With this new flexibility, what are the new rules?
If you’re like most of our clients, you’ll be experiencing a profound change in the way you work. The result of a perfect storm – the intersection of social change and technological advancement – flexibility is now not only possible, but inevitable.
If it feels big, it’s because it is. It’s arguably the biggest and most far-reaching culture change business has undergone since the entrance of the PC. And like that change, flexibility requires us all, from top to bottom, to change long-established attitudes and develop new skills. It means changing many of the fundamental assumptions we have about work and the conditions necessary to do it. It means encountering new situations around which there are no established norms, which means we will need to develop some new guidelines to help our people navigate them without excessive frustration and conflict. A couple of questions to illustrate how this is playing out practically in workplaces:
- What does ‘close of business’ mean now? If I work a shorter day in the office and then log back on after the kids are in bed, my COB might be very different from yours.
- If it suits me to send emails at midnight, shouldn’t I be able to without my team feeling I’m expecting them to also be working then?
So as you and your team negotiate your way across this new territory, these tips might help:
1. Agree as a team how you will use the various channels of communication. For example, it makes sense for email to be used to communicate at a time of convenience for the sender without expecting an immediate response back; text or phone can be used for urgent issues requiring an immediate response. Having a consistent understanding across the team or organisation means your people can start to break the anxiety-inducing habit of checking their phone 24/7, literally. As you embed this understanding, it works well to include a line in your email signature to this effect, for example “I’ve sent this email at a time which is convenient for me, please respond at a time which is convenient for you” (a great practical strategy used by a client of ours).
2. Avoid making assumptions about people’s time when scheduling meetings. In a recent program, someone who works from home on a Friday said her Manager had a habit of calling for a casual, wrapping-up-the-week chat at 6pm. The problem is, she’s wrapped up her week by then, having got up before the kids to do a few hours work before the school run, so the timing was not only inconvenient but also meant she couldn’t give her full attention to the conversation. Rather than assume, ask.
3. Be the master of your technology, rather than its slave. Ironically, while a flexible workplace culture is intended to enable better work-life balance, one of the risks when working flexibly is that we work all the time, never truly switching off. A simple, immediate step in the right direction is to turn off the sound notification on your phone email, if you haven’t already. Another way to do this is to use ‘aeroplane mode’ to avoid distractions at certain times, enabling you to be truly present. All the calls and messages will be there for you when you choose to receive them.
And as you encounter inevitable challenges, communicate openly and optimistically. If you need help with the communication and relationship challenges which arise as you transition to a flexible culture, please give us a ring to discuss how we can help. We are currently working with our clients in a range of ways to develop the mindsets and skills fundamental to successful workplace flexibility.
… do one thing, like Humans of New York on facebook or visit their website. Rich and diverse, the stories on this site are a literal antidote to unconscious bias, providing insights into the life experiences and perspectives of its diverse subjects. It’s storytelling at its best.
That’s all for now, over and out.
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