How do you work flexibly?
This week I’ve worked in all kinds of ways. From working in the office of Dexterous Group (where I love being with the team), using my hot desk and meeting rooms at my office with Clarence Group, working remotely with my colleagues and clients in different locations, to working at home on a detailed report that required quiet concentration (and the warmth of my UGG boots in this freezing weather).
Using different spaces and places for different kinds of work brings the best out in me, means I perform at a higher level and can add more value to the people and teams I work with.
People need flexibility in the workplace for all kinds of reasons
You might be a morning person who loves to get into the office early to work through everything before the crowds come in, you might have more introverted tendencies and so require a quiet space for deep concentration, you might have kids and want to be there to do the pick-ups and drop offs, or you might have any number of things going on in your life which can’t be done around the standard 9-5 working day.
Flexibility in the workplace is critical for creating a sense of wellbeing, enabling gender equality, and for treating people like the responsible, autonomous and unique humans that they are. Achieving all of which leads to higher levels of performance.
Many of my clients are incredibly progressive when it comes to flexibility. And what makes it this way, is an open mindset, respect for human individually and an understanding that people perform at their best when they are happy, feel respected and have the opportunity to thrive in their personal lives.
Working flexibly, and consistently this way across an organisation is still new to many people, teams and organisations. And the change does require a strategic approach, with an open mindset to experiment with different ways of working to be able to develop an operating rhythm that works for all.
Here are 5 tips to get you started on the journey to becoming a more flexible workplace:
1) Know your starting point with flexibility
Working flexibly requires a range of key capabilities, before you get started, assess the current state of flexibility in your organisation and your key capabilities: are your leaders and mangers trained on how to manage a flexible team? Are your leaders role modelling and speaking positively about flexibility? Do you have the technology and communications systems to support flexible and remote work? Does the culture support flexibility or are there undercurrents that need to be brought to the surface?
2) Get your leaders onboard with flexibility
It’s no good trying to create a flexible work environment if your leaders are opposed to it – you’ll have a policy that says one thing and leaders sending very different messages. Leadership is critical in normalising and mainstreaming flexibility – and ideally, they will be leading the way and working flexibly themselves.
3) Develop a policy that starts from the position of saying YES to flexibility
Leading organisations are starting from the position that flexibility is part of how they work, so ‘yes’ is the default position. What’s important here is trust, and a culture that is focused on outcomes and accountability.
The other important factor is a learning mindset – where you are open to experimenting different approaches to working flexibly. If a certain way of working is not working, review it, talk about it and test different ways – rather than throwing in the towel that flex doesn’t work.
Check out how Aurecon and Mirvac approach flex. Here’s also a link to some other great case studies developed by Sydney Uni.
4) Build capability in your leaders and teams
Managing teams of people working flexibly is different than managing one or two individual flexible working arrangements. For whole teams that have different work hours and patterns it is important to work collectively as a team to build an operating rhythm and communication methods that works for the team. For managers there are new capabilities that are needed to manage flexibility across teams, so it’s great to provide people with toolkits, training and coaching in the key capabilities they need.
5) Do some small things that make a big difference
make sure you run meetings that are inclusive – pick days when most people are in and make sure that people working remotely can join, if not provide video or recordings and briefings after the meeting
practice leaving loudly – if you’re leaving at 3pm, it doesn’t have to be a secret slide away or ghosting, make it a normal good bye
ensure that social events are accessible to people working flexibly
have open conversations as a team about how to make things better in how the team flex works
share with each other what you can do to improve
The WGEA has a range of resources available to support workplace flexibility in your organisation. https://www.wgea.gov.au/topics/workplace-flexibility.
How do you work flexibly and what have you learned along the way?
About The Agenda Agency
Dr Heidi Sundin is the Director of The Agenda Agency — a boutique consulting firm specialising in creating diverse, inclusive and flexible workplaces. Her approach is to collaborate with leaders and teams to develop tailored solutions. Her experience spans strategy development and creating transformational programs across corporate, professional services, academic, government and the non-for-profit sectors. www.theagendaagency.com