After proving yourself and hammering out the details with your manager, you’ve finally developed a plan for taking advantage of your company’s flexible work options. As a conscientious worker, you now want to make absolutely sure that you don’t abuse these new privileges, both for your own sake and for those who may seek work flex in the future.
It can be difficult to know where that line is, especially if it’s your first time experiencing work flex. Here are a few things to remember as you strive to stay on the right path.
Emphasize trust and communication.
Whether you’re shifting your hours to avoid a lousy commute or working from home a couple of days a week, your newfound flexibility probably means you won’t always be within sight of your boss and colleagues. This can be a tricky situation for all involved.
Prove that your manager and teammates can trust you by maintaining (or, better yet, increasing) your productivity, meeting deadlines, and making sure you’re available when they need you. Learn how the people on your team prefer to communicate when you’re not in the office with them, and do your best to follow those preferences.
Set clear expectations with all of your team members and follow up frequently so you will be aware of any changes in deadlines or responsibilities. Ask questions and participate actively in team meetings, just as you would if you were in the office with them.
Maintaining trust and communicating effectively will serve the dual purpose of ensuring your continued high performance while giving you opportunities to gain honest feedback from both coworkers and your boss. Their input will help you know whether you’re staying on target or getting off track as you get used to more flexibility.
Remember that flexibility is not the same as chaos.
Even if you’re not sitting in a cubicle from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., your day should still have structure. Decide on a schedule that will work for you and develop routines that will allow you to focus on your daily tasks. Tell your boss and colleagues about your schedule, ensuring that it meets with their needs. Then stick to it. This will establish your continuing reliability in their minds while also helping you maintain your work ethic and build successful flex habits.
Another good way to monitor your use of flexibility is to keep careful track of how you’re spending your time. This starts with making and using daily task lists to plan your activities and ensure that you are completing your work in a timely manner.
In addition to that, consider maintaining a fairly detailed log that shows what you did during each hour of the day. By reviewing this log every week or so, you can look for signs of diminishing focus or increasing distraction that may be a result of your newfound flexibility. This reckoning of your hours may also prove useful if your manager asks for specific information about the time you needed to complete various tasks, so again, it serves multiple purposes.
Do an honest assessment.
While using these kinds of time-related checks is important, it’s also a good idea to dedicate a few minutes of each week to honest self-reflection. How has your attitude about work changed since you started utilizing flex? Are you following the plan you created with your manager? Are you happier and more productive? Do you miss the office atmosphere? Are you cutting corners or occasionally giving in to the temptation to take an extended and unplanned break from work tasks to read a book or watch TV at home?
To help with this exercise, examine your actions from the perspective of your manager or other team members. Would they think your daily activities represent someone who is using flexibility effectively to meet or exceed expectations? Or would they have questions about your productivity and efficiency?
This frequent gaze in the virtual mirror will likely reassure you that you’re doing all you can to get the most out of your flexibility without abusing the privileges you enjoy. Your boss probably wouldn’t have approved your flex plan in the first place if you had not shown an ability to motivate yourself, work hard without supervision, and meet all of your deadlines and productivity targets.
Since you are such a conscientious worker, however, you’ll want to continue to check yourself throughout your flex experience. Not only will this make you feel more comfortable with the situation, but it could also pave the way for others to enjoy increased flexibility in the future.
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