Work flexibility isn’t just something we encourage our clients to consider; it’s a workforce and workplace strategy that the change management team at Stegmeier Consulting Group embraces every day.
In fact, as I write this post, today could not be a better example of how flexible work keeps our productivity high, and our work-life balance in check. Our Cleveland, Ohio-based office is completely empty, and yet, it’s business as usual. “How is this possible?” you may ask.
For starters, I am working remotely, typing away at my computer from my kitchen table. Our Founder and CEO, Diane Stegmeier, along with our Business Development Manager, Sarah, is directing our team and communicating with clients via email while attending a conference in New York. Michael, an intern, does not work this particular day from the office to accommodate his grad school class schedule. Matthew, one of our senior consultants, is off after working a compressed four day schedule upon returning from paternity leave the last few weeks due to a set of newborn twins!
Diane has been leading her team of change management professionals for over 14 years. She learned long ago that offering a high degree of flexibility allowed her to attract and retain talented individuals who would become dedicated to her firm. At SCG, there is no need to be tied to your desk for eight hours a day—unless you want to be. Consultants have the ability to start work at home and make their way into the office later in the day if they choose. They also have the ability to take their computers home with them for afternoon or evening working sessions: perfect for days like today when my new kitchen appliances were to be delivered “between 1 pm and 5 pm.”
Diane, like many of our clients, realizes that where work gets done is often not important. Likewise, when work is completed—as long as it meets the client’s deadlines and produces high-quality deliverables—is not necessarily important either; if a client deliverable is due Wednesday at 5 pm, our team still has ample time to review and submit whether a draft is completed Tuesday night or early the next morning.
Like most companies, we feel it is beneficial to meet in-person and collaborate, and we highly value our office environment. We enjoy having a space that visitors can see, especially since our team seeks to model the office layouts and trends commonly sought out by our clients. In fact, we call our space a work lab. But when in-person collaboration is not possible, we take advantage of technology to hold meetings and conversations virtually as if our coworkers, clients, or partners were in the room with us. Skype and Google Hangouts have become key business tools for us. Last fall, a consultant based in Toronto, Sidney, joined our team to expand our influence into Canada. Rather than fly her in each time we need to talk, we encourage her to log onto her computer from home, and link up in a video conference with us within seconds.
While many organizations are embracing the kind of flexibility our firm has enjoyed for several years now, there still exists an enormous contingent hesitant to implement, expand, or formalize flexible work arrangements for their employees. This hesitation may stem from a lack of trust in employees, leadership that’s clinging to a rigid work culture established by past generations, IT concerns, or a sense that flexible work truly has no place in their particular industry. WorldatWork and FlexJobs publicized research findings last year which unveiled that 80% of the corporations they studied had some type of flexible work policy in place. Of those, however, only 37% indicated they had a formal, written policy that laid out their program details and goals. Furthermore, 42% of employees indicated the flexible work policies were not available to everyone.
Our team has found when meeting with many client organizations that reluctant leaders are often fixated on the risks of shifting to a more flexible culture. Our team will often counter by asking them to consider the risks of not making this type of transition. As mentioned above, flexible working initiatives, at minimum, can help give the edge in the battle for talented individuals who are the life-blood of a successful organization. When implemented in conjunction with a changing work environment, flexwork can help reduce the need for dedicated workstations for all employees, which in turn can save costs by reducing the real estate square footage required.
Instilling a more flexible culture, of course, is not as easy as flipping a switch. Due diligence must be put in by those establishing the new program. Guidance should be sought from professionals experienced in leading workplace and workforce changes. Employees and managers should be assessed to determine who is a good fit for remote work, and who is prepared to lead a remote workforce, respectively. Suitability assessments, like the FlexMatch™ Assessments offered by our firm, have been used by organizations large and small, and in diverse industries, to more equitably extend workflex to employees and serve as a starting point for the important (and often tough) discussion every manager needs to have with interested flex candidates. When the necessary time and effort are put in to develop flexible programs, organizations and their staff will reap greater rewards more often than those who haphazardly roll out a new set of flexible working guidelines that are destined to be ignored, or not enforced.
Flexwork, whether in the form of adjustable hours and schedules, or work from home policies, or some combination thereof, can be a great advantage to your organization. Whether our office is full to the brim with consultants, or completely vacant, our team does not miss a beat. Hard work, good communication skills, and a desire to deliver strong results for our clients play a big part in our success, but work flexibility enables us to be a more agile organization and to focus on what really counts—results!
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