Posts Tagged “flexible work”

What’s the Future of Workplace Flexibility? (Minnesota Public Radio)

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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.

For more, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and “Like” our Facebook page

How to Communicate, Collaborate and Coordinate for Flexible Work Success

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(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?

For more, I invite you to: Connect with my on Twitter @caliyost and “Like” our Work+Life Fit Facebook page.

Why the Real Yahoo Story is How to Make Flexibility Work for Business AND People (My Fox & Friends Segment)

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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?

My CNN Headline News “Work+Life Fit (Not Balance) is an Everyone Issue” Segment

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Yesterday, I appeared on CNN Headline News to discuss the work+life “fit” issues raised in Sunday’s New York Times article “When the Work-Life Scales are Unequal.”

Cali Williams Yost, CNN Headline News (9/4/12)

My keys points in the segment were that we need to:

  • De-parent and de-gender the conversation about work and life.  In our modern, hectic world, we all need flexibility and support to manage our responsibilities on and off the job.
  • Communicate and coordinate with each other more effectively to get our jobs done, and to make what matters to us in our personal lives happen as often as possible.  This mutually-beneficial collaboration and coverage model replaces the traditional “9-5, in the office, Monday-Friday” boundaries that used to tell us when work ended and our personal lives began that no longer exist.
  • Stop seeking work-life “balance” because it doesn’t exist.  All we can find is our own work+life “fit” and do it in a way that considers our needs and the needs of the business, our manager, and team.
  • Do a better job planning the personal activities and priorities we want to make part of our week.  See where there might be a conflict with work and identify whom you need to coordinate with.

What I didn’t get a chance to say is when you initiate that work+life fit coordination discussion with your colleagues, focus on “how” you are going to get your job done, and not on “why” you need to work differently.  It makes that conversation more productive and more likely to result in a mutually-beneficial outcome.

Talking Work+Life “Fit” on CBS Radio Career Coach Caroline Podcast

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On Tuesday, August 14th, I was a guest on the CBS Radio Career Coach Caroline Show.  During the show, Coach Caroline and I talked about the common work+life “fit” questions that many people have (for a list of the questions covered, see below).  Here is a link to the podcast: http://bit.ly/Pa8JZh.

  • Why is there no work-balance? How do we handle the different levels of comfort with technology and work flexibility in the workplace?
  • When you want to work more flexibly, why is it important to focus on “how” the work will get done and not on “why” you want more flexibility?
  • Why is piloting work flexibility for a period of time such a powerful option?
  • What is the risk of disconnecting from the workforce for long periods of time? How can you avoid that?
  • Why is it so important for men to participate in the work-life discussion?
  • Do you think young women hold themselves in their careers because of pre-mature concerns about how they will manage their work and life in the future? What could they do differently?

If you haven’t already, I invite you to follow me and Career Coach Caroline on Twitter @caliyost and @cdowdhiggins.

The 10 Keys to Building the Flexible Workplace of the Future

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(This article originally appeared in TheAtlantic.com)

In a follow-up reflection on the overwhelming response to her article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter wisely noted that we need a new framework for work and life.

She’s right. We do need a new model that moves beyond the outdated limits of “balance” and “having it all.” This approach would acknowledge the radical transformation that’s taken place at work and in our lives over the past two decades, offer greater flexibility and creativity to manage our responsibilities on and off the job, and deal with the lack of child care, eldercare, and paid family leave.

The good news is that a new, flexible work/life framework already exists in a growing number of organizations. In fact, it’s an open secret waiting to be scaled. But the challenge is how to get more organizations to try.

For the past six years, my company has worked with BDO USA, a professional services firm with 40 offices and 2500 employees across the U.S., to create and implement their award-winning work+life flexibility strategy, BDO Flex. The success of this program shows how a new approach to work and life can be tailored to the needs of a business and its people. It also shows how to avoid the common mistakes that turn well-intentioned policies into feel-good window dressing.

Here are 10 ways to avoid the common traps and adopt a new, more flexible framework:

Make the goal work+life “fit,” not balance. One of the first steps in the BDO Flex process was to update the language. How do you describe what individuals want to achieve with flexibility so that it reflects the realities of a professional services firm with international clients and periods every year when the workload increases? Having a consistent “balance” may be impossible, but you could manage your unique work+life fit in a way that met your needs and the needs of the firm.

Recognize that work+life fit is an issue for everyone, not just women and parents. Initially, the perception of BDO USA senior leadership was that the firm needed greater work+life flexibility primarily to attract and retain women. This is the belief in many organizations. However, when an internal survey found that the men and the single people at the firm were having more trouble managing their work and life than the women and those who were married, they quickly reset the focus of BDO Flex. Everyone needed the flexibility to manage their work+life fit.

Base work+life flexibility on an employee-employer partnership. A one-size-fits-all policy or program administered unilaterally from the top-down by a manager or HR will have limited success. From the beginning, it was clear that for BDO Flex to succeed, leaders, managers, employees and HR would all play a role in an active partnership that created flexible work solutions based on the unique needs of a particular business line and its people. (For more, click here to go to TheAtlantic.com)

3 Ways to Break Out of The “All Work” Or “No Work” Death Trap

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)

As I observed the debate ignited by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” article in The Atlantic from afar over the past week, I witnessed person after person, including Slaughter, fall into the classic “all work” or “no work” trap.” It’s a death trap that immediately kills any productive conversation about creative, innovative ways to work differently. And that’s the real conversation we need to have.

But we won’t until we figure out how to avoid the “all or nothing” landmine that everyone seems to run into whenever a discussion about how to manage work and life in a modern, hectic world begins. Here are three simple steps to get us started:

First, understand what it looks like when someone falls into the trap. You’ll begin to recognize what to avoid. Here are a few examples related to the Slaughter article debate:

The truth is that Slaughter did not leave her senior position in the State Department to not work. She went back to her very busy, very prestigious full-time job as a professor at Princeton. The difference was at Princeton she has more control over her schedule.

Unfortunately, in many of the responses to and interviews about her article, the conversation quickly devolved into the unwinnable debate “should mothers work or stay home.” That’s not what Slaughter did or what she was talking about. And yet, that’s where we ended up.

Few were able to pull themselves out of the trap. It would have meant acknowledging that some people do choose to work all the time, or not work for pay at all, but what about everyone else? How do we take advantage of the countless possibilities in-between and do it in a way that works for us and our jobs?

Watch how Slaughter herself falls into the trap in this video from her interview at The Aspen Ideas Festival. She tries to explain how we should praise women who make work+life decisions in part to care for their families. But then assumes men can’t be guided by family concerns because they have to make money.

Actually, men could and often do make tough work choices based on family considerations as long as the default assumption isn’t that the only alternative is to “not work,” but to work differently.

Again, Slaughter did not choose to work less. She worked differently. There’s no reason a man couldn’t do the same. But in the “all work” or “no work” trap it’s impossible to stay in the grey zone of work+life possibility for all. What about the men who turn down promotions that would have required more work or take lower-paying jobs closer to home? I see it happen all the time, but because those choices don’t fit our rigid “all or nothing” work dichotomy, we don’t see or celebrate them. We should.

Very few people, men or women, can afford to not work even for a brief period of time; therefore, working smarter, better and more flexibly is the solution. Hopefully knowing what the trap looks like will help us avoid falling into it. And we can finally focus our discussion on the countless flexible ways of fitting work and life together.

Second, the issue is how to reset your unique work+life “fit” not work-life balance: If you have a few minutes, go back and re-read The Atlantic article. Everywhere you see the phrase “work life balance,” substitute “find a work+life fit that works for me and my job.” It’s almost magical what happens. All of sudden the unwinnable search to find “balance,” turns into a series of deliberate choices based on work and personal circumstances at a particular point in time. And much of the drama disappears. (For more,  click here to go to FastCompany.com)

3 Signs Flexible Work is Strategic–And Not Just Window Dressing

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(Post originally appeared in Fast Company)

Research shows that a majority of employers offer at least some type of informal, day-to-day and formal work flexibility, and a majority of employees agree that they have access to it.

Therefore, the question is no longer simply, “What is telework, flexible hours, etc.?” We get the concept. The focus must now shift to “How do we use work flexibility strategically and deliberately to achieve our unique business and personal goals?”

Unfortunately, too often the flexible work that exists is either random with no clear, coordinated, widely understood goal behind it. Or it’s a program or policy that sounds and feels good but hasn’t infiltrated its way into the day-to-day business.

So how do you tell if an organization’s approach to work flexibility is deliberate, strategic and targeted, or if it’s random, window dressing? Here are three signs:

Sign #1: When a business challenge or opportunity appears, managers naturally ask themselves, “How can we address this by being more flexible in how, when and where work is done?” And then they understand how to pull the team together to make that flexible work solution succeed. For example:

  • The group is covering clients across all time zones and is burning out; therefore, “How can we be more flexible with our work hours so that if you are on a call with Asia or Europe overnight, you don’t have to be at your desk by 9 a.m. the next day?”
  • Business is down and we are getting pressure to cut head count; therefore, “How can I reduce schedules to save labor costs and the valuable talent we’ll need when the business turns around?”
  • An employee has to care for his mother who lives in another state and was recently diagnosed with dementia; therefore, “What if we let him telework so he doesn’t have to quit?”
  • There may be a new business opportunity in a market but there isn’t enough revenue to justify renting an office; therefore, “We can have the initial start up team telework from their homes until revenue grows?”

Sign #2: The organization consistently connects the dots between all of the tactical, siloed applications of work flexibility. (Click here for more)

How to Get Middle Managers To Support Flexible Work

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)

Last week I attended a fascinating forum on paid family leave at the Ford Foundation. As is often the case in any discussion about the demands of work and family, the need for work flexibility was front and center, with the primary challenge being, “How do we get middle managers to support it?”

Middle-manager support can be the difference between success and failure of a work flexibility strategy and, yet, it remains elusive. The advice on how to solve the problem ranges from “Put the policy in place. Tell managers this is the way it is. Reward those who do it and punish those that don’t,” to “You can’t lead a horse to water. I guess you need to wait for the dinosaurs to die off [sigh].”

In my experience, a top-down policy and an ultimatum will fail. It only creates more resistance. And waiting for a generation of managers to leave is not only inefficient, but it unnecessarily leaves money on the table as the organization and its people miss out on the benefits of flexible work.

Over the years, we’ve succeeded in getting even some of the most skeptical middle managers on board the work flexibility train. But it requires a larger upfront commitment of resources (e.g. time, money, and people) than it takes to write a policy or rely on attrition. However, the return on that investment is a group of middle managers who not only accept work flexibility but understand how to use it as a powerful tool to run their business.

Here are five the ways we’ve gotten middle managers to support flexible work:

Ask middle managers to help articulate the “why” or business case for work flexibility in your organization, and then let them participate in determining what that flexibility will look like. Interview middle managers–the supporters of flexibility as well as the naysayers. Ask them why they think it is or is not important to be more flexible in the way work is done. Encourage them to tell you how it will solve their business challenges. Gather groups of managers and employees together to expand this shared vision they’ve created. At the end of the process, people feel invested in this approach to flexible work that they developed themselves, bottom up and top down.

Allow middle managers to freely express the “prices” they fear they will pay, while also helping them to focus on the payoffs of work flexibility. I love naysayers. When I am consulting to a group of managers about work flexibility and one of them has the courage to say, “Yeah, but I’m going to be left doing more work,” I want to hug them. They are articulating one of the very real fears many of the middle managers have about changing the way work is done. When you give middle managers a chance to share those concerns freely, they are able to move beyond them. They start to see the long list of benefits from having a more flexible approach to work. But if they can’t, they get stuck behind the fears.

Make sure that work flexibility in the organization is built on a partnership model where employees have as much responsibility for the success of it as the managers do… (For more, please click here)

I invite you to join me on Twitter @caliyost.

How to Move Past the Fear “If I Give Flexibility to You, Everyone Will Want It”

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(This post originally appeared in Forbes.com)

Even though 82% of the respondents to our 2011 Work+Life Fit Reality Check national study of full-time employees said that they had some form of work flexibility, I still hear stories of people experiencing resistance from their managers because of the “floodgates fear.”  What’s the floodgates fear? The scenario looks something like this:

Employee to manager: Susan, here’s my plan to work from home every Wednesday. I’ve outlined how I’m going to get my work done, how I’m going to communicate and handle any unexpected needs that might come up.”

Manager to employee: “Chris, this flexible work plan looks terrific, but if I give to you then everyone is going to want it.”

Susan, the manager, has been paralyzed by the fear that the floodgates for work flexibility will open and chaos will ensue. In fact, one manager confessed that he became so frightened that he imagined that he was in a big white room with hundreds of desk. On each desk was a phone. All of the phones were ringing and he was the only person in the room to answer them.

The managers who usually struggle most either haven’t ever had an employee work flexibly, or they’ve tried it in the past and it didn’t work.

So how do you help your manager move beyond the fear that the flexible work floodgates will open?  Here are a few tips:

Don’t take their reaction personally. Realize this fear is so common amongst managers that it has its own name, the Floodgates Fear. It’s based upon the very real concern that if they allow you to work differently, then suddenly they will be inundated with requests. The manager doesn’t want to be the bad guy or gal and have to say “no,” but they also have a business to run. If you don’t take their reaction personally, then you can work together to come up with a compromise that’s comfortable for everyone. You do this when you…

Agree to keep the lines of communication open with your manager. Another big fear that managers have about flexible work is that once they say “yes,” to a specific plan they can never ask to change it. The reality is that circumstances do change. It will give your manager a sense of comfort to know that if they need to come to you and say, “You know what, I can’t have two people working from home on Tuesdays. It’s affecting customer service on those days,” that your reaction will be, “Okay, let’s talk about how to fix it.”  This will…(For more, please click here)