Flexibility is the future: How to make it work for you

By Jennifer Hargreaves

Over the last eight months, we’ve experienced massive market and social disruption. While there’s still a lot of uncertainty around what the new normal will look like, the way we work has changed forever. 

And I can assure you, flexibility is going to be part of it.

I recently had the chance to talk to members of TechConnex about what’s happening in the world right now in regards to flex work and hiring trends, and how to leverage the opportunities to create your own version of flexible work. Here’s what I’m seeing.  

The case for flexible work

Four years ago when I founded tellent, flexibility wasn’t mainstream. It was certainly a “trend” and in many cases, was meant to allow women to “accommodate” their home-life responsibilities. At the same time, companies were talking about the need for more women in leadership. It seemed to me there was an obvious solution: create more flexible workplaces! The benefits of flexible working were a no brainer too (and not just for women): happier employees, increased productivity, lower absenteeism, increased diversity, better for the environment… the list goes on. 

Finding companies that actually offered a culture of flexible work and work-life balance, however, was challenging.

Enter COVID.

COVID essentially catapulted institutional mindsets around flexible work into the future. Companies were forced to take their knowledge workforce virtual, virtually overnight. We’ve seen tech companies like Shopify, twitter, Facebook and Slack go remote first as a direct result of the pandemic. 

Flexible work isn’t just about employee safety, however. It’s about accessing skills, cost savings, productivity. 

The benefits of a flexible workforce far outweigh the cost of building out and implementing new systems – a previous barrier to implementing flex work. 

Rethinking how we work

This shift has also been massive and consequential for employees.

People are making new choices about where they want to live and creating new expectations around flexibility, working conditions and life balance that can’t be undone.

According to some of the research in the market and internally within organizations that I’ve looked at, the majority of employees  – 60 to 80% – don’t want to go back to the old way old working. 

So what comes next? 

Most companies are still trying to figure that out, with many in a kind of holding pattern. There are some barriers for companies in going fully remote (and surprisingly productivity isn’t one of them): existing real-estate commitments (Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate the lease on their San Francisco office); the cultural and social benefits of workplace connections in contributing to employee happiness, engagement and team success; and the fact that not all employees prefer remote work.

For these reasons, I predict we’ll see an increase in hybrid work environments, with some pioneers trying out entirely new models of remote/in-office working.

And in these new hybrid workplaces, there will be more hybrid workforces. This means greater opportunity for freelancers, contingent workers and contractors (more about that in my next blog).

Design your flexible work – and ask for it

With everything in flux and changing, now is a great time to evaluate what YOU want and need to make work work for you. 

Flexibility is not just where you work but also how and when you work.

Think about what you could possibly negotiate on – start/finish times, reduced hours, a shift from evaluation models (productivity and results over hours work) or even budget for a coworking membership. Get creative. And then, ASK for it. 

The best place to start is by exploring flexible work options within your current organization. You’ve already got the street cred, the relationships and institutional knowledge of how things work. And most organizations will want to keep their employees.

Here’s how you can increase your chances getting your company’s buy-in on your vision of flexible work: 

  1. Do your research
    What is your company’s policy on flex work? Who is currently using it in your organization and doing it well? What are your organization’s equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives? How does what you want fit in with your company culture and ethos? What are others in the industry doing? What are your competitors doing?
  2. Flip the why
    I love this piece of advice from Foniti Iconomoplous, list out all of the reasons why you want flexible work and then flip it around so that it makes sense for your employer. How will it benefit them? This is a collaborative process – you’re going to be working with them for a long time so it has to work for both of you.
  3. Ask HOW and WHAT questions
    Ask your employer: What can we do to make this proposal work? What are some of the things we can remove to make it more practical. What do you need to see to be more comfortable with the arrangement? If we can’t do this right now, then when? Think of the objections that might come up before you go into the meeting and prep in advance.  

You have an opportunity like never before to leverage this shift in the way we work to design your ideal work-life scenario – I challenge you to seize it!

? For more on how to negotiate flexibility at work, download our free workbook

? Let me support you in finding work that works for you. Join the tellent virtual networking platform today for mentorship, guidance and community