1 Million for Work Flexibility has more than 100 organizations on board to date as part of our coalition—and counting. We’re pleased to share more information about our supporter Life Meets Work in this Q&A.
Even an organization that is dedicated to helping companies embrace flexibility may find that it needs to evolve in unexpected ways over time.
Such is the case for Life Meets Work.
Founder and president Kyra Cavanaugh started Life Meets Work in 2007 as a job board for flex work. Then the Great Recession hit, and thousands of jobs were disappearing monthly. So Cavanaugh shifted her focus to providing consulting and training that would help managers and human resources professionals implement flexible and virtual workspaces.
This service proved successful and led to further expansion of Life Meets Work’s offerings, including career/life coaching for working parents and workshops to help managers and employees handle parental leave and the challenges that come with seeking success in life, both at work and at home.
But Cavanaugh, the author of Who Works Where [and Who Cares?], hasn’t stopped there. Life Meets Work continues to evolve with the business world, more recently developing wellbeing workshops for leaders to keep up with the merging of flexibility and wellness.
Even as Life Meets Work evolves, it maintains the fun, energetic culture that makes it attractive to clients, which have included KPMG, Deloitte, Allianz, Turner, Sony Music, Proskauer, Sidley Austin, and Bloomberg. Cavanaugh says the organization will always “lead with our hearts as much as our heads, and build long-lasting relationships with our clients and prospects.”
In this Q&A, Cavanaugh talks about the impact of flexibility on Life Meets Work’s culture and what she sees in the future of the flex work movement.
1MFWF: What is your personal history with work-life and flexibility issues? How has this affected your philosophy and that of Life Meets Work?
Life Meets Work: I started Life Meets Work because I saw too many stay-at-home parents reentering the workplace and having limited options to do so. Why should so many talented parents with advanced degrees and amazing work histories be relegated to being a substitute teacher or hosting home parties to contribute income to their families? Now, I have many friends and family members for whom that has been the right answer. And I honor their choices. But for those who want to reenter the workplace, access to flexible jobs can make the difference.
I worked every kind of flexible work option possible when my kids were little. And I never found the Holy Grail. But having flexibility made it easier to get (and give) more of what I needed to my family.
The challenge we’ve wrestled with over the last 10 years at Life Meets Work is how best to improve the lives of working people. Is it by changing workplace structure? Or, by coaching individuals to find their own best solution? Or, is it about making flexible jobs more easily found? There’s no right answer. It’s all of those things. And the services we provide change both individuals and workplaces.
1MFWF: What are some of the key components of Life Meets Work’s culture, especially regarding flexibility for its own workers? How has this influenced the organization’s growth and progress?
Life Meets Work: We live what we preach. We have to, or we’d have no integrity. We’re a completely virtual company—there’s no office. Everyone works at home. We offer employees unlimited paid time off, unlimited access to a career/life coach, 12 weeks paid caregiver leave, and flexible start/stop times. Team members work anywhere, anytime. One spent a month flexing her time, working from Colorado, near her family so that her kids could spend more time with their grandparents. Another works one week a month in the mountains while her kid is in ski camp. We don’t care where and when people work. And work gets done. Team members have the opportunity to be successful in and outside of work. It’s something I’m very proud of.
Every client gets the star treatment. We innovate, close new business, celebrate, and do all of the things people do in their office, we just do it remotely. It works.
1MFWF: As you work with companies or other organizations on building flexibility, what is the most common problem they face? How do you help them overcome it?
Life Meets Work: If a team struggles with issues of accountability, trust, delegation, communication, prioritization, etc. when they work together in the same place, it will be exacerbated when they work flexibly/remotely. So we train managers to shore up those basic aspects of management as they expand flexibility. It’s actually why virtual teams most often outperform onsite ones. We’re challenged to get on top of those things and are constantly making adjustments to how we do things. We can’t take anything for granted or working virtually won’t work. We live this every day, and we’ve trained thousands of managers, so we have real-life examples, and hundreds of practical tips we provide in our workshops and webinars.
1MFWF: You specifically say you like to focus on training middle managers. Why is this so important to the growth of flexibility?
Life Meets Work: Because they’re the ones living the challenges of this every day. By training managers to get more comfortable with practical ways of managing flexible teams, they see their team’s effectiveness improve, and they let go of their need to have butts in seats. Think about it: Middle managers are responsible for making sure work gets done. It’s what they’re paid to do. So, if we just tell them to get over themselves and let people work flexibly/remotely, flexibility won’t get the levels of adoption an organization needs to change its culture.
But, in the age of e-learning, it’s easy to think that a 10-minute video or a one-hour webinar will cut it. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough. We’ve got to help managers get back to the basics of good management. That’s the key to expanding the opportunities to work virtually. And, our workshops have made that difference.
1MFWF: What do you see in the future of the work flexibility movement, and how will Life Meets Work help realize that future?
Life Meets Work: The conversation has moved beyond flexibility narrowly defined. We used to think about it as formal arrangements, forms, and tracking systems. In this global, technological world, flexibility is just the way we need to work and the way we need to think about things. It means being where we need to be, when we need to be there, virtually. It means being more innovative and flexible in our thinking about how work gets done and how “workplace” is defined. It means looking beyond work arrangements to individual and team wellbeing. Is the way your company expects work to get done hurting or helping individual wellbeing? Is the way your team works together helping or hurting their effectiveness, and thus their ability to kick ass and compete in the ways you need them to?
Are you even paying attention to these things? Are you willing to let go of the old ways of defining workplace so that you can unlock the potential of people and teams? Just like companies are being challenged to be more flexible in the ways they serve customers, define markets, and evolve their brands to compete, they also must be more flexible and willing to shift workplace paradigms. It’s just as important to your company’s survival as the market-facing strategies you’re already adapting.
Life Meets Work is adapting along with the market. You’ll see our services continue to expand in the areas of individual and team wellbeing so that we can help companies understand the ways in which they’re sabotaging their future while trying to extract as much as they can from their workforce today. And, we’ll continue to help individuals develop strategies to improve their career and their life outside of work. We’re excited about the future, and our commitment to making it brighter.
Learn more about Life Meets Work: