Posts Tagged “telework”

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.

Why the Federal Government’s Telework “Policy” Won’t Achieve Flexible Work Success

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I was originally booked on Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show to discuss how TWEAK IT can help individuals can find a better work-life “balance.”

But, the segment quickly turned into an opportunity to reinforce the link between work flexibility AND the skills and tools people need to capture that flexibility and use it to be their best, on and off the job (which, ultimately, is what TWEAK IT is about).

Below, you will find a link to the lively 13-minute discussion I had with hosts, Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.  Some of the key points we covered included:

  • Like in any organization, the government’s telework “policy” is not enough to create a successful culture of flexibility that meets the needs of the organization and its people.
  • In an environment with more duties and fewer resources, we can’t keep working harder and faster. We have to work and manage our lives smarter and better.
  • Telework is not a “program,” it is a way of operating in this “do more with less” environment that requires a partnership between the workplace and the person using it.
  • The skill set individuals need to play their role in that flexible work partnership includes the ongoing small, meaningful  “tweaks” to manage their everyday work+life fit and the “resets” that involve a more formal flexible work plan.
  • Truth is that not every type of job or level supports the same type of work flexibility. Good news is the everyday work+life “fit” how-to in TWEAK IT applies to everyone, regardless of the flexibility your job supports.
  • Technology allows more flexibility, but it has also caused us to become more reactive. We need to set better boundaries throughout the day but don’t know how.
  • We have to learn how to test expectations. Sometimes we think we have to respond immediately when we get a late night email or when we are on vacation.  But that is not the case.  Yet we don’t ask.

And there is much, much more.  Let me know what you think in the comments section.

And, if you haven’t already, I would love to connect with you on Twitter @caliyost and on Facebook and continue the conversation.

It’s Not Just About “When” You’ll Work, But “Where” and “How”

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For the past two weeks, I have traveled the country to share the skills we need to flexibly manage our work+life fit day-to-day (tweaks) and at major transitions (resets) in partnership with our employers.

My experience on the road has reinforced that most of us have no idea how to capture and use work flexibility, intentionally, to meet our needs and exceed expectations on our jobs.

There is a massive 65% flexibility “how to” knowledge gap. It’s occurred because 82% of full-time U.S. workers say they have some form of informal or formal flexibility in how, when or where they work, but only 17% of employers train their people how to use it. That assumes you work for one employer. If you don’t, then no one teaches you anything.

We’ve thrown everyone into the work flexibility water without lessons and said, “swim,” then wonder why so many of us still cling to the side of pool not sure how to move forward.

One area of confusion I hear often is that most people still think managing your work+life fit is simply a matter of good time management. Actually, it’s not.

In a world without clocks and walls to tell us where work ends and the other parts of our life begin, “when” we are going to accomplish a particular action or priority is important. But you also have to focus on the “where” and “how.”

It’s a “what, when, where and how” practice.

For example, according to a new study by Regus:

  • 82% of workers in the NY Tri-State region said that they spend at least one day per month working outside of their office.
  • 62% felt that their employer expects them to be available to respond to work issues during this time.
  • But only 18% said that they actually got work done if they were outside of their office, between meetings and had free time.

Why? Because they had no good place to actually do work. Restaurants, coffee shops and airports are noisy, and unpredictable.

As as result, many respondents ended up taking care of personal tasks during that down time, like shopping, walking around or answering personal emails.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with spending time on personal activities as long as it is a deliberate work+life fit choice. Unfortunately, it seems that for many it’s a default response to a lack of quality in between “not in the office, but not at home” workspace.

Thankfully that is changing. Organizations like Regus, WorkSnug and other specialized, membership based co-working entities like In Good Company, are offering drop-in, temporary, co-working options in major cities across the world.  I have made it a point to learn as much as I can about these new, flexible workspaces because they are an important solution that most of us don’t think about.

As you look at your work and personal “to dos” for the upcoming week, don’t be afraid to schedule multiple meetings in a location knowing you will have a place to go in between and still be productive. You don’t have to hope you will find a free table and power source at the local Starbucks.

Today, flexibly managing your work+life fit is not just about “when” you get everything done. It’s also about “where” and “how”. More “not the office but not at home” in between co-working spaces expand the possibilities. They allow you to be more intentional about how you choose to make what matters to you happen, on and off the job. Find them, and strategically use them. I am!

Do you think about “where” and “how” you will do you job and manage the other parts of your life each week, or do you primarily focus on “when?”

For more, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost , “Like” our Facebook page, and sign up for our weekly Flex+Strategy/Work+Life Fit Insights newsletter.

 

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?

NPR’s All Things Considered: My Thoughts on Yahoo’s Telework Reversal

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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.

It’s 10 P.M., Do You Know Where Your Employees Are? 4 Steps to Set After-Hours Work Expectations

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The other day I sat with three senior leaders from three different industries. One was the CEO of an international PR and communications firm. One was a partner of a professional services firm, and the other the president of a national not-for-profit. As it often does, our discussion about work and life turned to technology. I asked them how they used their smartphones and laptops to stay connected to work after traditional business hours:

”I keep my phone on 24/7, but I don’t respond to everything, all the time.”–CEO of the PR and communications firm.

“I sometimes send emails at 4 a.m., and on the weekends just to get a jump-start on my day and week.”–president of the national not-for-profit.

“My phone goes in my briefcase when I get home and I don’t look at it again until the next morning.”–partner of a professional services firm.

Three leaders, with three very different uses of technology. So I asked them, “How many of you have sat down with all of your direct reports and explained how you prefer to connect with work, and specified what you expect of them?”

All three shook their heads and said some variation of the following statement, “No, I haven’t done that, but they all know that I don’t expect them to do what I do.” My response was, “I’ll bet that isn’t true,” and I shared what I see too often in many organizations:

Leaders fail to clarify their personal preferences for staying connected to work with technology, and don’t share their expectations of the responsiveness with their direct reports. This leads to misguided assumptions that can wreak havoc on the work/life balance of their employees. And most leaders have no idea any of this is happening.

Here’s my advice:

Recognize that you have to initiate the conversation with your direct reports. They won’t because they don’t want you to misinterpret their questions as, “I don’t want to work hard.” For example, I worked with a senior leader who always caught the 5:00 a.m. bus to the office. On his ride, he did all of his emails and was so pleased that his team were “morning people, too–they get right back to me!” Imagine his surprise when I told him, “Actually, many are setting alarms for 5 a.m. to be awake and reply to you.” “What?!” he responded, “Why didn’t they say anything?” To the person, they all told me they were afraid he would question their commitment if they did.

Decide what you really expect in terms of response and connection. Part of the problem is that leaders are so busy using technology to manage their own work/life balance that they haven’t thought about what they actually expect from their team. The leader who emailed from the bus at 5:00 a.m. told everyone that if he really needed them he’d call their mobile phones. If an email was priority, he’d identify it. Otherwise feel free to respond whenever they can.

Have a meeting, state the parameters clearly, and then be consistent. People watch the behavior of leaders like a hawk. If there’s even a whiff of inconsistency between what you told them and how you actually behave, they will go back to assuming they need to follow your technology schedule. So if you state, “You don’t need to respond to emails at night, I’ll call you if anything is urgent,” don’t penalize someone who missed an important issue because they didn’t answer an email, but were never called.

Finally, keep the lines of communication open and encourage ongoing clarification. Assumptions people make about their manager’s expectations are rarely accurate, especially when it comes to connection and access to work via technology. Set the record straight. It’s an easy way to offer your people more control and consistency over the way work fits into their lives–something we all need.

If you’re a manager, have you clarified your expectations of access and connectedness with your direct reports? If you haven’t, why not? If you did, what did you learn? What difference did it make?

(This post originally appeared in Fast Company)

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?