Why I Banished the Phrase “Work-Life Balance”

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If you’ve ever set the daunting goal of work-life “balance,” you know it doesn’t exist. It’s not achievable, so working toward it feels exhausting.

I realized that the “B” word wasn’t helpful almost 20 years ago, when I was talking to a senior leader in a large bank. I was trying to convince him he needed to give his people more “balance.” I pulled out all of my research and data. Finally, he stopped me and said, “Every time you say ‘balance,’ all I hear is ‘work less.’ We have so much work to get done, and I can’t agree to any policy that’s going to lead to less work.”

A lightbulb went off for me. I needed to start talking about “fit” — how everyone has a unique work+life fit that allows them to get their jobs done and manage life in a way that works for them. “Fit” allows for personalization, creativity and innovation. It isn’t one-size-fits-all. It helps us move toward a space of potential and possibility that’s exciting.

I recently talked to entrepreneur Morra Aarons-Mele on her Forbes.com podcast “Hiding in the Bathroom,” about what work+life fit means for each of us and how teams can create a flexible culture that works for everyone. Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Why We Need to De-Gender, De-Parent and De-Age the Flexibility Conversation

Say it with me: Work+life fit is not a mommy issue. Unfortunately, the conversation about work, life and flexibility has become all about moms, but it’s not. We all need to know how to intentionally fit our work and life together, to be our best on and off the job. So when we just talk about moms and women, we’re missing out on a huge opportunity to help everyone leverage whatever work flexibility they need to be productive and happy.

Flexibility in the way we work today isn’t about women, it isn’t about parents, and it isn’t just for millennials. I’m thankful that millennials have made flexibility a cultural norm inside organizations, but work+life fit is about everyone — including those valuable, experienced Baby Boomers who might consider sticking around to help with project work instead of retiring if they have the flexibility they’re looking for.

What We Can Learn from Work+Life Fit Naturals

When I was researching my book “Tweak It,” I discovered that a small percentage of people (10-15 percent) are, what I call, work+life fit naturals. They seem, from the outside, to fit all of the parts of their life together without breaking a sweat. I figured their secrets must be very complicated (since I was not, I’ll admit, a work+life fit natural), or we’d all be doing it. But it’s actually pretty simple, and it’s more “intentional” than “natural”.

Here are the steps you can follow to think and behave like a “natural”:

  • Sit down at least once a week and think about the small, meaningful priorities you need to get done at work and in your personal life over the next seven days. Look at what habits (like exercise) and what moments (an important training and your kid’s science fair) you want to fit in.
  • Create a combined calendar where you can see all of those different priorities in one view and schedule your “tweaks” for the week.
  • Consider what resources you’ll need to make your work+life fit tweaks a reality. What flexibility do you need in how, when or where you work? What tools or technology do you need to set up? Who do you need to communicate and collaborate with to make sure everything flows seamlessly? If your flexibility (like coming in late to work on Tuesday or working from home on Friday) will affect someone else, let them know about it so that you can plan together.
  • Will it all happen as perfectly as you plan? Probably not. Things come up. Regardless, at the end of the week, celebrate your success. Work+life fit naturals don’t focus on the goals they didn’t quite reach or the hanging tasks that didn’t get finished. They celebrate the little victories, since they know that doing 60% of what you intentionally planned is better than 0%.

Even though our research shows that 97% of full-time U.S. workers say they have some degree of work+life flexibility and one-third already do most of their work from a remote location — not on their employer’s site — many workers still think “nah, I can’t work differently.” I’ve heard from many, many managers who were shocked when employees quit instead of asking to work remotely or rethink their schedule. My advice: Put together a thoughtful plan. Consider how being flexible in the way you do your job could help you remain productive, manage your life and stick around. If you’re a good performer, you’re going to be even better if you have greater flexibility and control, and managers know that.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you fit work and life together? What tweaks help you be your best, on and off the job? If you’ve joined me in banishing “balance,” what advice do you have for others?

WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show: Realities of Achieving Work/Life Balance

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Yesterday, I appeared on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show with guest host, Manoush Zomorodi, New America’s Anne-Marie Slaughter, and writer Kashana Cauley to discuss work, life and flexibility from multiple perspectives.

The segment is part of a series that I highly recommend called “Taking the Lead” which is currently airing on Zomorodi’s regular WNYC podcast, Note to Self. The series follows the journey of two female entrepreneurs, who are also mothers, as they develop and try to get funding for a new app, Need/Done.

Highlights from yesterday’s Leonard Lopate Show segment include:

1) Why we need reframe the entire “work and life” discussion/debate from “balance” to work+life “fit” and caregiving, and from an issue for mothers to something we ALL need to manage today.

2) Why the challenges of managing work and life are the same but also different for higher income, white collar workers versus lower income, part-time (not by choice) and shift workers.

3) Public policy changes such as paid leave and child care supports are critical to all caregivers, but employers and individuals can also take steps that will be mutually-beneficial.

Wake Up, Leaders! Flexibility Is Happening, and It’s Time to Get Strategic

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“What if no one is around to do the work? And how do we maintain all of the good aspects of our culture that happen when we work together in the same place at the same time?”

These are the two main questions leaders ask about building a high-performance flexible work culture. What they’re really saying is, “Is this going to be a flexible work free-for-all?” No. If done correctly, it’s the complete opposite.

When flexibility in the way work is done is woven deliberately into an organization’s DNA, it’s targeted rather than simply “happening” as it is now.  It’s strategic and coordinated.  Both the business and its people benefit in tangible, specific ways.

Ironically, because leaders have avoided being intentional about it, work-life flexibility could be described as the free-for-all they fear right now.

According to our most recent telephone survey of a national probability sample of full-time U.S. workers conducted by ORC International:

  • 96% said they had some degree of work-life flexibility, defined as “having the flexibility in when, where and how you work that allows you to flexibly allocate time and energy between your work life and personal life.” This could be anything from “I can leave 15 minutes early for my son’s soccer game” to “I do all of my work from a remote location.” The point is that almost all of us have some amount of wiggle room.
  • 33% indicated they do most of their work from a remote location not on their employer’s site. Whether that’s 51% or 100% of their work, a sizable portion of the workforce doesn’t show up at the same physical location every day to do their jobs. And, yes, that is a representative sample of people who work full-time for an employer. Not freelancers or project-based workers.
  • But a majority, 52%, of full-time workers said they received NO training or guidance on how to use that work-life flexibility well. In other words, they are flying by the seat of their pants.
  • And, only 56% would describe their employer’s commitment to work-life flexibility as “strong.”

Do those numbers surprise you? The gap between what’s actually happening and the training received, coupled with the ambiguity related to employer commitment, illustrates a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” approach to flexibility in many organizations.

You might say, “yes, but we have a formal telework policy.” Policies provide the wrong kind of structure.  They don’t help:

  • Employees. Formal policies don’t allow employees to adapt the way they get their job done and manage their lives as productively and effectively as possible.  Formal policies don’t account for the type of flexibility most people want and need, which is the ability to make small, informal shifts in when, where and how work is done as realities on the job and in life change.
  • Teams. Policies don’t support the coordination of the individual flexibility goals of each team member so the work gets done efficiently.
  • Managers. Policies don’t allow managers to work with their teams and recalibrate the flexibility within the group, as needed, to maintain the culture and meet the always-changing needs of the business and employees.

A high-performance flexible work culture achieves all of the above, and more, because it’s built on a set of core principles, not rigid, one-size-fits-all rules or policies. These principles are translated into action by a framework of tools, mindset shifts and behavior changes that individuals, teams and managers adopt together.

As I noted, however, in my most recent LinkedIn post, “Thank Millennials for Pushing Work Culture Toward True Flexibility,” shifting mindsets, changing behaviors and learning to use new tools across an organization requires a commitment of time, people and money that most organizations are not willing to make.

If you’re looking for a place to start, here’s what I recommend:

  • Take a pulse check of the work-life flexibility reality in your organization. What’s actually happening in the trenches with both small, informal flexible work shifts and more formal plans? (Guarantee something will be surprise you).
  • Clarify how the flexibility that already exists has helped achieve the goals of your organization. Have you attracted and retained valuable talent you would have otherwise lost? Are people more productive? Did you continue to operate during bad weather? Gather the stories. What can you learn from the successes and failures?
  • Envision what more could be done if work flexibility became a coordinated, strategic part of the cultural DNA, or “how we work here.” Could it help you grow (e.g. seed new markets without investing in real estate overhead)? Could you tap into valuable talent resources (e.g. on-demand, project-based workers or employees from other locations)? Could it help you save money (e.g. increase participation in wellness activities)?
  • Having made the case, clarify your commitment and invest the resources to train your people at all levels. Give people the skills and tools to leverage the work flexibility that makes sense for their jobs to fit work and life together. Show them how to use conversations, tools and technology to coordinate efficiently and effectively with each other. And, finally, help them recalibrate, individually and as a team, as work and personal realities shift and change.

You can put your hands over your ears and repeat “la, la, la, la”, but that won’t avoid the flexible work free-for-all leaders fear.  Instead, acknowledge reality and take the steps that move the culture toward a more flexible, transparent and productive way to work.

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

Thank Millennials for Pushing Work Cultures Toward True Flexibility

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I’ve noticed a change recently. Five years ago, when an organization wanted to make their workplace more flexible, nine times out of ten the presenting problem was attracting and retaining women, specifically mothers. Today, it’s all about the millennials, and providing the “work/life balance” and flexibility this group expects from an employer.

As was the case with the “attract and retain women” cohort, these millennial-focused organizations have two choices. They can:

  1. Develop flexible work programs and policies that target this one particular group, or
  2. Step back and use the expectations of millennials as the doorway to a broader change. Creating a high-performance, flexible work culture with “new ways to work” achieves multiple business objectives.

When faced with these two options, you’d think most organizations would pick Door No. 2. Unfortunately, many choose Door No. 1. Why?

The answer is pretty clear. Programs and policies require fewer resources than bigger culture changes. They take less money, time and people. They’re easier.

Here’s the guidebook I see organizations following when they pick that first option, focused on policies and programs:

  • Draft a policy outlining the standard flexible work arrangements you want to offer at “manager’s discretion.” This may include telework, flexible hours, a compressed work week, part-time work and job sharing.
  • Clarify your parental leave policy, offer dependent care supports, or put up a ping-pong table in the break room.
  • List these programs and policies on your site under “benefits” and (maybe) run a lunch-and-learn session to explain how to access them.
  • Then, check the balance and flexibility boxes “done.”

From my experience, what millennials really want isn’t a policy or program. They aren’t necessarily looking for a formal flexible work arrangement that officially defines how, when or where they work on any given day. And they don’t even want “balance.” They want a degree of control over how they fit work and life together, day to day. That’s harder to wrap neatly into a one-size-fits-all benefit. It requires fundamentally rethinking the way work is done. It means walking through Door No. 2, and undertaking a broader culture change.

How do you begin creating a high-performance, flexible work culture? You start by justifying the investment in time, people and money by quantifying the potential return.

Outline exactly how flexibility (giving people greater control over how, when and where work is done) helps the organization solve numerous problems or seize multiple opportunities, including the attraction and retention of millennials. Your list of problems solved and opportunities seized might include (in no particular order):

  • Uncouple talent from geography, expanding access to good people regardless of their location.
  • Give workers in increasingly open and dense workspaces the option to telework, as needed, if it helps them concentrate and be more productive.
  • Help people fit cost-saving, wellness-related activities (exercise, healthy eating, sleep, doctor’s appointments) into everything else they need to do, on and off the job.
  • Support the partial and phased retirement of valuable employees who don’t want to work full-time but can continue to contribute their talent.
  • Allow work to continue during a snowstorm or other unexpected natural disaster.
  • Retain employees who need to reset the way work and life fit together because of a major life transition, such as becoming a parent, caring for an aging relative, going back to school, or the relocation of a spouse.
  • Expand administrative coverage beyond regular business hours without an associated increase in non-exempt overtime, by coordinating staggered schedules.
  • Leverage existing investments in technology to improve communication and coordination of a flexible workforce.

I could go on and on. Instead, I’ll say this: Yes, millennials expect work flexibility. But we should take that expectation and use it as a catalyst to create flexible work cultures that benefit the business and all employees — not just millennials.  

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

About Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc.

We engage employees at all levels to create high performance flexible work cultures that attract and retain top talent, increase productivity and improve work+life fit. Read our latest research. Interested in working together? Contact us.

Teleworkers More Motivated to Pursue Wellness on Their Own, Compared to Office Employees

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As we approach the start of Global Employee Health & Fitness Month in May, we’re sharing eye-opening wellness related data from our national probability telephone survey of full-time employed adults conducted by ORC International and co-sponsored by Citrix.

Despite employers investing millions of dollars to promote employee health, almost half of the U.S. workplace does not budge. The problem is that many organizations separate wellness, work life flexibility and other employee strategies into siloed initiatives rather than linking them together to benefit both business and employee performance. It’s time to break down the silos because employee wellness and work life flexibility are better together. 

The survey found:

  • While teleworkers are more likely to pursue wellness options on their own compared to their office-based counterparts, almost half of all full-time U.S. employees do not participate in wellness-related activities no matter where they work.
  • The survey also showed that a lack of work life flexibility is not a barrier to wellness since almost all employees indicated they have some form of flexibility.
  • However, training and guidance on how to manage that flexibility does positively influence employee wellness pursuits.

More details of the survey findings are in the press release below and infographic.


What do you think of the research findings?  Are you surprised or do they align with your experience?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, on Twitter @caliyost, or on our Facebook page.


Teleworkers More Likely to Pursue Wellness Options on Their Own Compared to Office-Based Counterparts

Only Half of U.S. Full-Time Employees Participate in a Workplace or Individual Wellness Program

Among the nearly two-thirds of full-time U.S. employees who say they do not participate in a workplace wellness program, teleworkers are more likely to pursue wellness options on their own compared to their office-based counterparts. However, about 45 percent of all employees – no matter where they work – do not participate in wellness-related activities either through their workplace or individually.

These are among the findings from a national probability telephone survey of 617 full-time employed adults commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc (FSG/WLF), conducted by ORC International and co-sponsored by Citrix.

“Many organizations bucket wellness, work life flexibility and other employee strategies into separate silos rather than linking them together in a holistic approach that benefits business and employee performance,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group. “Despite employers investing millions of dollars to promote employee health, almost half of the U.S. workplace does not budge.”

  • Only one-third of employees (33%) said they participate in a workplace wellness or wellbeing program with those aged 30 or older more likely to do so than their Gen Y colleagues.
  • Twenty percent said even though their company provides a wellness program, they do not participate.
  • A quarter (25%) said wellness/wellbeing programming is not an option at their workplace.
  • But on a positive note, nearly 20 percent noted that despite not participating in a corporate wellness program, they pursue wellness opportunities on their own, with teleworkers (24%) having significantly more initiative than those that work in an office (17%).

“Teleworkers use their inherent sense of discipline, focus and ability to prioritize to not only get their work done, but also pursue a healthy lifestyle,” Yost said. “It’s a positive outcome of telework that employers should value when we consider that one-third of all full-time U.S. employees now work from a remote location.”

Lack of Flexibility Not a Barrier but Lack of Training Hurts

According to the survey results, lack of work life flexibility is not a barrier to employee wellness as almost all (96%) of employees reported having some type of flexibility (either the same amount or more than the year before). However, the data indicated training and guidance to help use and manage work life flexibility does significantly increase employee wellness participation. While less than half of those surveyed (47%) noted they received such training, those who did were significantly more likely (43%) to say they participate in corporate wellness programs than those who did not receive training (24%).

“With guidance on how to use work life flexibility, these employees have learned how to fit work and other priorities, including exercise and doctor’s visits, into their lives,” Yost explained. “Such training provides organizations an untapped opportunity to educate employees about the various supports and rewards available through workplace wellness programs to be their most productive and healthy selves.”

The survey, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent, was conducted in July 2015 as part of a biennial series of FSG/WLF studies that have monitored the national progress of issues related to work life flexibility from the individual’s point of view since 2006. More information, including an infographic, is available at www.worklifefit.com/research.

# # #

Media Contact:

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

Maggie Baum, 608-438-2814 or maggiebcomm@gmail.com



NYTimes Mag Gets It Right–“Work-Life” a Top Business Trend

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This past Sunday, The New York Times Magazine ran a special “Work” issue. One of the articles, “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” , explained why “creating a more flexible office is about much more than policies. It’s about changing the entire culture.”

We’re honored that the article featured our research and the innovative flexible work culture initiatives of two of our clients, BDO USA and CECP.

But, what really matters is that The New York Times got it right: “Work-Life” is a top business trend.

In fact, “WorkLife–Rethinking the office for an always-on economy” headlined the front page of the print version of the magazine (please note all of the fantastic images shared below were created by James Graham for The New York Times).  This alone is huge.

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But then, in the table of contents, the article in which our work is mentioned–“Rethinking the Work-Life Equation (online title) or “Parent Companies” (in print title)–sits smack dab in the middle of the other key trends covered in the issue.  This placement at the center of “what Google learned about teams,” “the post-cubicle office,” “diversity in the workplace” and “failure to eat lunch” is symbolically appropriate. All of these trends inter-relate and influence how we flexibly fit work and life together to be our best, on and off the job.

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Next, there are the two pages that kick off the issue.  The first page is a perfect description of today’s complex, flexible work+life fit reality we now need to manage.

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And the second page simply says it all, clearly and concisely…Work-Life.

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Finally, the graphic that accompanies the “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” article is one of the best visual depictions of the uniqueness and fluidity of each person’s work+life fit I’ve seen.



Hopefully, the message and symbolic position throughout the entire issue will FINALLY shift flexibility and work+life fit from the category of, “perk, benefit, policy,” where it doesn’t belong, to “strategic business imperative,” where it should be.

I also hope that organizations will be inspired to devote attention and resources required to develop a work culture that is both high performing and flexible. That’s the cultural combination that will attract and retain top talent, increase productivity and improve employee work+life fit.

Many thanks to The New York Times Magazine.  Work, life and flexibility are indeed the future of work.

Let’s stay connected!  I invite you to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.

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

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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.

Scary Trend: The Explosion of Wearing Work on Our Wrists

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As I look back on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I am struck by the explosion of all-purpose wearables and the reality that soon we will wear work on our wrists. If you already struggle with the boundaries between work and life with your smartphone, wearables will take that challenge to a whole new level.

No longer can we separate from work in our pockets or purses. Unless you plan to remove your watch constantly, it will be even harder to “turn off” the workplace.

To be sure, much good can come from having your phone, email, texts, heart rate monitor and number of steps in one easy-to-access spot. According to the national telephone survey we recently conducted with Citrix, seven out of 10 full-time U.S. workers said the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues. And more than half said it made it easier to work flexibly.

But there’s a dark side. According to the same survey, 28 percent of full-time U.S. workers also said increases in technology have created more work and nearly one-quarter said the growth in technology felt “a bit like big brother is watching you.” Men were significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

The good news is if you are not an early tech adopter like me, you have time to prepare for how you might enjoy the benefits of wearing your work. Two tips:

Clarify expectations for accessibility and response time: When work is attached physically to your body, either you clarify expectations or make peace with never disconnecting from it. To date, I’ve found people resist setting expectations with managers and colleagues about their accessibility and response time when they’re away from the office. We worry our commitment may be questioned so we keep quiet. But oftentimes no one is expecting always-on availability with immediate responses.

To enjoy the flexibility benefits of wearables, you have to coordinate with colleagues. Knowing they can contact you if needed can give you a greater degree of flexibility in the way you work, but when you can’t be reached let your colleagues know in advance. Then provide an alternative way to contact you if the matter is urgent or suggest someone who can help in your absence.

Plan breaks from technology in advance: Research confirms that the email, text and social media notifications that pop up stimulate dopamine in the brain, which is why we find them so hard to ignore. Imagine how much harder that will be when your wrist is constantly pinging and ringing. We need to be more intentional about the way work and life flexibly fit together.  Sure, because we aren’t always connected to our smartphones, those moments of attention and focus can still happen by default. But not when work is an accessory. You’ll need to decide, “when am I either turning off my watch or taking it off?”

Or, just say no to wearing your work on your wrist altogether: I met a well-respected middle manager a couple of years ago who showed me his seven year-old flip-phone when I asked him how he flexibly managed his work+life fit. He explained, “When I leave, everyone knows if they need me they can call this phone any time. I do have access to my email via my laptop. I check it when I first get home after work to make sure nothing popped up while I commuted and again when I get up in the morning to make sure nothing requires immediate attention. But if I don’t get a call, I assume all is well and enjoy the other parts of my life. And, guess what? I’ve never gotten a call.”

What do you think about the trend in wearables and what it means for your work+life fit?

I invite you to connect with me and continue the conversation on twitter @caliyost and on Facebook.

New Work, Life and Flexibility Trends #CitrixChat–Join me LIVE 12/4 at 12 pm EST

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NEW Research: Employees Feel Surprisingly Trusted but Inefficiencies Abound in How We Work

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A surprising 9 out of 10 full-time U.S. employees believe their boss trusts them to get their job done regardless of where and when they do their work. And, while additional data indicates employees have become upbeat about their increasingly flexible workplaces, inefficiencies abound in how workers use technology and communicate, and there is a lack of training and infrastructure available to support flexible work.

These are among the key findings from a national probability telephone survey of 617 full-time employed adults commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc (FSG/WLF) and co-sponsored by Citrix.

“With the growth of telework and open office environments combined with the ongoing introduction of new technology, work life flexibility is naturally embedded in today’s workplaces,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group. “But we’re stuck in the 1990s with outdated work and management practices that, along with lack of training and infrastructure, put recent investments in workplace innovation at risk and could erode the current reservoir of employee goodwill.”

One-Third Telecommute — Mostly Men, but Women Gaining Ground
Employees were pretty evenly split between where they said they do most of their work. One-third work from a remote location off site, a slight increase from 2013, while 34 percent work in a cube/open office environment and 28 percent in a private office. Men continue to represent the majority of teleworkers—3 out of 5 in 2015, but the percentage of women increased significantly (39%) from (29%) 2013.

We Turn to Technology More than Each Other; Young People Like to Meet More than Boomers
Nearly 60 percent of respondents use email, word documents or spread sheets “frequently” to update colleagues about work progress and performance. That compares to 55 percent who meet in person and 43 percent who use the phone. Surprisingly, younger people prefer more face-to-face contact. Gen-Y (59%) and Gen-X (58%) were significantly more likely than Boomers (46%) to frequently meet in person to keep others informed. And, in a finding that helps to dispel the notion that teleworkers disconnect from the workplace, those who work remotely were more likely than those who work in a cube/open office to use the phone. Meanwhile, those onsite were more likely to use email, word documents or spread sheets.

Despite widespread availability of video/web conferencing and project management technologies, frequent use of these tools was in the single digits. Conversely, 8 out of 10 employees have never used project management software and two- thirds have never used video/web conferencing. The survey also found employees were inconsistent in where they saved and stored work across company and personal platforms.

“Businesses have barely tapped what is possible when it comes to leveraging technology to increase productivity, collaboration and work life flexibility,” said Natalie Lambert, Senior Director of Workspace Strategy, Citrix. “We comfortably use collaborative technologies in our personal lives to communicate with family and friends and manage personal information from anywhere.

“But, unfortunately at work we struggle to apply the latest innovations to accomplish the same objectives,” Lambert continued. “This often stems from rigid IT infrastructures that require businesses to put control policies in place whenever they want to securely roll out consumer-like apps on any device. With today’s flexible digital workspace solutions, employees can use technology to stay connected and productive wherever they are, while the employer is ensured that their information is safe. Organizations can transform their business with infrastructure, training and a strategy designed with people and experience in mind.”

Technology Aids Working Flexibly and in Teams but Backlash Noted, Especially Among Men
Almost 7 out 10 employees feel the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues, and more than half of respondents said it has made it easier to work flexibly. But that enthusiasm was tempered by the 28 percent who said the increase in technology has created more work and the nearly one-fourth that noted it feels a “bit like ‘big brother’ is watching you,” with men significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

Training Lacking for Most
In 2015, almost all full-time U.S. employees had some type of work life flexibility, unchanged from 2013 and 2011. Most of that flexibility is “informal” with 6 out of 10 making occasional changes in how, when and where they work, an increase from 2013. Employees feel increasingly positive with a majority (56%) that noted their employer still has a strong commitment to work life flexibility, up from 46% in 2013. A higher percentage (47%) also received training or guidance to help manage their work life flexibility in 2015, but more than half (52%) remained on their own with no instruction. Further, even though they comprise the majority, those who use flexibility informally received less training than those with formal flexible work arrangements.

“Modernizing the workplace is about more than new floorplans, shiny devices and mobility. Clearly we have an unmet need and a huge opportunity for more widespread training and infrastructure that supports flexible work,” Yost said. “Leaders need to capitalize on the current wave of employee optimism and manage to the good that exists in their organizations in order to truly unlock the potential of their business and people.”

This research is the most recent installment in a biennial series of FSG/WLF studies that have monitored the national progress of issues related to work life flexibility from the individual’s point of view since 2006. The 2015 survey was conducted by ORC International July 9-12 and 16-19 with a margin of error of +/- 4percent. A summary report with additional data and infographic are available at www.worklifefit.com/research.