WeWork and the role of co-working as AN enabler of work — Marketplace

It’s hard to believe it is already mid-August!  One thing is for sure, the ever-evolving world of work isn’t taking a vacation.

Last week I had the opportunity to reinforce an important point as part of this Marketplace segment about what’s going on with WeWork specifically, co-working more broadly, and workspace in general: “We are coming out of what was a crisis-driven execution of flexibility…And we are still reimagining how, when, and where we’re going to work.”

This reimagining will include how, when, and where we utilize all types of spaces and places as AN (not THE) enabler of work—employer headquarters, satellite office “hubs”, client sites, independent co-working spaces, home offices, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, etc.

Because there are many “wheres” in which to work flexibly beyond the duality of home or office, I continue to encourage the move beyond the limits of “hybrid” which by definition is “a thing made by combining two different elements”.

We will be in this state of flux for a while because every organization is still figuring out how their people will work flexibly, which has to come first. Then the alignment with spaces of all types an organization or individual needs, will become clearer.  Listen or read the story here.

How are workspaces in your organization enabling the evolving, flexible way teams and individuals work?  What types of workspaces, both onsite and remote, are part of the enablement infrastructure?  Let me know cali@flexstrategygroup.com


3 Reasons Every Extrovert Should Read the New Book “Quiet”

I am an extrovert. Give me a room full of people to meet and talk to for hours, and I’m in heaven. So why am I such a big fan of the new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown, 2012) by Susan Cain?

Like many extroverts, I was surprised to learn that anywhere from one-third to one-half of the population are introverts. In other words, a lot of people we come into contact with everyday don’t thrive on endless meetings, don’t want to solve a problem by talking about it with a group for hours, don’t enjoy jumping into a conversation and just “throwing out ideas,” and don’t want to attend lunches, conferences, and dinners all the time.

These activities are like a shot of adrenaline for extroverts. But they suck the energy right out of our more introverted counterparts.  That doesn’t mean extroverts are wrong and introverts are right. Cain is a big fan of extroverts, as you will see in the book.

It’s about awareness. If extroverts better understood our more introverted friends, colleagues and family members, it would make our lives better in the following ways:

Communication with others would improve. Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re in a meeting with a group of people. Everyone is sharing their thoughts and opinions freely, except for a couple of people who are quietly listening.

Chances are the extroverts in the room assume those individuals are being quiet because they don’t have anything to add. But after the meeting, you run into one of the listeners in the hall and they comment, “You know we should really consider doing x, y, z.”  And you say, “What a great idea! Why didn’t you share that in the meeting?” And they respond with a hint of frustration, “It was hard to get a word in edgewise.”

Knowing that introverts tend to like to listen, gather their thoughts, and then share their insights uninterrupted, extroverts could make it a point to pause discussions periodically, and ask, “Does anyone have something to add?” And then wait a moment for a response. This would give those who are more introverted the space they need to contribute comfortably.

If we understood how each of our “types” processed and shared information, we’d communicate better with each other at work, at home, and in our communities.

We would be better parents and partners.  I may be an extrovert, but I’ve always been attracted to the strong, silent type. It’s not surprising that my wonderful husband of more than 20 years is more introverted.

After a long day at work, he just needs some space; therefore, I wait to barrage him with questions and stories of my day. Or when we spend time with my extended (and more extroverted) family and he disappears after a certain point, I know he’s gone to find some quiet place to just sit and regroup. I understand why and don’t take it personally.

In terms of parenting, it was an exchange with my older daughter six years ago that first prompted me to understand the difference between the two types.

She was in second grade and I had volunteered for playground duty. I had been stationed far away from the playground by the door into the school. Next to that door was a basketball hoop where my daughter stood shooting baskets alone. I asked her, “Don’t you want to go play with your friends?” She responded calmly, “No, that’s OK; I want to be with you. I shoot baskets here by myself all the time.”

My uneducated, extroverted first response was, “What? Why do you do that, honey? Go up a play with your friends. I’ll be fine and it’s more fun to play with everyone.” She looked confused, “But Mom, I like to shoot baskets alone.” Yikes! I could see that I had unintentionally made her feel bad, and I realized in that moment she wasn’t like me.

Like her dad, she needed time to herself after a busy, intense morning in the classroom. I had to recognize that and support her, even though all I’d want to do is dive into a big group of screaming, laughing friends. Today she’s a super confident, happy young woman with friends whom she loves and who love her, but she still needs her breaks. That’s OK.

Cain’s book offers more extroverted parents and partners a helpful roadmap for understanding and honoring their more introverted loved ones. It has really helped me.

We could benefit from adopting more introverted behaviors, especially quiet time and listening. About twenty years ago, I started to suffer from the physical wear and tear of my high-intensity, highly extroverted, always-on-the-go existence. My mother was an introvert (I get my extroversion from my grandfather) and practiced meditation religiously. She suggested that I try to be quiet for a few minutes each day. Because I’d exhausted all of the medical options for treating my symptoms, I gave it a shot. It’s was a miracle.

Twenty minutes a day of sitting quietly, journaling, breathing, made all the difference physically, emotionally, spiritually. Introverts tend to stop and regroup naturally because they crave it. We extroverts have to be more thoughtful and deliberate about our down time, but we benefit from it just as much.

Introverts are also excellent, natural listeners. My husband can go to a party, talk to just a few people, but gather information that I hadn’t heard even though I’d talked to everyone. I’ll ask him how he does it and the answer is always the same, “I stopped talking, paid attention, and listened.”

While my natural inclination remains to say “hi” to and know as many people in a room as possible, I catch myself periodically. I try to spend more one-on-one time with fewer people and I make myself stop talking (if I remember) long enough to listen more. I’ll never be like my husband, but I enjoy experimenting with aspects of his style.

What do you think? Are you an extrovert who has benefited from understanding the gifts and behaviors of your more introverted friends, colleagues and family members? What have you done differently once you gained that awareness?

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown, 2012) is a wonderful guide to help us all understand ourselves and each other more fully.  Here’s how you can learn more and connect with Susan Cain:

(This post originally appeared in Fast Company)

The Pay Gap and Expectations

(This post originally appeared in ForbesWoman.com)

What if the frustrating pay gap between men and women was caused, in part, by our collective low expectation that women are supposed to be “good” providers?

This expectation is alive and well according to the recently released Pew Research Center report, The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families, even if it’s not grounded in reality.  Most women will work most of their lives outside of the home in some capacity.

Women are already providers but that’s not what we expect.

According to the Pew Research Center study, when asked “To be ready for marriage, how important is it that a man be a good provider?” 67% of all respondents said, “very important.”   But when posed the same question regarding women, only 33% said, “very important.”  (I’d bet if Pew asked the question, “how important is it that men/women be a good caregiver” the results would flip.)

Expectations matter.   They affect the choices we make.

If women aren’t expected to be good providers but men are, how does that affect the decisions each gender makes from a very young age that perpetuate the gap?

When I was growing up my family emphasized education and being able to support myself but I was never expected to be a “good provider.”  What if I had been?  Would I have been forced to learn how to negotiate my compensation more effectively at a younger age?     Would I have made different, perhaps more lucrative, choices throughout my career?

That’s exactly what my friend Karen has done since we started in the same bank management training program after college.   From the beginning, Karen had clear high expectations for her career and for her compensation.   I remember staring in awe as the 23 year old Karen responded, “No,” when asked by the bank’s President, “Is everyone happy with their placements?”   Sure enough, she was moved to the higher paying job that she wanted.

Over the next twenty years, Karen continued this pattern of asking for what she wanted and felt she deserved whether it was a title, a job or money.   It wasn’t always easy or fun, but she expected it for herself.  And guess what?  She got it along with a loving husband and three beautiful children.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen to the pay gap if more women were like Karen and set their earnings expectations as high as those of the men in their chosen fields doing the same amount and type of work?

Expectations also influence the way others perceive and respond to us. (Click here for more)

Stop Talking About Work+Life Flex Solely in the Context of Women…Really, Seriously, Once and for All

I waited.  I knew it was coming.  As expected, shortly after the release of The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything the calls and emails began rolling in, “What do you think?”  Earlier this year, I’d dodged that question when Womenomics was released.  At the time, I thought I didn’t need to add my voice to the mix because of course by now most people understood that work+life flexibility was an issue for everyone.  Not just women.  Future efforts would certainly discuss the issue from an inclusive, gender neutral, business based perspective.  I was confident this would be the last high-profile, big media launch of a book or program that focused on work+life flexibility primarily in the context of women.

I was wrong.  The launch of A Woman’s Nation was even bigger and bolder.  So, for what it’s worth and because people keep asking me, it’s time to answer the question, “What do I think?”  First, let me say a couple of things.  Like Womenomics, The Shriver Report is well done and well intentioned.   In fact, two of my favorite thinkers, Brad Harrington of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family, and the writer/feminist, Courtney Martin, contributed excellent chapters.  Issues such as pay inequity, lack of representation in senior levels, and sharing of care responsibilities are all important issues to discuss specifically as they relate to women, but

We really, seriously, once and for all, need to stop talking about the need for work+life flexibility solely in the context of women!

Why?  Four reasons:

It’s not true that women have the greatest need for flexibility in work and life

Both men and women do.  More flexibility for men means more flexibility for women.  And it doesn’t include the multiple ways businesses benefit from making flexibility in how, when and where work is done part of the day-to-day operating model including:Impacts graphic

I fear it inadvertently reinforces the Motherhood Penalty

As Kanter award-winning researcher Shelley J. Correll of Stanford University found in two separate studies: Evaluators consistently rated mothers less competent and less committed to paid work than non-mothers, and childless women received 2.1 times as many callbacks as mothers with similar credentials.  There’s a deep, entrenched bias in the system that says if you hire a mother, it’s a problem.  So don’t hire her.  (Check out the work of Harvard’s Mahrazin Banaji for more on entrenched bias—hat tip: Maryella Gockel, of E&Y).

When a book, report or press conference is entitled Womenomics or A Woman’s Nation, no matter how much you say, “It’s not just about women,” it is about women.   By linking the need for greater work+life flexibility so directly and publicly to women and mothers, I’m afraid it perpetuates this inaccurate perception that mothers are the only ones who can’t make it work without extra accommodations.  It doesn’t challenge or change the prejudice.

It further isolates men, who want to be part of the conversation but won’t participate is something they perceive to be a “women’s thing.” (Really, you can’t blame them.)

Today, work+life strategies are ghettoized outside of the day-to-day operating model of business.  In many organizations work+life issues are discussed, if not solely, then primarily as part of the women’s initiative.  In the media, coverage of the topic is confined almost exclusively to women’s magazines or articles focused on women.  Even though research shows that men suffer from higher levels of work+life conflict than women, and are just as interested in work+life strategies.  But they are usually left out in the cold.

My experience is that if you make the discussion gender neutral, and get senior line leadership support, the men will flood in.  A couple of years ago, I conducted a series of work+life fit strategy seminars at an investment bank.   The first two sessions were sponsored by the company’s women’s leadership group.  Although men “are encouraged and welcome to attend,” not surprisingly, the majority of attendees were women.  A few brave men were scattered about the room.  Curious, I stopped one of the men at the end of the session and said, “If this wasn’t sponsored by the women’s group would more guys show up?”  Without hesitation, he responded with a smile, “Of course, most men don’t go to a chick event.”

I suggested to the HR leader in charge of the series, “Why don’t we get individual business unit leaders to sponsor the remaining three sessions, and ask the women’s leadership group if they would become a silent partner?  Maybe we’ll get more men to show up.”  The head of the women’s group thought it was a great idea, but the HR leader wasn’t so sure, “Well, okay, but don’t be surprised if only a few attend.”  P.S. the last three sessions were so popular that they added a fourth session.  And more than half of the attendees were men.  The HR leader and the male business leaders who sponsored the seminars now understood that work+life flexibility wasn’t just a woman’s issues, but an issue for everyone.

It allows us avoid the hard work we need to do to make flexibility part of the way business operates and individuals manage their lives.

Isolating work+life flexibility as a women’s issue is a feel-good, red herring.   What we really need to do is fundamentally rethink how we all work, manage our lives and run our businesses.   That’s going to require innovation and creativity which is not easy.  Today, rapid change and uncertainty are the norm, making flexibility and resilience imperative if we are to thrive.

Hopefully A Woman’s Nation is the last public, high-profile media event that so directly and publicly links work+life flexibility and women for all the reasons I listed above.  Going forward, let’s focus money, firepower, effort, and exposure on the truth that it’s about all of us, which, in turn, will help women more.  What do you think?

Fast Company: Actually, Millennials Do Expect Work Flexibility–Reinterpreting PWC’s Survey

“We do not expect work flexibility” That’s the headline from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC) Millenials at Work global survey of 4,271 recent graduates.  Wow.  A strong statement, and one that completely contradicts what I find in my work, which is that millennials not only want work+life flexibility, they expect it.

The summary of findings concludes that, “Although the millennials seem to indicate flexibility is not expected, we did however receive many comments about wanting more flexibility.”  What?  Which is it?  Something wasn’t adding up.  And might organizations take these findings from the well-respected PWC as license to stop focusing on greater work+life flexibility, especially in this economic environment?

The PWC researchers attributed the difference between the quantitative findings and qualitative comments to the fact that, “Perhaps the millennials do not feel that total flexibility is a realistic possibility, even though it is something they might desire. We also believe that their expectations may change as they get older and the need for greater flexibility for example to look after family members may become more of a priority.”

After digging further, I realized the difference between my understanding of millennials’ expectation of flexibility and PWC’s understanding related to how we defined “work flexibility”…(Click here for more)

Fast Company: I Repeat…Flexibility is More Than an Isolated Downsizing Tactic, It’s a Broad Business Growth and Cost-Cutting Strategy

With a front page article in this week’s New York Times, the use of work+life flexibility as an alternative to layoffs continues to gain momentum.   However, as I noted last week, four-day workweeks, reduced schedules, sabbaticals, telecommuting and flexible scheduling are not just isolated, downsizing tactics.  They are part of a broad, coordinated growth and cost-cutting business strategy with multiple benefits that include, but are not limited to, creative downsizing.  We are missing an important opportunity by not discussing flexibility in this larger context.

Since August 2008, I have written (here, here, here, and here) and spoken (here), about work+life flexibility as critical strategy that allows organizations and individuals to rapidly and flexibly adapt to challenges that are presenting themselves at an accelerated rate.

In fact, the findings from the September, 2008 CFO Perspectives on Work Life Flexibility that we conducted with BDO Seidman, LLP were some of the earliest results to confirm that CFOs–the financial leaders in organizations–view flexibility as a strategic lever with a broad range of business impacts.  And, approximately one-quarter of the CFOs were ahead of the curve by incorporating different forms of flexibility into past downsizing strategies.

Why does this matter?  Because today we are grappling with how to respond to the recession, but after that, it will be something else.  Using strategic flexibility to rethink the way work is done, life is managed and business succeeds will help us not only survive, but thrive in an environment where change will be the only constant.  But we won’t be able to use work+life flexibility as a business growth and cost-cutting strategy to respond to these changes if we don’t see the possibilities. (Click here for more)

Janet Napolitano, Ed Rendell, and Why We Need to Take “Life” Out of the Job Equation

Last week, sexism, singleism, and workaholism came together to create a big post-balance era faux pas that reinforced why we must remove the often inaccurate judgments about a person’s personal life and responsibilities from the hiring process.  It started when Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell commented that his fellow governor, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, would be perfect in the role of Secretary of Homeland Security, “Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.”  Uh oh.

First, let’s look at how others interpreted Governor Rendell’s remarks.  What did they hear?  Not surprisingly, the same words were interpreted differently depending upon the work+life fit lens people were looking through.

For moms, like CNN’s Campbell Brown, Rendell’s words were sexist (or “mom”ist).  They meant that if Napolitano did have a family she couldn’t do the job, which is not only unfair but wrong.  The nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President sparked a similar debate.

“Workplace discrimination against mothers and others based on family caregiving responsibilities is a rapidly growing problem,” notes the introduction from a new policy briefing released by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network and the Center for Work Life Law.  It is such a problem that there are new enforcement guidelines from the EEOC on caregiver discrimination and many states are considering legislation.  But, comments like Governor Rendell’s, however innocent, further reinforce the bias.

Another group, represented in a New York Times OpEd piece by Gail Collins, felt Rendell’s comments promoted “single”ism, or the assumption that because Janet Napolitano is single, she has no family and no life and therefore, can and wants to, work all of the time.

This is the other side of the sexism coin but is equally inaccurate.  In my work, I have found that single people have unique challenges that add an extra layer to their personal responsibilities.  They have to do all of their own errands, home maintenance, financial planning, shopping, etc, as well as care for parents, pets, and friends.  The belief that if you are single, you are all about work is completely untrue.

Now, let’s consider what Governor Rendell says he was trying to say.  In a nutshell, he was trying to say, “She’s a workaholic like me.”  According to Governor Rendell, he has no life.  And as far as he knows, Napolitano has no life because she has no family.  He believes that’s what’s required to be the Governor of Pennsylvania, or a Secretary of Homeland Security.

Now, I’ve been doing my job long enough to know that you can waste a lot of time trying to change someone who thinks that to do a good job you need to work all the time.  Some people work constantly out of a compulsion or the desire to work.  And most of them, like Ed Rendell, do believe it’s what’s required to do their job.  That’s fine, but it can’t be the bar against which we measure everyone else’s ability and effectiveness.  (See a recent article on Forbes.com “Surviving a Workaholic Spouse” in which I’m quoted)

Most jobs don’t require working all of the time to complete well.  I’ve met plenty of competent people with very demanding, highly-responsible jobs who work long hours but also feel it’s important to have relationships and interests outside of work.  In fact, most would argue it makes them better at their jobs.  (For more, see Stewart Friedman’s book, Total Leadership)

Maybe Governor Rendell’s definition of success is all work, all the time.  But it doesn’t have to be Janet Napolitano’s in order for her to be a Secretary of Homeland Security.

What lessons can we all learn from this seemingly accidental work+life fit faux pas? We need to update the way in which we interpret our own work+life fit choices and those of others.  We also need to take “life” out of the hiring equation.  When someone is being considered for a job the primary question for that person must be “can you perform the tasks and responsibilities required?” and not “How will he or she do the job given what I perceive to be his or her personal responsibilities?”

Like Governor Rendell, we get into trouble applying simplistic, outdated paradigms to judge someone’s personal realities.  The truth is that few of us have work+life fit realities that fit neatly into any category.  My experience is that when we do try to guess or judge, we are usually wrong.  Keep it about the job.  Leave life out of it.

Fast Company–Recession Silver-Lining: No More Excuses Not to Make a Work+Life Fit Change

By nature, I am a glass half-full person.  So even though there are many dark clouds hanging over this long and painful recession, I continue to look for the silver-linings.   And I believe this recession is going to force some people to finally find the work+life fit they really want.

The other day I had lunch with Bob, the brother of a friend, to help him think through a difficult work+life fit decision.  A year ago, Bob negotiated that in January 2009 he would take a package and leave the job he’d held for 10 years with the same company.  While he had been very successful, a change in leadership and the sense he needed a new challenge made the package seem like a perfect segue into the next phase of his life.  Then the recession hit full-force, and now he is reconsidering.

He doesn’t want his current job anymore and his employer wants him to stay.  They have offered him a few alternative jobs none of which are particularly appealing.  But Bob has a 15 year old going to college soon, and a large portion of his college fund as lost in the market downturn.  Bob is concerned that there won’t be any jobs out there, which is understandable given the unemployment figures.

He’s stuck in an all-or-nothing quandary—do I stay and have salary, or do I leave and face a financially scary unknown.  This is where I come in.  We talked, and ultimately Bob realized that maybe there was a middle way work+life fit.  Here are some clues from our conversation that helped Bob begin to see the possibilities.

“They’ve offered me a lower level job I could do in my sleep.  It would give me money, and a lot of flexibility to investigate other opportunities, but my ego would take a big hit.”   Maybe Bob doesn’t have to quit.  He could try take this lower level job, do what he needed to do, but take advantage of the autonomy and flexibility to beginning setting up his next career move.  (Click here for more)

Fast Company: Challenging John Challenger: Right about “Balance,” Wrong about Work+Life Fit

John Challenger, the CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm, was recently quoted as saying, “Holding on to your job right now is more important for many than getting more work/life balance…This is not the right time to be negotiating those sorts of things.”

With regard to “balance,” I agree with Challenger.  This is not the time to being talking to your employer about balance.  Why?  Because all your employer will hear is “I want to work less,” even if what you want is to work differently by telecommuting or shifting your hours.  Regardless, in today’s economic climate, any discussion of balance could be misinterpreted as not being willing to go the extra mile.  And we all need to go the extra mile.

Here’s where Mr. Challenger and I disagree:  I believe that, now more than ever, we all need to actively and consciously manage our work+life “fit” so that we bring the best of ourselves to a difficult situation.

When times get tough, many of us work harder, longer or faster thinking it will save our job.  This may work in the short-term, but ultimately we’ll burnout and start the downward spiral of working harder, getting burned out, having less energy, becoming unproductive, so we work even harder and on and on.

Strategically managing your work+life fit, means you work and manage your personal responsibilities smarter and better.  Here are three tips for managing your work+life fit in a way that meets your needs as well as the needs of your employer during the economic downturn:  (Click here for more)

Fast Company Blog: New President and Your Work+Life Fit: Highlights…Concerns

Symbolism is important for driving cultural change.  Within this presidential campaign, there have been many powerful symbolic conversations and actions related to work+life fit.  For the first time:

  • The male and female candidates on both Obama and McCain tickets and their spouses talk about how they manage their unique work+life fit choices and challenges; and
  • Both campaigns list work+life front and center as part of their economic agendas.

The question then becomes how do the McCain and Obama administrations plan to translate that shift in awareness into action that impacts the reality of individuals?

Ellen Galinsky of Families and Work Institute recently hosted two unprecedented conference calls in which representatives from both campaigns outlined the specifics of their philosophy, policies and programs related to a broad range of work+life issues.  Detailed transcripts and commentary on these calls is available at www.familiesandwork.org.

Having listened to both calls and read the transcripts (which I urge you to do), two very different approaches emerge in a number of areas.  To provide a context in which to compare the two strategies, here is an overview of the trends in work and life presented by Brad Harrington, the Executive Director of the Center for Work and Family at Boston College in a recent presentation at Cornell University:

• Aging workforce and generational diversity
• Challenges of working in a more diverse workplace (e.g gender, race, ethnicity, religion)
• Increasing workload, stress and dramatic increase in health care costs
• Globalization, working across cultures, and the 24×7 workplace
• Pervasive use of technology and working virtually
• Growing importance of work-life.

I would add:

  • Increasing pressure on businesses to cut costs and work smarter/better, and additional financial uncertainty and work-related pressures for individuals.
  • Ever-increasing pace of change that requires organizations and individuals to adapt and respond by being even more flexible in the way work is done, life outside of work is managed, and business is run in order to thrive.

In the context of this work+life reality, my thoughts on the Obama and McCain work+life strategies are as follows: (click here to read more at Fast Company)