaks that we can make today to prepare for future caregiving responsibilities. As she points out, “Eldercare is not something that happens to someone else. It will happen to all of us.”
You can find more of Denise’s wisdom in TWEAK IT:Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. Here’s one of her extra bonus “tweaks” from the TWEAK IT Together community site:
“Create back-up plans and then a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Research options in the community, even if you think you won’t need them. You never know. You have to ask the “what ifs.” It’s best to prepared, just in case. Check with your employer about an EAP or Work/Life benefit. Often EAPS and work/life providers will research options in your community (and your aging relative’s if he/she lives in another state) and help you create your back-up plans.(Click here to learn what to do if you don’t have access to an EAP).”
What small actions have you taken today to get ready to take care of your aging family members in the future? Be sure to share in the comments section below or on Facebook.
(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)
As the clocks and walls that used to divide work from the other parts of life began to disappear, I started to search for new modern ways to make what matters happen on and off the job.
For almost two decades, I’ve worked in the trenches with hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of individuals. I’ve helped make workplaces more flexible and given people the tools and skills to manage the fit between their work, career and personal lives. And, in the process, I’ve discovered a group I call the work+life fit “naturals.”
The “naturals” are the people whom you would describe as “having it all.” I estimate they represent about 10-15% of the people I encounter. They fit work and other parts of their lives together, seemingly, with ease while the rest of us struggle.
There are two ways I spot a work+life fit natural. Whenever I engage with a new company, I ask to be introduced to “two or three people who seem to manage everything they need to get done without breaking a sweat.” The client will say something like, “Oh, you should meet John. He has three kids. His wife works. He’s a triathlete and runs a not-for-profit on the side. Honestly, I don’t think he’s human.” Then I meet John. Usually, he’s less super-human than his colleagues perceive him to be from the outside, but he does consistently make what matters happen as often as possible.
I also pay attention to the people who come up to me after I give a speech or workshop. Naturals approach cautiously and ask, “I’m sorry, please don’t be offended, but I am confused by why this is so hard for people. Isn’t it pretty straightforward.” To them, it’s as if I’d given detailed instructions on how to get out of bed and brush their teeth in the morning. After I probe further, it’s clear that they’ve intuitively figured out how get their job done, and still have a life, while their colleagues in similar positions flounder.
What are the secrets of these work+life fit naturals? How do they “have it all”? What I discovered is that most of them follow these insanely simple steps:
The naturals realize it’s their responsibility to make what matters to them happen, day-to-day, in the face of competing demands. They know that no one is going to tell them when to finish a work project, get the gym, learn a new job skills, get their car serviced and take their son to the movies.
They don’t run separate work and personal calendars and priority lists. They keep everything in one place; therefore, they make day-to-day decisions based on a complete picture of their commitments on and off the job. If they receive a meeting request at work, the natural will think twice before saying “yes.” Is it urgent? What else do I have planned? If there’s a conflict, can I suggest another time, or do I have to miss lunch with my friend? Sometimes the answer will be to agree to the meeting and miss the lunch. Other times, an alternate time and day will work for everyone. The point is that their decisions are intentional.
The naturals consistently and frequently check in and reflect: What’s happening at work and in the other parts of my life? What do I want more of? What do I want less of? What do I want to continue? They realize that the actions that keep them healthy, their career network and job skills up to date, their personal relationships strong and their personal finances in shape won’t happen by default and are always changing.
When they see a gap between what’s happening on and off the job, and what they want, the naturals take small, manageable steps in the areas of their life they’ve identified as important. They’ll put it on the calendar to:
- Call the insurance agent to make sure their coverage is adequate and current.
- Schedule a day off with their partner to catch up.
- Gather their siblings who live in different cities on a Google Hangout to make sure everyone understands their parents’ caregiving wishes.
They don’t expect perfection. Naturals focus on and celebrate what does get done, even if it’s only part of what they had planned. It’s better than nothing and over time creates a solid foundation of well being and order we all crave.
“I already do that.” Actually, most of us don’t, but we all can!
When I first started to share these insanely, simple secrets a few years ago, people would push back and say, “I already do that.” I knew they didn’t but I needed proof if I was to convince them to embrace this practice of small changes with big impact.
I decided to have people who attended one of my events complete a basic, four question pre-session questionnaire. Over the course of a few months, more than 240 answered the questions and this is what I discovered:
- 75% agreed that “on average, I actively manage my work and personal responsibilities and goals daily or weekly.”
- 40% agreed that “I always keep a calendar with all of my personal and work to-dos and goals in one place.”
- 26% agreed that “On average, I set time aside daily or weekly to check in with myself and answer the question, “What do I want?”
- Only 15% said, “When I see a mismatch between what I want in my work+life fit and what’s happening I make adjustments, always.”
In other words, yes, they thought they managed their responsibilities on and off the job deliberately and with intention. But most made their everyday choices using an incomplete picture of what they had to accomplish at work and in their personal lives. Even fewer regularly reflected on what they wanted, and almost no one always took the small steps to close the between what they want and what’s happening on and off the job.
The good news is that we all can become work+life fit naturals. Their secrets are translated into a practical, commonsense weekly practice found in my new book, TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day (Center Street/Hachette) and on the mobile-friendly site www.tweakitogether.com. Join me! Just tweak it, and make what matters to YOU happen every day.
Are you a work+life fit natural? Take this simple, four-question quiz and find out.
When I talk to people about what’s missing from their busy everyday work+life fit, those who are currently single will often rank “dating” at the top of the list.
You can listen to the podcast of our conversation or read the transcript below. Happy Valentine’s Day and happy dating!
Cali: Welcome everybody, each week I like to introduce you to another one of the experts who share their wisdom in my new book “Tweak It.” This week we have a special treat. We not only have Thomas Edwards, the founder of The Professional Wingman who is the dating expert I interviewed for the book, but we are joined by his fiancée Laurie Davis, who is the founder of E-flirt Expert. Two dating experts who are going to help us finally figure out how to make dating part of our everyday busy work life fit. So welcome Thomas and Laurie.
Thomas: Thank You
Laurie: Good Evening, how are you?
Cali: I’m great. I’m going to have you both start off by telling us a little bit about your respective sites and areas of expertise and then we’ll get started.
Thomas: Ladies first.
Laurie: Thanks. My company E-Flirt Expert is an online dating consultancy and we work with people one on one by writing their profiles, helping them educating them on what to say in an email and all the way up to helping them manage their accounts when they don’t have the time to just tweak it and make it work. I’m also the author of a new book that just came out called “Love at First Click, the ultimate guide to online dating.”
Thomas: I’m Thomas Edwards, founder of the Professional Wingman and we are a social strategy consultant agency that helps people develop better social skills primarily by going out and giving them real time feedback on what’s preventing them from making the kind of relationships that they want in their lives.
Why is finding time to date so difficult today?
Cali: Together I think you both are an absolute wealth of knowledge and will help us to crack this nut. I’ve told you both and everybody who’s watching this can tell I have been out of the dating world for a long time. But I consistently hear from people that they feel like they really just don’t have the time to date. What do you think makes dating so difficult for people who are busy?
Thomas: I think it’s a lot of things, I mean we now live in a world of infinite choice where now you throw in online dating where – so now there’s so many ways you can actually meet someone, then you combine the idea that we are working more and more in our lives – 60 hours plus – then you combine the fact that we don’t actually – we’re not taught these things. You know, we’re taught to get a job, we’re taught to understand math and geography and how to drive, but we are never taught how to actually go out in the real world and make personal connections with people that we may have just met.
Laurie: And even the things that you were taught like your grandmother or mom, these little snidbits of relationship tidbits, you never learned how to date online definitely – your grandmother did not teach you how to write a profile.
Thomas: Yeah, so it’s just a combination of a lot of those things that make it – I’m not going to say difficult, but just overwhelming. I mean, I personally think dating can be easy if you have the right strategies but if you don’t know where to even begin, you are more likely to not even start.
Cali: That’s interesting because I think that gives people permission to not blame themselves. It’s like I can’t do it – and just to say – well you weren’t taught. So maybe find some resources that can help you out.
Thomas: There’s … that’s one side. I also think the other side is if you’re doing the same thing or the same strategies and getting the same results then you start to look at yourself as a reason to blame because you’re not making the necessary adjustments to improve your life or at least make a change that you can record as data so you can tweak it along the way to improve it so it just – it works both ways. It’s something that you have to actually put in an effort to do – but at the same time getting that knowledge and letting the strategies are also as important.
What are some small dating actions, or “tweaks,” people can take?
Cali: Ok, so help us out. Thomas you offered some terrific tips for getting started in the book, but what would both of you say one small thing that somebody could do true to your point A. learn how to date and B. take action.
Laurie: Really easy, especially with online dating there’s so many choices there’s so many sites there’s so many people on them it really overwhelms and the easiest thing to do is to just make it part of your routine, it’s a 20 minute thing that you do every day, it’s part of your online behavior – so read the Washington Post, check your dating site account, you message a couple of people, you are on to the next thing – so it’s just part of your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be some big overwhelming thing that you have to sit in front of the computer and do for three hours.
Cali: That’s good to know. And people get results – you’ve seen that?
Laurie: Yeah, actually when you set a measurable goal like that you get better results, so whether it’s a time limit or whether it’s a number of people you are going to message that’s what I find works best.
Cali: Thomas what do you think people should do?
Thomas: Ah, so when it comes to something that you can do, I like to think that people should focus more on their interests and hobbies as a way to meet people – so before you even walk out of your home or apartment wherever you live, do some research and check out events whether it’s on meetup.com or eventbrite.com, twitter, Facebook – wherever – find events that are going on that you are interested in whether it’s an art gallery opening, whether it’s a wine tasting, whether it’s a photography exhibit – whatever it is – let your hobbies and passions guide you to those people who share things in common with as it will be a natural ice breaker when you start a conversation. When it comes to action, personally I believe there’s no better action then actually – there’s no better action than taking action – just go out there and start meeting people. When it comes to social skills, it’s not a knowledge thing it’s more of a experiential thing and so you are only going to get better as you continue to expose yourself to a variety of different environments and as you continue to do that, you will actually desensitize yourself to the anxiety and nervousness that you would normally get, and so if you keep doing it the results will get better and better, you’ll become more and more comfortable, and you’ll start to see more and more success.
Cali: Let me just recap. Set a time limit – everyday commit to 20 minutes, which really does fit quite nicely in the tweak it practice because you could put that on your calendar for everyday 20 minutes to do your dating activities, then to find an activity – a meet up, an art gallery, gym, whatever it is that you are interested in and engage on common ground as a good ice breaker and then just do it – go out and just start meeting people and it will get easier and easier. Plus, you know what’s good about that is you are also doing something you like. So often time’s people say I don’t get to the gym or I love art but I never go to an art gallery, well you’re kind of getting a two-for then. Right? Dating and an activity.
Thomas: Yeah, and I think it’s easy when it comes to looking for an event you can easily look on a Monday and find out if there’s something going on during the week. So you only have to look once. Then when it comes to actually meeting people, the true key to actually being attractive is people seeing you having a good time- and the best chance to give yourself by having a good time is by doing things that you love.
Laurie: And if you’re more into doing things offline too, and you’re not sitting in front of a computer for the majority of the day, like some people are, you can download apps. So you could download an app that would tell you who in the vicinity is single, or you could just simply download an app for the site that you’re on so that you can be in connection on the go too.
Cali: Very good advice. So tell me now, how did you two meet?
Laurie: We met on Twitter.
Thomas: Of all things.
Examples of “tweak it” dating success
Cali: Social media – there you go. Give me a quick story of an example of somebody who did a small thing and they met somebody.
Thomas: Very interesting. Do you want to go first or do you want me to go…
Laurie: You go.
Thomas: Ok. So… one small tweak that I saw one of my client’s make was he was always so focused on going out to bars, going out to clubs to actually meet people and I asked him – well, how many hours a week do you actually spend out at the bars and clubs? And he would say – anywhere between 5-8 hours over the course of a weekend. So I told him – well, what about the other time? Like, you can definitely use that time to meet people as well. And he didn’t think that that was available to him. As if walking down the street he didn’t think it was possible to actually meet someone – so I said well listen, try it out – be aware of your environment – if you see someone you’d like to talk to as long as it’s appropriate – make your move and eventually he said that he actually met someone waiting for the train on the train platform going to work and within a few weeks they were dating.
Cali: That’s a small change – just changing your perception. That’s easy to do right? Good. Laurie, how about you do you have a good story of someone making a small change and met somebody?
Laurie: I do I do. Sometimes it’s also about who you are searching for… when you are on a dating site. So I had a client who changed her preferences and her outlook on who she was looking for and stopped searching for her same type –but broadened her search and met up with someone who she might otherwise not find – and they dated for 6 months – and she said quote “it was the most adult relationship that she had ever been in”
Cali: Ok so to expand your preferences.
Laurie: Yeah, and to look outside of your comfort zone on who you’re dating too. Not just when you are dating but who.
Cali: You two are terrific. I hope everybody visits your sites and that I’m going to hear less often that “I can’t find a date.” I think everybody who wants to find a date should be able to find one. Now, where can people find out more about you and your work?
Laurie: And I am @eflirtxpert.
Cali: And also you can go to the tweakittogether.com site and find a bonus tweak from Thomas Edwards, again he just gave terrific dating advice in the book and we have another bonus today with Laurie. Thank you both! Really appreciate it! And remember if you want to make what matters to you happen, just tweak it.
What are your simple, get-started tips for making dating part of your busy work+life fit?
- Buy the book, TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day (Center Street/Hachette)
- Join the TWEAK IT Together community www.tweakittogether.com
- Like our Facebook page
- Follow me @caliyost and @worklifefit on Twitter