Reasons to work flexibly, 1,2,3

enabler 2

…. and some more besides.

 

There are many forms of flexible working. There is flexibility in terms of place – where we work, and flexibility in terms of time – when we do the thing that we do.  There’s homeworking and coffee shop working and flexitime and term-time and compressed hours and annualised hours and job shares.

Whatever the type of flexibility we are talking about, it is increasingly clear that flexibility is desired by the many and not the few. For organisations, this isn’t about family friendly stuff, but about inclusion and talent.  Despite this, many employers (or more specifically in my experience, managers) still favour the traditional 9-5 type approach for many types of work.  Having their people where they can see them.

Here are 5 reasons why organisations should support flexible working:

  1. Employee engagement. People like flexible working and want flexible working. Providing it, providing the opportunity for more balance, better commutes, less stress – is going to help towards a more engaged workforce.
  2. Inclusion. Fathers who want to be more involved with the care of their children, individuals with disabilities who might find a rush hour commute impossible, carers, or those with significant family responsibilities. Whatever the reason for not wanting – or being able to – work traditional office hours, flexibility can help level the playing field.   See following point.
  3. Talent acquisition – offering flexibility gives you access to a greater pool of talent. It makes your employer brand competitive.   You can hire the best person for the job – not the best person for the job that can get into your office and work your normal contractual hours.
  4. Talent retention. Engaged employees are less likely to want to leave. Ditto employees who have a working pattern that works for them and their family. Engaged employees are less likely to want to leave. It’s all connected……
  5. Cost. For those organisations that can embrace entirely flexible and mobile working this can lead to the need for less office space. Fewer desks. Lower rents. And there are those employee travel costs too. How many empty desks are there in your office when people are out and about?
  6. Life Work Balance. The often long and grinding commute. Stress of the school run. The worry about who will look after the kids if…..and so on.   Flexible working can, in my own personal experience, lead to healthier, happier staff.
  7. Productivity. Not everyone works effectively in traditional office hours, or in the typical office environment. Allowing people some flexibility around when and where they work, when they are most creative or productive – this is a mind-shift change from judging people on how long they are in the office to what they achieve.

For some roles at least, to be effective all we need is a laptop and a wifi connection. The tech is already there – it’s about maximising its potential. Flexibility shouldn’t be an employee benefit, reserved for the lucky few. For those organisations and role types where it is possible, flexibility isn’t a perk – it should be a strategy.

 

Human Up (again)

The human workplace is getting a lot of interest of late. Let’s be honest,  I haven’t invented this term.  There is a risk that we are jumping on a bandwagon here.  You know what we mean.  Someone starts talking about something at some conference.  People ooooh about it a bit in the audience and on twitter.  People start to blog about it.  Consultancies start to charge for it.  It makes it from the niche to the mainstream and then we all get bored of it and show disdain for it and think that people who are still talking about it and implementing it while we have moved onto the next shiny thing are Just. Not. Cool.

But, all the same, there is something about the concept that sticks with me. That resonates and feels like just maybe, combined with a focus on employee experience, this is the place to put our focus right now.

The Human Workplace is an imprecise term. It is capable of interpretation in more than one way.  For me, a human workplace is one that has people at the centre of their focus.  It is one that does not buy the cliché that people are your greatest asset (said by many, proved by few) but does recognise that people that work for them, are affected by them, are a user of their services, matter.  The human organisation considers how the stuff that we do makes people feel.

It is an organisation that can embrace technology and all that it brings us, whilst retaining what is inherently human. It is an organisation that doesn’t automate the heck out of everything just because it can.  Human organisations have heart.  Emotion isn’t a dirty word in the human organisation.  It is safe to be real.  It is safe to speak out.

From an HR perspective, if that is even a term that fits with the concept of a human workplace, is certainly focused more on people as people and not as resources.

Why is this stuff even important? Why does it matter?

There are plenty of reasons.

There are the traditional arguments to the people first approach. Retention, attraction, motivation, the war for talent (sorry). There is of course the never ending quest for employee engagement.

But it is more than that too.

When organisations aren’t human, when they don’t have heart, when they are not sufficiently people-focused, there are often found deeper and more troubling problems.

Sadly, there are organisations without much heart. We know that.  No matter what the careers website says, many – most – organisations are much more focused on profit and shareholders.  It’s that thing called capitalism.

We have all seen the examples on our news reports or in our Twitter timelines. Companies that are offering sweatshop-like working conditions. Others that still embrace the worst of scientific management principles.  Exploitation of workers remains an issue, today, in the UK.  There are plenty of organisations that are anything but human.

It is not, in my experience, that most organisations set out to be inhuman. Most HR teams don’t create their policies and processes with the aim in mind of forgetting the human touch, or simply not caring about how people feel about their work and experience their organisations.  Many organisations genuinely feel that they put people at the top of the agenda  – but this doesn’t stop them being no-so-human.

It happens not by design but by default or accident.

There is too much bureaucracy. Leaders lose sight of the small stuff.  The policies and the processes get bigger and more complex.

The people get lost along the way.

The way people feel gets lost too.

Let’s take that website cliché, people are our greatest asset – in much the same way that anyone can come up with a generic list of corporate values, anyone can say that their people are their greatest asset. Meaning it and proving it are two very different things.

If people really are your greatest asset, it will show up in everything that you do. It will show up in how people are recruited and inducted.  It will show up in the reward and recognition.  How people are led, the spaces in which people are expected to work in, the way the difficult stuff is dealt with (or not).

It will show up too in the performance review, the policies and procedures, the learning and development on offer. No one needs to be told whether they are valued by their company.  When it is true, they instinctively know that they are – or they are not.  It is cultural.

Not-so-human workplaces are everywhere. Perhaps you even work in one yourself.

So I’m thinking about this stuff. In the practical, not the abstract.  If we want workplaces in which we genuinely place how people feel at the top of the agenda, then there is much that HR can do in the everyday.   Blogs coming up…….

The most important right of all?

Employment rights have been much in the news of late. The Taylor Report into good work makes a number of recommendations.  I won’t cover them here as finer minds than mine have already done so.

When the law changes for any reason, people like me have to make the necessary changes to HR policies.

But as I have said many times before, when we have to revert to employment law, when we have to find a company policy on the intranet to determine what to do in any particular set of circumstances, sometimes we are half way to losing something important.

Losing our ability to see someone as the individual that they are.

The opportunity to consider the unique context.

The need for common sense, always.

Even the entire argument.

When we defer our decisions to documents, we run the risk of losing our ability to be compassionate, to apply a little tolerance, to treat people as humans and not resources.

The one right we should all have at work, is to be our imperfect human self.

And a simple, human conversation, is our most significant opportunity to change any work situation for the better.

What HR can learn from going to the cinema

This is one of those ‘lessons you can learn from’ posts. I don’t write them very often, but I had such a pleasant customer experience recently, it got me thinking.

I love going to watch a film at the cinema. But it’s something though that I rarely do, as I don’t enjoy the experience that surrounds it.  Usually, there is queuing involved.  To buy tickets, to pick up pre-paid tickets, for the toilets, for popcorn, and then to get into the actual screening.  Then there is the bit that bugs me most of all.  The adverts.  I am a stickler for punctuality.  If I go to see a film that is starting at 7.30, I’d like it to actually do so.  But the time a film is supposed to begin is usually the start of multiple adverts, suggestions to go out and buy more junk food, and trailers for films of an entirely different genre that I don’t want to see.  The actual film probably begins a good 30 minutes after that.

I’m starting to moan. I’m sorry about that.

This weekend I went to a small, local, private cinema. There was no queue.  Just a wave of your phone with the tickets on it.  There was also no queue for the sweets – and you didn’t have to take a mortgage out to buy them.  Best of all was that the film began….. on time.  There were just a couple of trailers for similar films. And… there was an intermission.  Where someone came out and sold ice-cream.  If that wasn’t enough, individual bottles of Proscecco to drink during the screening.

I didn’t love the film all that much. I might, in fact, have had a small nap during it.

But I did love the experience.

First of all, it felt personal. They clearly understand what their customers want and value, they deliver it.  In the march of progress they had held on to the special touches, like the intermission and the ice cream seller.  The staff were friendly – and didn’t appear to have targets to upsell you a larger popcorn.

There wasn’t the range of sweet stuff you get in a big screen cinema. No fancy reclining seats. And no hot food either (because there’s nothing like sitting next to the guy with the highly odorous hot dog).

In much the same way that we have seen consumers begin to value once again the small, independent and local retailers over huge out of town supermarkets, what we want as customers and as employees has changed over time.

On one hand, we want speed and immediacy. Quick responses on Twitter. Products at our doors in ever decreasing time frames.  But at the same time we want something personal.  We don’t want to feel like a cog in a machine.  Processed.

When it comes to people stuff, big isn’t necessarily better. One size only fits one.  Targets, as we know, have unintended consequences. What is valued, is highly variable for different people. For all I love technology, it is possible to lose the human touch along the way.  We don’t have to automate the heck out of everything.

While fast and fancy is good, we don’t necessarily want to trade experience and feeling for it.

Less, can most definitely be more.

 

There’s probably also a HR lesson in the price of pic n mix…. but I’m still working on that.

4am

It’s 4am.

An unfamiliar city. A lonely, identikit hotel room.

All around is still and dark.

Wondering if I am the only one awake.

Looking out of the window, the city sleeps, even if I don’t.

Feeling disconnected and far from home.

But of course I’m not disconnected at all. Literally.  An internet connection is all that I need.

And there they are. My friends, my tribe. My cheerleading squad.  In my timeline.  Via DM.  On that inspirational Slack channel.

The geography and the time zone don’t matter.  Everyone and everything that I need is just a tweet or a gif away.

And I’m loving social media just a little bit more today.

YOLO

I’ve had a couple of YOLO conversations lately.  Both virtual and IRL.

It might be an annoying acronym, but it is a familiar script for me.

It is my default position when I apply for a fitness event. That along with my favourite coaching question ‘what is the worst thing that than can happen?

There’s a reason for this. For much of my childhood my mother was ill with a condition that remained stubbornly undiagnosed.  Years and years of doctors and consultations and hospitals and treatments – of the traditional and distinctly alternative kind.  Five long miserable years.  And then, diagnosis, treatment, recovery.

And a new mind-set.

You only come this way once. My mother said this almost every day.  Often as a precursor to opening a bottle of wine or buying some expensive shoes if I am honest.  It imprinted upon me.

Cliché it may be. But true all the same.  All we really have is this moment.  Tomorrow is another day, but it is by no means guaranteed.  Too many recent events have taught us so.

On Saturday, I am taking part in an endurance event that, in truth, I’m not fit enough for. I’ll be one of the weakest and slowest in the field.  It involves water, something that I am frightened of.  Plenty of reasons to stay at home. But that direction leads to a life that is less than it really could be.

Live, laugh, love. Take risks.  Do all of the things that you always wanted to. Don’t wait.  Carpe that diem. Just do it.

Because, you know…. YOLO.

The imposter within

Lately, I’ve found myself talking often to folk about imposter syndrome.  I’ve been feeling it too. Don’t we all, from time to time?

If you are new to the term, then it’s all about the fear of being exposed. Of being thought a fraud. Of not deserving to be where you are.  It is the ‘what I am doing here, they are going to find me out any minute now’ brain tape.  One that often plays when we need it the least.

It is debilitating. Confidence zapping.

If you follow my fitness blog, you will know that I have been studying to become a personal trainer. Never before have I felt imposter syndrome so keenly.

Imagine this. There are ten people on the course including me.  Everyone else there is in the industry.  Has a long history of fitness.  They have done the event and got the t-shirt, and in a couple of cases were actually wearing it.

There were the two female body builders. The girl who had just left the army.  The woman who was an established fell runner.  A gymnast.  A Pilates teacher.  And me.  I’m the least fit person in the room.  Even at a size 10, I’m the biggest woman there by some distance.  We start the first day with a detailed discussion about advanced weight techniques.  And the tape starts to play.  What exactly am I doing in this room, with these people?  In a minute it will be my turn in the circle to answer a question and then everyone will know that I don’t belong here. 

It didn’t get any better. Our afternoon topic? Learning how to take body fat measurements.  On each other.  The old school way, with measuring tools.  Which involved stripping down to your sports bra and taking hold of each other’s fat.  If there is one thing guaranteed to kill your confidence it is standing next to a girl who has12% body fat whilst other people practice poking at yours.

And on and on the tape played.

An urge to run. Somewhere, anywhere.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have talked to many people who find imposter syndrome crippling.  Because it gets in the way.  Because when I told someone this story they were surprised to find that I felt this way too.

From what I have read about imposter syndrome, many of those who suffer from it don’t realise that it’s not just them.  That it is a thing, not just their confidence and secret fears.

You don’t know when imposter syndrome is going to show up. I can stand in front of a room of several hundred people and talk about HR.  I can write a book and a blog and put my thoughts out into the world for anyone to see.  But in another context, in another place, I had to ride the wave of panic.  I had to persuade myself that I was okay. That I wasn’t suddenly going to get found out or exposed or kicked out or have an epic fail.

We can talk about leaning in or showing up with presence. We can talk about faking it till we make it.

But these are not always easy things to do. Not for everyone.

I’m just for recognising about it and talking about it.  As leaders, we can share when we have felt it and let others know that it isn’t all that unusual and it isn’t just them.  By recognising imposter syndrome for what it is, we can start to control it.

We can tell the imposter within that this time, we are not listening.