“Funzionando da dovunque!!” was the title of a recruiting article I wrote back in 2007. It translates from Italian to “Working from Anywhere.” I distinctly recall writing that article from the deck of a villa in Porto Cervo, Italy, alternately staring at my laptop screen and the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. No, I wasn’t some self-important workaholic who couldn’t leave her job behind while on vacation. Rather, I was the Chief Operating Officer of an all-virtual marketing firm and was thus able to spend three weeks in Italy with my husband that July while he was there working… and I didn’t miss a beat “at the office.”
How I Wound Up Working Virtually
You see, I had moved to Vail, Colorado, in 2004 for lifestyle reasons after a exhausting career on Wall Street, spent mostly at Goldman Sachs in New York and Chicago. Priorities had shifted in my life and I sought more balance than I thought I could achieve in a big city at a big firm. In addition, my husband was traveling a great deal for his job, with months at a time spent in Europe, South Florida, Australia, and other places far from our home, and I wanted the flexibility to be with him more often. Imagine my delight when I found a job that allowed me to fulfill those important personal goals while not having to sacrifice career advancement or meaningful challenge.
In the nearly five years I served in that role, I directed Finance, HR, IT, and Operations of staff and vendors in over 25 states and clients across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The job was not a cakewalk, and working from Europe was the exception and not the rule–but I thought it was a great way to get your attention! I executed a full turnaround of the company, returning it to profitability while launching new services, upgrading the IT systems, and improving all areas of HR and operations.
Running this highly distributed firm equipped me with significant expertise in flexible work arrangements, collaboration tools, communication protocols, and accountability initiatives, among other critical lessons which were the basis for founding my current flexwork consulting and executive coaching practice.
Becoming a Work Flexibility Evangelist
Granted, not every flexible work arrangement is as flexible as mine was. Nor is that setup necessarily appropriate for all people, business units, or roles that may be considering flexwork. But in 2014, work is more something people do, not a place they go.
As an executive/leadership coach and flexible workplace consultant, I now help individual and corporate clients design work that “works better” for employers and employees alike-in order to attract, engage, and retain top talent who then drive superior top and bottom line results. Unlike what transpired at Yahoo, I firmly believe it’s possible for leaders to retain the keys to success and avoid giving away the keys to the proverbial kingdom.
To help organizations and individuals define and achieve realistic and sustainable integration of work and life, I coined the term Life-Work InfusionTM, which is based on four simple premises:
- People are equally important assets to manage properly in any organization.
- It is impossible in this technologically obsessed era to totally separate one’s personal from professional life.
- A happy and fulfilled person is a more engaged, more motivated, more successful worker.
- When you keep valued employees “Infused,” there is far greater likelihood of success in keeping customers, colleagues, vendors, shareholders, and family members delighted.
Most simply put, it’s a business strategy.
The Future of Flexible Work
One size certainly does not fit all, but flexible workplace solutions can serve as bridges to greater success for everyone involved. Heavy accountability must accompany such autonomy, but if you recruit the right people and managers and then train them properly, most will consistently exceed expectations.
I’m optimistic about the far reaching impact that movements like 1 Million for Work Flexibility can achieve as more of us like-minded folks ban together. Karen May, VP of People Development at Google, put it well: “Imagine a world where most organizations were the best place to work. Imagine what we could be getting done on the planet if it were true.”
photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com