Individual Work+Life Fit

What I Learned in 2015

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December Newsletter image

I am an early riser. No matter when I go to bed, I am usually awake by 6:00 am at the latest. That is not the case for the rest of my family.

Each New Year’s Day, I get up at the crack of dawn, make a cup of coffee, and sit in the peace and quiet with my journal while they sleep. I read what I wrote the last few years on January 1st. Then I reflect upon the previous twelve months—what I’ve learned and what I am thankful for—and think about goals for the coming year.

As I wish all of you happy holidays, I thought I’d give you a preview of some of the lessons learned that will make my list for 2015. There were many, but these three stick out as particularly important:

  • Work can provide comfort in difficult times. This past year, my father underwent treatment for metastasized prostate cancer. Thankfully, his recent scans show the cancer is in complete remission but the journey to get there was scary and difficult. During this time, my work provided comfort. I found peace in the mastery of tasks that I love, renewed energy from helping others, and a welcomed break from the worry. As we fit work and life together, it’s important to remember to focus on the good things we get from work and not just on the “overwhelm.”
  • You don’t have to wait for the perfect moment to make a change. I loved all our projects this year, but one stands out. It was remarkable because the senior leaders of a team said, “let’s give this new flexibility strategy a shot, even though it’s our busiest time of year and we aren’t meeting our deadlines.” Their risk was rewarded. At the end of the six-week pilot, not only had the group met their deadlines, but their core metric of utilization had never been higher. Too often we wait for the perfect moment before we try something new. Working with this terrific team reaffirmed that sometimes you just have to say, “let’s do it.”
  • The workplace is already flexible. Now, we need to put infrastructure and strategy around it. At the beginning of 2015, I decided to stop engaging in the same old, tired flexibility conversation we’d been having for the last two decades. It’s not about whether or not to offer a formal flexible work policy to your employees. Why? Because flexibility in how, when and where people work already exists (see our most recent survey)! Investments in technology, workspace redesign, and employee expectations have embedded some degree of flexibility in the workplace by default. Now, we have to help people, teams and managers use that work flexibility with deliberate intention.

Finally, because “find a better balance” will be on the top of many New Year’s resolution lists, I thought I’d re-share a couple of my most popular “how to” posts:

I’d love to hear the lessons you learned in 2015 and any tips you have for finding your work+life “fit” (not “balance”) in 2016. Let’s connect on Twitter and Facebook!

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Disrupt Yourself and Get Unstuck

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“Like a novice trapeze artist letting go of the old to leap to the new, we are sure to experience a moment of midair terror. But we are far less likely to fall if we fling ourselves onto the next curve. And, in the seemingly terrible moment of transition, your dreams—the engine of disruption—will buoy you. Are you ready to jump?” – Whitney Johnson, Disrupt Yourself

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. Too often change feels like drinking from a fire hose.  We need frameworks to help us absorb, process and respond thoughtfully and deliberately to upheaval.

In her fantastic new book, Disrupt Yourself, Whitney Johnson draws upon decades of experience as an award-winning investor and leading thinker on corporate innovation to put order and structure around personal disruption so it no longer feels like chaos.

We recently had a chance to discuss how she hoped Disrupt Yourself will help people become “unstuck” and realize their full potential.

CY: Whitney, you co-founded Rose Park Advisors with Clay Christensen, who first popularized the concept of “Disruption Theory” for organizations. When did you realize that the steps guiding disruption could also apply to and help individuals?

WJ: My “aha moment came as I read The Innovator’s Dilemma in 2005. As an equity analyst, I was already persuaded that the frameworks of disruption explained why mobile penetration in Mexico was quickly outpacing fixed-line penetration. But as I read the book closely, I wondered, do these frameworks also apply to individuals, and to me, in particular? If innovation is an inside game, can an organization truly drive corporate innovation without personal disruption?

CY: In a world where change seems to be a constant day in and day out, how does disrupting yourself help regain some control over what can often feel like chaos?

WJ: Each of us has a view of the world that is powered by personal algorithms. We look at how all the component pieces of our lives interact and try to come up with patterns to help us predict what will happen next. When systems behave linearly and react immediately, we’re fairly accurate with our forecasts. That’s why toddlers love discovering light switches, flip a switch and the light goes on. But when they don’t, our predictive power plummets.

One of the best ways to help us deal with these time delays is the S-curve model because it provides milestones we can watch for.

When we first try something new (like start a new job or become a new parent) we know that progress will appear to be slow as we build momentum. Think about the base of a capital S. This helps us avoid discouragement. As we put in hours of practice, we become increasingly competent — and our confidence soars. This is the sleek steep back of the S. Then at the top of the S, we may be quite good at what we are doing (whether as a parent or an employee), but at this point, a lot of effort really does lead to little progress, resulting in boredom and frustration. If you are a parent, you need to let your children go off to college. In your career, take on a new responsibility, or change jobs. In either case, if you don’t jump to a new curve, the seeming plateau, can become a precipice.

How does understanding disruption help manage the chaos? Because the non-linearity, the sense that cause and effect are disconnected, in part, creates that chaotic feeling. When you understand that huge effort now may yield little, and high output today may be the consequence of prior work, you regain a sense of control.

CY: What is the one thing you hope people walk away with after reading “Disrupt Yourself?”

WJ: Companies don’t disrupt, people do. Disruption is a skill set. The more disruptive, the better you’ll get. If you can ride the S-curve waves of learning and mastery, you will have a competitive advantage in an era of accelerating disruption.

Distilled — personal disruption is about moving from stuck to unstuck. If I can inspire even one person to be unstuck, I will be happy.

CY: Thank you, Whitney! I know you’ve already helped me. Pre-order Disrupt Yourself, and jump!

When Play in the Workplace is Serious Business

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Are there moments of fun and play in your work day?

Earlier this month, I contributed to a TODAY Show segment that explored how some companies are making periods of play and fun part of their culture.

When executed with intention, play can be important. It’s not goofing off — it’s serious business meant to encourage innovation, team collaboration and employee engagement.

For example, a bank in Nashville gave employees an optional break from their normal routine for one afternoon. They hosted a corn hole tournament that gave people time to re-energize, forge new connections and build camaraderie outside the context of their regular day-to-day routine. Twenty teams of four from across the organization competed and the afternoon was wildly successful.

Even if moments of fun aren’t officially incorporated into a workplace culture, each person can identify the type of “play” that re-energizes and helps them be their best, on and off the job.

For example, I talked to a trauma nurse who intentionally tries to interject what she called “moments of joy” into an otherwise high-pressured workplace.  Whether it’s a quick joke or a funny/happy story she’s heard, she finds a moment to share it.  Realizing how these “moments of joy” helped to manage the high stress of their day-to-day work, some of her co-workers have now joined in.

At the end of the TODAY Show segment, Matt Lauer says, “I would think that this type of play would make me less focused. I would be thinking about who pegged me at dodgeball all afternoon.” His reaction is a reminder to organizations: one size doesn’t fit all.  There are different definitions of fun and play.  Some people will prefer organized, competitive options, but others might like an impromptu “dishes from around the world” tasting lunch where everyone brings a favorite food from another country to try.

Successful implementation requires a culture and guiding framework that supports (but doesn’t mandate) the creativity to identify what moments of fun and play can benefit both the business and its people.

I’d love to hear from you. What kind of play has encouraged innovation in your workplace? How do you make time for these moments at work? Share your ideas in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Midyear Check In: Simple Calendar Strategy for Work+Life Fit in 2015

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(This article originally appeared in Time.com in January, 2015.  But as we approach the middle of the year, I thought it would be a good opportunity to review and regroup)

A combined priority list helps reestablish solid boundaries around what you need and want to get done

For many of us, another new year means another new calendar; however, if you’re like a majority of all U.S. full-time workers, you’ll start several new calendars or have no calendar at all. This could be one reason why your work-life balance New Year’s resolution usually fails.

As part of our most recent survey of full-time U.S. workers conducted by global research firm ORC International, we found that more than half (53%) of all respondents said they either keep separate calendars/priority lists for work and personal events/tasks (36%) or don’t use any calendar or priority list at all (17%). Forty-seven percent of respondents said they keep one, combined calendar/priority list that tracks all their work and personal events/tasks in a single view.

That simple single calendar approach may be one of the keys to work and life success. For more than a decade we’ve studied the secrets of a group we call the work+life fit “naturals,” those unique individuals who seem to intuitively understand how to fit work and life together in a way that allows them to be their best on and off the job. Almost all of them keep one combined calendar/priority list that clearly shows what they are trying to accomplish, daily and weekly, both at work and in their personal life.

By displaying both their work and personal to-dos together, the naturals shift from “reactive overwhelm” to “deliberate intention.” As the line between our jobs and our personal lives continues to blur, a combined calendar and priority list helps the naturals reestablish solid boundaries around what they need and want to get done. It also forces them to prioritize and to think about the best way to accomplish the activity or task entered.

For example, when a natural receives a request from a colleague to start a meeting at 1 p.m., but had planned to take a 30-minute lunch walk at the same time, the combined calendar forces a pause and a moment of conscious choice. The natural can either accept the meeting and walk earlier or choose not to walk at all. Or he or she can ask if the meeting could start 30 minutes later.

Setting up a combined calendar/priority list is simple. Platforms like Gmail, iCalendar, and Outlook allow you to view your work and personal calendars together, and adjust privacy settings to limit which entries can be seen by whom.

Some naturals note entries as specific as “call mother to check in,” “order groceries,” or “review 401K,” while others simply block out periods of time knowing clearly what they want to accomplish without writing it down. The point is the boundary has been established with deliberate intention, which increases the likelihood that what matters will actually happen.

When it comes to calendars and priority lists, and finally breaking the cycle of “balance” resolution failure, apply that old saying “less is more.” Just one calendar may be the key to increased professional success and personal well-being in 2015.

What about you?  Do you keep one combined calendar/priority list, two separate (one for work and one for the other parts of your life), or none at all?

I invite you to continue the conversation on Twitter @caliyost or on Facebook.   

 

Work-life does not imply age, gender, or parenthood

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I was honored when the The Boston Globe asked me to contribute to “The Work Issue” they published this past weekend in honor of Labor Day.

The article, “Work-life does not imply age, gender, or parenthood,” included graphic highlights (above) of results from the recent national study we conducted in partnership with ORC International.

Key points I make in the OpEd:

Recent news events — reported abuses by employees at the US Patent and Trademark Office, Yahoo’s high-profile pullback in 2013 — may suggest otherwise, but research shows that remote work has become a fundamental way that a surprisingly large percentage of the American workforce gets their jobs done. Now organizations, managers, and individuals must catch up.

We need to de-parent, de-gender, and de-age the perception of the flexible worker. Among the respondents who said they did most of their work from a remote location, nearly three out of four were men. Further, there was no significant difference between remote workers with or without kids, and no significant difference in the age groups of remote workers.

If we can no longer isolate telework neatly into demographic boxes, that means we all need to acquire a new skill set to use telework to get our jobs done — and manage the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, in that same study, a majority of workers — nearly 60 percent — received no training on how to manage their work-life flexibility, and this lack of guidance made them feel like their boss had all the control.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

What do you think?  Have we reached the tipping point where telework has become a fundamental way we get our jobs done, regardless of gender, parenting status and age?

I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.

“But, Mom, What About the Dog?”: A Personal Tale of Work+Life Fit Imperfection

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For those of you who follow the weekly Tweak It Practice, you know that step #1 every seven days is to sit down and celebrate what you DID get done the previous week.

That means if you scheduled 10 “tweaks” or small, meaningful actions into your work+life fit and only accomplished 5, give yourself credit for the 50% you did do.  Celebrate success!

Perfection isn’t the goal; however, in the moment, that can be hard to remember…even for me.

For the past few years, we’ve been very lucky.  My husband’s job didn’t require a great deal of travel.  When I was out of town, I could rely on him to be with the kids in the evening.

But he recently changed jobs and for the first time I was scheduled to speak at a conference when he wasn’t going to be home.

My babysitter offered to stay overnight; however, because it’s the summer, both of my kids were invited to sleep over at a friend’s house.

The week before the speech, I meticulously scheduled all of the logistical planning “tweaks” into my work+life fit so that everything would be set while I was out of town.  Or so I thought.

A couple of hours after my speech, as I sat in my hotel room feeling pretty good about how I’d coordinated all of the pieces of our new work and life puzzle, my daughter calls to ask, “Mom, I’m getting ready to go over to Kate’s house, but what about the dog?”

The dog. Oh goodness, I’d forgotten to figure out who would feed and walk the dog if no one was going to be home overnight! Ugh!

Expected at a cocktail reception and dinner hosted by my client in 30 minutes, I now had to find a dog sitter!

Over the next 20 minutes, I frantically texted and called neighbors to see who had a key and who would be available to take care of Honey (pictured above in all her glory!).

Finally, I found someone and made it to the client event, but I had to laugh.  At the exact moment I’d started to give myself credit for 100% work+life fit perfection, the universe quickly reminded me, “perfection is not the goal.”

Something always comes up, but instead of beating myself up for forgetting about the dog and thinking, “Ah, I can’t do this,” I sat back and took a moment to celebrate success.  I gave myself credit for everything else that did go well.

Can you relate?  When have you forgotten to plan a key logistical “tweak” into your work+life fit and dropped a ball?  How did you respond?  Did you focus on what you did or did not accomplish?

I’d love to hear.  Share your story in the comments section below, on Twitter cc. @caliyost, or on our Facebook page.

 

What Happened When Silicon Valley Tackled Family Caregiving

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“The vast majority of health care is actually provided by families, not by health care professionals.”Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving

Last year, I presented at a conference where the luncheon keynote speaker was the CEO of a non-profit hospital chain.

As we ate, the CEO excitedly shared how her organization was radically rethinking the delivery of medical care at all levels, including post-treatment convalescence.

She explained how more and more of their patients are convalescing at home, which means the patient is discharged as soon as possible after a surgical procedure. They recuperate at home under the care of family and friends with the support of periodic nursing visits, and remote monitoring.

She continued “we have found patients prefer this arrangement, and it has allowed us to dramatically reduce costs while continuing to provide high quality care. We, and other hospitals systems, see this as the model for the future.”

At that moment, all I could think was, “Hold the phone. Who exactly are these family members and friends who are now expected to oversee the recuperation and convalescence of their loved ones at home from often major surgical procedures? Does this CEO understand that most of these people work?”

So I raised my hand and asked the question.  Not surprisingly, the CEO didn’t have an answer because that’s not her primary concern. The challenge this CEO is solving for is how to deliver the highest quality care to the most people in the most efficient and cost-effective way. On that dimension, she and other healthcare leaders are succeeding.

How can technology help us to deliver care on top of everything else we have to do, on and off the job?

This means that more and more of the burden to deliver all but the most acute level of care will fall to loved ones–family members and friends, most of whom will have to provide that often medically complicated care while continuing to hold down and perform at their paid job (70% of caregivers to be exact–Pew).

How is that sustainable?

With this question in mind, I jumped at an invitation from the National Alliance for Caregiving to participate in a unique day-long roundtable with twenty-two other experts from government, Silicon Valley, caregiving advocacy organizations, and researcher institutions this past April.

This diverse, committed group spent hours at the Institute for the Future offices in Palo Alto tackling these questions:

“Until now, technology has made only modest contributions to supporting caregivers.  Can technology play a more meaningful role in helping caregivers? And how can we accelerate innovation in developing new applications to support caregivers?”

The thought-provoking result of our collective effort can be found in the just-released report,  “Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving” (and press release) and is synopsized in this model:

Specific recommendations include:

  • Create better “concept maps” and find more appropriate language to describe the varied and complex caregiving landscape. The way we currently talk about and think about caregiving is too simplistic. For innovation to occur, we need more accurate, complex models and maps of what caregiving actually entails.
  • Continue to collect extensive data about the prevalence, burden and impact of caregiving. Again, for technology to support the caregiver, we need more and better data showing the diversity of caregivers and growing complexity of caregiving responsibilities.
  • Spur a broad national conversation on caregiving.  Quite simply–we need to talk about the growing challenge of the working family caregiver much more than we do. As we learned from our Silicon Valley colleagues, entrepreneurs won’t invest if there isn’t widespread attention on the topic because they don’t see the market, even though the market is huge.
  • Develop a compelling business case for employers and healthcare providers to support caregiving.  In other words, help the leaders like the hospital CEO, and those that employ the increasingly overburdened family caregiver to understand the business case for offering smarter and better supports.
  • Inspire social conversations about caregiving to encourage more learning and support within families and communities. Basically, we aren’t talking to and supporting each other when we find ourselves knee deep in family caregiving responsibilities. How can we leverage and scale existing in person and virtual caregiver support models like CareGiving.com?

And last, but not least, the recommendation I am particularly passionate about because of the work I do with employees and employers…

  • Provide caregiving coaching as an integral component of all solutions. My main contribution to the dialogue was to point out that any technology solution developed to help the family caregiver has to be simple and usable. Also working caregivers need help learning how to fit that technology into all of the other, often chaotic, responsibilities they are frantically trying to manage, on and off the job.

How to make an “Intelligent Family Care Assistant” part of your work+life fit?

For example, one of the technology solutions the group proposed was called an “Intelligent Family Care Assistant,” a system to keep track of and coordinate the family’s care tasks.

The challenge, of course, remains what type of coaching does a family caregiver need to learn how to integrate that technology into their already busy work+life fit? And who would provide that coaching (e.g. hospitals, employers, doctors), and how (e.g. live, in-person, virtually)?

An exercise that the roundtable group completed gave me hope that we are close to knowing what that coaching model looks like and how to deliver it.

In this joint exercise, the group spent about 20 minutes identifying all of the activities and priorities a family caregiver has to deal with only once, then yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, nightly, etc.  We wrote each priority and activity on a post-it note.

On pages 16-18 of the report, you will see pictures of post-it notes we then put into columns labeled labeled Medical, Wellness, Movement, Home, Social, Finance, Legal, Emotional and Personal Care, by level of frequency.

Essentially what the group did together in 20 minutes was complete a more complex version of the Tweak It Practice, with each post-it representing not only a “tweak” but also the inputs a caregiver would put into a care app like Unfrazzle. In other words, “contextualizing” coaching and support models like Tweak It and Unfrazzle exist, now it’s a matter of continuing to innovate and scale.

What do you think it will take encourage the innovation required to support the growing ranks of family caregivers (one of which will likely be us someday)?

Also, I invite you to connect with me and share your thoughts on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.

Telework Week Myth Busters in Pictures (Infographic)

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Download or print infographic, HERE.

View complete survey report upon which the infographic is based, “It’s 10 a.m. Do You Know Where and How Your Employees are Working?

Listen to WSJ MarketWatch Radio interview, “The average telecommuter isn’t who you think it is,” where FSG/WLF CEO, Cali Yost, talks about the research.

NEW RESEARCH: Reveals Major Telework Myths and Growing Open Office Struggle

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As we approach Telework Week 2014 (March 3-7), new national research from the Flex+Strategy Group / Work+Life Fit, Inc. shatters common myths about who is working where and reveals new realities along with new struggles about how full-time employees get their work done.

Key findings from the research, which looks both at telework and the growing open office trend, are outlined in the press release below.

More Women Put in Hours at the Office and in Cubes While More Men Telework

Men outpace women by a wide margin when it comes to telework – doing work from home, business center or another location – while women are more likely putting their hours in at their employer’s office according to new research that dispels long-standing telework myths and explores the increasing struggles of the open office trend.

The Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc. (FSG/WLF) found that among a national probability survey of 556 full-time employed adults nearly one-third (31%) do most of their work away from their employer’s location, and nearly three out of four of those remote workers are men.

“Failure to understand how and where work gets done and by whom, and failure to support these operational strategies with the attention and resources warranted – including training and guidance — can compromise the optimal performance and wellbeing of both organizations and employees,” explains flexible workplace strategist and author Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group.

Telework Stereotypes Don’t Match Reality

FSG/WLF’s research dispelled several telework stereotypes. The typical full-time remote worker is:

  • NOT a woman: Among those that telework, 71 percent were men.
  • NOT a parent: There is no significant difference between remote workers with or without kids.
  • NOT a millennial: There is no significant difference in the age groups of remote workers.

“Almost one-third of the work that gets done today gets done from home, coffee shops and other locations, yet too many corporate leaders treat telework as a disposable option, as in the case of Yahoo,” Yost explains. “Telework is not a perk and it’s certainly not just for moms and Gen Y. Rather, it’s an operational strategy. Think of it as anything less and organizations ignore what has become a vital part of their business and the way their people actually work.”

Open Office Spaces Take Toll on Work Life Flexibility

Back at the employer site, respondents reported doing most of their work either in a private office (30%) or a cube or open office space (33%) with women (43%) significantly more likely than men (27%) to work in cubes/open spaces. Overall, cube/open office workers struggle the most.

  • They were the largest group reporting less work life flexibility now than at this time last year (42%) when compared to their remote and private office colleagues, and of those who feel they have the least control over their work life flexibility, cube/open office workers were the largest percentage.
  • They were significantly more likely to say they didn’t use or improve their work life flexibility because “it might hurt your career/others think you don’t work as hard” when compared to remote workers. Yost believes worries about a “mommy track” stigma may be one reason why fewer women work remotely.
  • They received the least amount of training to help them manage their work life flexibility. Remote workers (47%) were significantly more likely to receive such guidance compared to those in cubes/open spaces (35%).

“As organizations continue to squeeze more people into less square footage, they will be increasingly confronted with the limitations of open office plans and forced to accept that work life flexibility is a solution to where, when and how employees can get their work done with greater focus and performance,” Yost says. “Whether they work remotely or together on site, we need to help employees develop the critical skill set needed to manage their work life fit so they can successfully capture the best of collaborative and remote work environments.”

More about the survey:

FSG/WLF’s latest biennial research was made possible with support from Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, a premier provider of lab-based employer wellness services, and an award-winning healthy employer of more than 40,000 people.

Findings and analysis are solely FSG/WLF’s and are based upon a survey conducted by ORC International with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

LIVE WEBINAR: Cali Yost and experts from Quest Diagnostics and Citrix will discuss these findings in a 30-minute webinar Thursday, February 27th at 2 p.m. EST. Register HERE.

Media Contact: Pam Kassner, pam@superpear.com, 414-510-1838

Students Challenge Singapore to “TWEAK IT” with Contest and Clever Video

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Here’s an experience to file under “You never know the impact of your words.”

This week I’ve shared highlights from my recent trip to Singapore (here and here), but nothing prepared me for this fun surprise!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a group of students in Singapore who attend Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information at Nanyang Technological University.

They were inspired by my “Tweak It” message , and wanted to encourage people to capture the power of small, deliberate actions to find a better “fit” between their work and the other parts of life.

They asked if they could launch a “Tweak It” Singapore awareness campaign.  I said, “Go for it!”

Check out the smart, clever short animated video they created “5 Things Work Life Balance is NOT.” I love it!

Go TWEAK IT (sg)!