This week saw the launch of the inaugural Flexible Working Day, it is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase how flexible working can benefit the community (check out the website www.flexibleworkingday.com)
I thought I’d share my thoughts on the concept of Flexibility, what it means for me and how I use it. I’ve also included my personal ‘principles’ around flexibility and a few tips and tricks.
The Concept of “flexibility”
“Flexibility” to me is not a policy or HC framework, but rather a state of mind. The systems, processes and infrastructure through which we codify a ‘flexible working environment’ merely enable us to take advantage of flexible options, however we – as individuals – must have a flexible mindset and think laterally about our life, in order to get the most value for ourselves and our community. And to truly live flexibly.
Even before PwC implemented our “all roles flex” approach, I always found the people I work with and for, were outcomes focussed. Hours at the computer were never the driver.
As a consultant our role inherently requires flexibility – moving between different physical locations, to different clients, potentially within different industries, and helping to solve different unique problems. I believe that to succeed in such an environment, and indeed to enjoy your day, you must have a natural desire for a certain level of organized chaos, enabled by an agile mindset. This helps you solve complex problems because it enables innovation, creativity and diverse thinking, and as we all know these directly result in better, sustainable outcomes.
What flexibility is (or isn’t…)
Flexibility isn’t just a formal arrangement whereby you work a “reduced” number of hours on set days of the week. My approach to working flexibility means that I design my life around the things I need to achieve – both personal and professional. Whether that is attending a sports carnival during ‘business hours’ at my son’s school; participating on a women in leadership panel event at night; or developing a report for a client – I see that all of these are pieces of the larger puzzle of my life. They are all important and for me to give my best to my family, friends, clients and teams, they all need to fit together.
I think of my life as having three essential elements: my family, my work and me. Depending on what’s going on in any of these elements I adjust my priorities, and the time and energy I invest into any action at any point in time. To do this, and to be agile to changing demands, I build strong relationships and I engage in open and honest communication. I need the support of my family and friends to do what I do at work and home, and equally they want my support to succeed as well.
Importantly I also quarantine time to invest in myself. The primary way I do this is through exercise, which I love! A major advantage of course is that this hobby has physical and mental health benefits, and in my case, means I have dedicated time to catch up with family and friends.
What flexibility means for me
To be flexible means to be trusted by my clients and staff to do what I say I’ll do and deliver outcomes. This enables me to operate autonomously within a supportive team environment that is designed to help me achieve my personal and professional goals; and likewise that enables me help others achieve their goals.
Flexibility is empowering because I can manage my time, my way – I can pick up and drop off my children, regularly take a day off during the week, and catch up on work at times that suit me, such as at night or on a weekend.
Communication and trust – these are the two most critical factors.
Transparency – I’m open and transparent about what I have on – whether a doctor’s appointment, school activity or client meeting. I proactively communicate with my colleagues and family about where I am and what I’m doing in order for them to feel supported, and know when and how to contact me. I manage expectations about when I’ll respond to things and I do what I say I’ll do.
Role modelling flexibility – the importance of role modelling cannot be underestimated. I want people to see that I work flexibility and that I love how I live. I hope that in doing so others will feel empowered to do the same, in a way that works for them.
Final word on flexible working
If flexible working is something you would like to do, these tips might help:
- Communicate openly and authentically about what personal goals your professional flexibility enables.
- Operate with transparency when exercising flexibility as part of the standard 9 to 5 working week.
- Build a case, identify a value proposition, and then articulate the value flexible working will deliver to your employer and clients.
- Develop the systems and processes required to enable flexible working around you. If you want it, make it happen, don’t wait for your employer to make it happen for you. Remember that those systems and processes are not just work related – they need to be systems and processes at home and at work that enable you to have an integrated world.
- Have the conversations with your family as well as with your employer. Flexibility is a multi-party transaction between the individual, their close personal network (eg: family) and their work.
And more than anything – think outside the square! Flexibility is a state of mind.