Posts Tagged “productivity”

If New Jersey Transit Strikes, Will You Be Open for Business?

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Trains

According to the most recent news reports, there is a very good chance that New Jersey Transit will strike as early as this weekend.  This means that as many as 65,000 New Jersey residents who work in Manhattan will have to find alternative, time-consuming ways to get into the office.

If you are an employer, you have two choices:

  1. Do you demand that all New Jersey-based employees do whatever it takes–no matter how long, or how stressful–to get into Manhattan? OR
  2. Do you strategically encourage telework and allow employees to use the time and energy they’d waste commuting to do their jobs productively?

You have three days to answer that question.  You have three days to coordinate a telework strategy that would allow your people to hit the ground running on Monday without missing a beat.

What would that look like in action?

A few years ago, I worked with a major pharmaceutical company widely recognized for their flexible work culture.

One day, as I facilitated a series of sessions for 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 meeting, 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 got the job done.  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 didn’t think twice about supporting flexible ways of working, 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 your organization?  Will you be open for business at full, productive capacity should New Jersey Transit strike, or will your people waste precious time and energy sitting in cars and buses for three hours each way trying to make it into the office and then get home?

Are you having coordinated conversations today about how everyone plans to work most efficiently on Monday–whether that’s remotely or in Manhattan?  Or will you just take your chances?

I invite you to sign up for our monthly newsletter and to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.

Fast Company: How to Talk About Work and Life Without Getting Into “It”

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What is my vision of work+life fit nirvana?

  • Every manager would know how to talk with his or her employees about work+life flexibility. The discussion would focus on how to get the job done while acknowledging that employees have lives outside of work that they need to deal with. The manager doesn’t come up with solutions, but everyone feels comfortable enough to talk about options, without getting into the details of or judging “why” they need to work differently.
  • Every employee would have the skills to take the initiative and present a work+life fit plan that adjusts how, when or where they work in a way that’s a win for them and the business. They would do this in response to any change in their personal or professional circumstances that would cause them to rethink the way work fit into their life. They don’t suffer in silence because they have the skills to present options that make sense for everyone.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in work+life fit nirvana:

  • Most employees have no idea that they, not their manager, need to come up with solutions when work and personal circumstances change. And, even if they did, most wouldn’t know how. Further complicating matters is the fear saying anything in today’s economic environment that would put their job at risk.
  • Most managers are afraid to say anything that would get them sued, and quite frankly, they “just don’t want to get into it.” They don’t know enough about each person’s life and tasks of their job to come up with a workable solution, and they aren’t comfortable getting into the details of “why” behind the desire for a different work+life fit.

As a result, the ongoing conversation doesn’t happen which leads to a productivity-draining, engagement-sucking, stress-inducing stalemate that hurts everyone.

How to break the stalemate and start the conversation without getting into “it”

Thankfully, more employers recognize that they need to break the deadlock. Increasingly I’m being asked, “How do we get employees to tell us what would work for them and for us? And how do we get managers to feel comfortable having the conversation?” Here’s my advice:

  1. Keep it simple by asking the question, “Do you have the flexibility to manage your work+life fit in a way that gets your job done and meets your personal needs?” The question opens the door to the discussion, keeps the focus on the job and doesn’t get into the details of the individual’s personal life. I recommend that managers pose the question to everyone at least once a year (proactive), and then use it to address any issues that come up unexpectedly before the stress and strain becomes noticeable (reactive).
  2. Give employees the tools to be an effective partner and come up with a plan once the door is opened. For an example of this skill set looks like, check out the three-step work+life fit process outlined in my book. Highlights can be found in the Work+Life Fit in 5 Days series.

With a simple question and the skills to create a win-win plan, it’s possible to encourage a conversation about work+life flexibility that benefits everyone … and gets us one step closer to nirvana.

What do you think makes managers and employees more comfortable talking about how to manage life and the complex realities of work in a difficult economic reality?

Click here to check out other posts on my FastCompany blog and here to follow me on Twitter @caliyost

Yes, Flexibility Increases Productivity (and, More)…Favorite Flex Research/Resources Links

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This past weekend during the BlogHer panel, “Screw Work/Life Balance, We Need Work/Life Policy,” an attendee raised her hand and said, “I know from personal experience that when I work from home I am more productive.  I wonder if anyone has done research on whether this is true more broadly?”

I’ve been immersed in work+life flexibility for so many years that it’s easy to forget that most people don’t know about the stacks and stacks of research that proves that flexibility not only increases productivity but benefits businesses and individuals in many other ways.

In an effort to answer the question, I’m sharing a few of my favorite pieces of flexibility research.  I’ve also included a list of resources that have been studying and advocating for greater flexibility for more than a decade.  Many are on social media.

Great Flex Research Links (no particular order):

Great Resources…that I know personally and who seriously understand the underlying research-based business case for supporting work+life fit and flexibility (no particular order):

Do you have a favorite piece of flexibility research you’d like to share?  Add it to the list in the comments section.  And spread the word!  Flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed benefits everyone…individuals and business.