Workplace Flexibility Part 1: Debunking the Myths for Organizational Leaders

My schedule is different depending on the day of week and even season of year. I’m grateful that my life is not dictated by a work schedule. My career is just one facet of my life and overall schedule. It doesn’t exist in a silo, but rather blends with other activities that consume my time and define who I am.

What doesn’t change day-to-day is what I want to accomplish:

  • Be a loving and nurturing mother and wife.
  • Provide for my family.
  • Build and sustain relationships.
  • Produce outstanding results for my employer.
  • Give back.
  • Dedicate time to my own spirituality and wellness (so I can be successful at all of the above)

These objectives have long been on my plate; however, how I go about accomplishing them and the ease of balancing them has changed drastically over the past two years through the ability to work flex hours and telecommute.

I share my story for two reasons:

1.  For Individuals: In hopes that it might inspire you to pursue a better balance in your life. It’s had a significant impact on my overall happiness and quality of life.

To read more from this perspective, visit Part 2 of this post.

2.  For Organizational Leaders: To encourage you to create win-wins all around and hopefully move past some of the myths and fears of offering job flexibility.

To read more from this perspective, continue on to the list of myths below.

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Myth #1 – Flexible work arrangements are only valuable to working parents.

Reducing fuel expenses is not only advantageous for parents. Neither is eating healthy dinners because you didn’t feel rushed after a long commute. Or sleeping in on occasion to revitalize your body and mind without the fear of everyone whispering as you step off the elevator.

This is a quality of life discussion, not a working parent discussion.

Myth #2 – Flexible work arrangements are only valuable to employees and just a headache for employers.

In addition to enhancing the overall wellbeing of your employees (which directly impacts your bottom line), below are a few sometimes overlooked benefits:

  • Productivity: The consultancy Workshifting found, on average, a 27 percent rise in productivity among telecommuting employees.
  • Talent Pool: Having a hard time filling open positions with the perfect fit? Expanding the search outside your city limits may help.
  • Environmental: Half-time telecommuting could reduce carbon emissions by over 51 million metric tons a year (Global Workplace Analytics). Tracking your employees’ carbon footprint could reflect well on your corporate social responsibility score card.

Myth #3 – When employees work from home, they are too distracted by their kids.

WFH

Your employees’ children should not be home while they are working (particularly young children).  An alternate care provider is still needed.

Myth #4 – If it’s not going to work for all of my employees, then I shouldn’t let anyone do it.

Workplace flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all solution. My brother is a chef. My sister is a Nurse Practitioner. They can’t do their work from home and have certain hours they need to be onsite. You can’t always standardize a solution, but you can provide guidelines and partner with your managers to determine what might work for them.

Much of the “opening up a can of worms” dilemma can be avoided by proactively managing expectations.

Myth #5 – I can just find someone else to do the job who will work the more traditional (and increasingly archaic) arrangement.

Are you living in the same “talent war” era as me? Acquiring and retaining top talent is more critical to your organization’s success than ever before. Ready to reach into your pockets? One study found the average cost of turnover to be one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary (Center for American Progress).

Don’t think your top performers will leave? They will. There are many other employers willing to give them flexibility. Think you can keep them happy with a gift card? Not gonna work. Empowerment and quality of life will always win in the end. Even a bonus or increased salary may keep them around a few months, but that’s it.


If you’re a manager, I’d venture to bet you still have some hesitations. Do any of these resonate?

  • My boss wouldn’t let me, why should I let my employees?

This one is easy to address – get over it. Don’t let resentment influence how you lead your team.

  • I won’t be able to keep tabs on my employees.

Gone are the days of this old-school management philosophy. Employees don’t need “bosses” – they need leaders, coaches, and mentors.

That being said, employee performance needs to be tracked and measured with or without flexible work schedules. With all the recent hype about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban work-from-home arrangements, followed by Best Buy ending their flexible work program, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is being challenged. But this recent media uproar does not mean that the ROWE is suddenly obsolete.

Employers need to focus MORE on results and LESS on the when and where.  Work with your employees to establish SMART objectives. If they aren’t performing, develop an improvement plan. If they still don’t perform, let them go.

  • It will be too hard to communicate with my team if they aren’t sitting within walking distance.

Communication and collaboration might feel a bit choppy at first, but your team will create new dynamics using a myriad of communication technologies that are at your disposal to help foster remote collaboration and cultivate team spirit.

  • It’s too hard to schedule team meetings and events.

It can be difficult – I won’t argue that. Setting dates early and sharing calendars will go a long way.

The Chicken or the Egg?

Sometimes I’m told that my story is the exception. That my experience with flexible schedules has been successful because I am passionate about my work, driven, have a solid work ethic, and highly respect my employer relationship.

I would challenge you though to think about what came first?

Maybe I’m that way as a result of being empowered, trusted, treated like a responsible adult, and valued by someone who actually cares about my overall well-being. I don’t carry around resentment. Think of the power you have as a leader to lift that off someone else’s back and the benefits your business will reap as a result.

photo credit (false): clickclaker via photopin cc

photo credit (dad): Wayan Vota via photopin cc

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