Focus on Values: Flexibility

I have worked more evening and weekend hours then I ever have before.  So why am I so happy with my 14 week old job at Corner Alliance?  Before I started, I read Corner Alliance’s value statement, it seemed good, logical, simple - I didn’t realize at the time that in fact these values would have a huge impact on my approach to my life, both personally and professionally, in particular the value of flexibility.

Flexibility is usually talked about in the tactics that support it: flex work weeks, remote working options, or part time job shares, “We are company XYZ and we support flexibility, as you can tell by the fact that you can occasionally work from home when pre-approved seven days in advance by your manager in writing.”  Flexibility is much more rarely talked about as an organization-strengthening value that must be coupled with a culture that not only supports it but lives by it.

So why am I happy to work MORE on evenings and weekends?  My week isn’t really marked by weekdays, weekends, and 8-hour chunks of time anymore. I go to the gym each morning. I can run after my kids and not get winded. I take that hour and move it to the end of the day after the kids are in bed. I go to the grocery store in the middle of the day. There are no lines, and there is food in my fridge. I take that hour and shift it to Sunday while the kids are taking a nap.  In exchange I am available any time, I can work from anywhere, and I no longer act in such a way that I believe my career progression and ambition need to end because I want to be a good working mom.  I benefit, the company benefits – why doesn’t everyone do it?

Many have tried to introduce flexibility into their organizations.  A web search on flexible work failures (for those that are willing to publicly admit that it didn’t work) reveal that most often blame is placed on a lack of oversight of the program and employees having the wrong expectations of the flexibility the program would afford.  My feeling is that oversight is the enemy of flexibility – what could be a big employee benefit that also benefits the organization becomes a significant burden to leaders and employees caught up in paperwork and approvals.

On the employee side, expectations do need to be clear.  Corner Alliance’s entire policy for flexibility can be encompassed in a simple statement of our value:

“We refrain from rigid rules regarding how the company runs (hours, location, etc.) as well as in how we work with our clients (we don’t run out the door at 4:00 if they need us there later).” Implicit to this simple sentence is that flexibility goes both ways.  We work when, how, and where we like but in return our clients and leaders can expect us to be willingly available anytime we are needed.  Too often in the Federal Government you will hear that someone is unavailable because he/she is teleworking that day.  But they are still working, right?  It seems their leadership doesn’t necessarily know.

Flexibility is truly bred by culture.  An assessment of culture and the amount that culture is embraced and practiced by leaders AND their staff is crucial to understanding whether or not flexibility can work in an organization.  Simply setting up the program does not make flexibility.  Speaking from the perspective of Corner Alliance I can say I participated in my first ever 9:00 am Sunday conference call….and I’d do it again.