“Common Sense Commentary” on the Flexible Next of Work with KNFX Phoenix’s Bill Brady

What makes an effective manager? How do we foster and advance employee engagement? Is flexibility just about young people trying to protect their ability to work remotely in this new post-COVID landscape? I had the opportunity to delve into these important workplace topics and more in a lively discussion on KFNX Phoenix’s The Bill Brady Show.

While the generational issue can be important in some contexts, I told Bill, “I think it’s more complex than just making it about generational divisions. There are legitimately people who did grow up in a period of time where they did go into an office, and they did what their manager said. And that was how they worked. But on the other side, there is a whole group of multigenerational people, who for the last four years have worked very flexibly so they don’t have that same understanding of why you have to come into an office and do your work.”

One of the core challenges we discussed was how managers and their teams must come together to bridge the gap between mandating “you must come back to the office” and answering employees’ obvious question, “Why?”

The missing piece: organizations are not leading with the work when figuring out how, when and where they are going to operate most effectively. They lead with a set number of days in the office, or “where,” and use that as a proxy for performance or outcomes.

How to fix this is simple, but not necessarily easy given how many managers and organizations we see still trying to push office-focused mandates on their people. As I say often, so much of the opportunity we have to reimagine work starts with first asking WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO to define the PURPOSE as well as the desired OUTCOMES.

“If you feel like there is a purpose to your work, that you are given the priorities that make sense so that you have flexibility to get your job done and manage your life … there will be an engagement there that does pay off and it has been proven in the research. And it’s something that every organization on the other side of COVID needs to begin to craft in partnership with their employees. We have to be willing to meet in the middle, listen to each other and take the best of what both groups are saying and create what’s going to be next.”

Listen to the full interview here.


The Next Wave of Business Travel

While economic considerations have eclipsed pandemic concerns, new data from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) finds business travel is on the rise. Over three-fourths of travel managers surveyed for GBTA’s latest industry poll expect the number of business trips taken by employees at their company will be higher or much higher in 2023 versus 2022.

But, as I discussed with Tariro Mzezewa for her recent Conde Nast Traveler story, “Both employers and employees need to understand that business travel today is not like it was before the pandemic—and there is no going back.

“A lot of things can be done perhaps remotely still, but there are certain things that we do enjoy and that have more impact when we’re together, so we have to remember that there’s a purpose now to why you’re on the road, but we also have to accept that travel is different.”

Like all things work-related, it starts with the what – what do we need to get done and how, when and where we do it best. And that includes deciding when and why to travel for business.

“There’s going to be a transition period and it’s just going to be weird the first couple of times you do it and it’s important that we let each other be in the weird. Recognizing some of the less positive aspects of all this right now and doing what you can as an employer to help support that transition, recognizing there’s good stuff that’s going to come from this, but there are some real things that need to be facilitated and supported as we transition through to what’s going to be next.”

Currently, those surveyed by GBTA don’t expect flexible work to significantly change business travel plans. Nearly 90% of respondents are offering some form of hybrid/remote work. But among them, 72% do not expect that flexibility will impact the number of business trips taken by their employees. And, while 14% expect it will lead to more business travel, an identical percent expect it will lead to less.  We will see.

In the meantime, have you traveled for business recently?  If yes, what was it like?  For me, travel is starting to pick up again, and I do love it.  But there is a definite purpose to it and more time, on either end, to allow for airline delays or cancellations. I continue to adapt and ease my way back in, enjoying what’s familiar and letting go of what’s less than optimal.


“Flexibility was among the top reasons workers quit their jobs.”

To the organizations that had hoped the threat of a recession would cause people to place less value on flexibility, it’s not happening.

Flexibility+Pay+Opportunity remains the value proposition that drives whether people quit or stay in their jobs, per new research from The Conference Board

“Flexibility was among the top reasons workers quit their jobs.”

Reasons people quit: “If you voluntarily left your organization for another job, what were your reasons? Which of the following reasons would influence your decision to stay with your organization?

* 17 percent of workers voluntarily left their company within the last year for a flexible work location, flexible work schedule, or the ability to work from home/anywhere.
* Other top reasons workers left their jobs were higher pay (22 percent) and career advancement (14 percent)—the usual drivers of job change.

Reasons people stay: More flexibility, higher pay, and career advancement were also the top factors that would influence workers’ decision to stay at their company:

* Flexibility: 54 percent
* Higher pay: 53 percent
* Career advancement: 33 percent

However, “Employees are voting with their feet to gain flexibility. But with flexibility must come boundaries,” said Robin Erickson PhD, Vice President of Human Capital, The Conference Board.”

In other words, people want flexibility BUT that flexibility needs to be effective and intentional. This is the next phase for organizations.

 


We need to take action to give Moms support

Yesterday, we honored moms…today, we need to take action to give moms the supports that help them, their children (our future!) and all of us thrive even if we don’t have young children ourselves:

–Consistent, affordable, quality child care
–Paid family leave
–Equal pay, AND
–Flexibility for moms, dads, and grandparents to fit work and life together as a help each other do their jobs and raise the children they love.

What do I mean by “all of us thrive even if we don’t have young children ourselves”?

First, it’s the right thing to do but it’s also the smart thing to do.

–A mom with consistent child care, paid leave and flexibility for herself and others caring for her children is someone who can participate in the workforce which helps the broader economy that is in desperate need of workers.

–She is a colleague who isn’t forced to quit leaving everyone else to do the job she was good at but can no longer do because she doesn’t have the support she needs.


Feeding my Soul

I love music. And I love seeing my favorite artists live.

In 2017, U2 (my favorite band) played at the Meadowlands as part of their Joshua Tree tour (my favorite album of theirs). The last three times they played the Meadowlands prior, I had been there and it was amazing. But in 2017, I was “too busy” with work and my life to swing it. I ended up missing what one of the many people I know who did go said was “a magical, perfect night. Best U2 concert I’ve ever seen.”

In 2017, Tom Petty was on tour. I love Tom Petty but again, I was “too busy” with work and life to figure out how to see him live. “Next time” I told myself. Tom Petty died that year. There will be no next time.

Last night we saw Genesis live at Madison Square Garden (below). We booked the tickets on faith months ago that we’d be able to go because Genesis was part of my high school soundtrack and I’ve always wanted to see them live. I am technically “too busy” with work and life now to go but I went anyway even with the omicron variant uncertainty. Because who knows…this may very well be the last time they tour. And it was worth it.

I learned from my research into the secrets of the #worklifefit naturals for my book #tweakit that to make what matters happen, habits are important but so is prioritizing important moments, like seeing the artists who have given you so much joy live. I’d forgotten that in 2017 and regretted what I missed deeply. Now in 2021 I’m doubling down on all of the moments that feed my soul. I will never forget again.

#worklifefit #wellbeing


The Hour of Reckoning: Leadership and the Willingness to Reimagine the Way People Can Work (or Not)

My husband, Andy, and I kicked off the new year by co-presenting to 25 college students from our alma mater, Bucknell University, who participated in a week-long leadership intensive over their January break.

This was a hand-picked group of impressive, motivated young people.  All had to apply for acceptance into the program, and most were from the school’s Management College.

The recently-retired business school dean and former Fortune 500 CEO who taught the class asked Andy and me to speak about our leadership experiences and philosophies because we have taken two very different career paths.

Andy’s has been more traditional and corporate.  Mine, less conventional, and more entrepreneurial.  The instructor also thought it would be insightful for the group to hear from a couple that has supported each other’s professional pursuits while managing our ever-changing personal responsibilities and interests.

It’s important to emphasize a couple of points:

  • This was a leadership class.  It was not a discussion about reimagining the way work is done or how to flexibly manage your work+life fit, although the students knew that’s my area of expertise from my bio.
  • This was a diverse group of students, with men and women equally represented, and
  • These are young adults who voluntarily cut their winter break short to participate in a rigorous leadership program led by a former business school dean and Fortune 500 CEO.  They are by no means “slackers.”

Honestly, Andy and I weren’t sure what the group would want to know. Would they be more interested in Andy’s corporate career path or how I changed lanes from commercial banking to being an entrepreneur, author, and workplace strategist? Would the men direct more of their questions to Andy, and the women to me?  What actually happened surprised us and is an urgent “heads up” for senior leaders who want to attract, retain, and develop this next generation of top talent.

The questions were evenly split between us and covered a range of challenges and opportunities we each faced throughout our careers.  But what struck us both were the number of questions from the men in the room about how, when and where they would be able to do their jobs and find “balance” (which of course was the perfect opening for me to share the wisdom and power of work+life “fit” because there is no “balance” which they loved!).

Their questions weren’t about working less or not as hard. These students are clearly willing to give their all to future employers. Their questions reflected a sense that, in many cases, the rigid, traditional model of work was obsolete and needed to be modernized.

They wanted to understand how they, as future leaders, could encourage and contribute to the process of reimagining work.  They valued professional success and were realistic about the level of effort required to achieve it, but they also valued personal well-being.  They saw both as mutually-reinforcing, not mutually exclusive.

Again, this was mostly from the male students.  What their curiosity and passion confirmed to me is we’ve finally reached the hour of reckoning.

Leaders can no longer ignore the strategic imperative to build a culture in which everyone, including this next generation, knows how to flexibly leverage time and tech tools, place, and workspace, as well as process and pace to achieve the goals of the business, get the job done and manage life.

Unfortunately, too often leaders dismiss any challenge to the traditional work model as, “Young people just don’t want to work hard” when, for most, it’s just the opposite. They want to explore how to work differently, but they need guidance.  Leaders that seize the opportunity potentially leave new levels of innovation, productivity, and engagement as their legacy.

As one young man asked, “What do you say to senior leaders to get them to understand how important it is to rethink work?”

My answer, “First, I help them link high performance flexibility and positioning their business for success today…and tomorrow.  Second, I show leaders how to marry the traditional strengths of their organization with new ways of working. But, ultimately, my message is simple—either you adapt, or you aren’t going to make it. And after speaking with all of you, I am even more certain of that.”

The hour of reckoning has indeed arrived.  How is your organization responding when this next generation challenges the traditional ways work has always been done?  Are you dismissing them as “slackers,” or are you listening? Are you using their questions to fuel innovation that will position your organization to thrive now and in the future, or are you doubling down on “business as usual”?


Resolve the Clash Between Flexibility and Traditional Work Practices

Does it feel like the clash between the flexible work expectations of younger employees and your organization’s traditional work practices has escalated? If it does, you are not alone. Even employers on every “best of” work flexibility list face the challenge.

Recently, I had lunch with a leader from a “best of” company. At one point, he confessed with nervous laughter:

“You know we are in busy season and I can tell you right now there are partners in this firm who still require junior level employees to show up and physically sit together every day in a conference room while ordering food from paper menus. Why? Because that’s what you do in busy season.”

Immediately, I imagined a group of confused, frustrated junior-level employees sitting around the same table, day in and day out, legitimately wondering, “Why can’t we do this remotely? We would be working on the same system we’re logged onto in the conference room. And why aren’t we ordering food from GrubHub?!”

I also imagined the partner in charge of the engagement. Hearing about the team’s frustration, shaking her head and sighing to her peers, “Flexibility is fine, but this is busy season. The work is complex and requires a high degree of manager supervision. It’s what the client expects, and it’s what we have to do to get the best results.” But is it?

To resolve this conflict, you can’t stop at the level of flexible work policy, programs, and toolkits. It requires a more in-depth cultural shift where the generations learn to come out of their respective corners and explore ways work could be done better, smarter, and more flexibly.

That doesn’t mean throwing the baby-out-with-the bath-water. Everyone meets in the middle and follows an organized process of experimentation that, ultimately, becomes a part of everyday planning.

As a result, certain legacy work practices continue because everyone agrees they are the best approach, but they are married with new, more flexible ways of working, using technology and workspace. It’s what multigenerational expert, Lindsey Pollock, calls a “remix,” in her new book, The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace.

For the team stuck in the conference room during busy season with paper menus, that “remix” could look like:

  • An acknowledgment that this particular engagement does include more complex tasks that require hands-on manager oversight and more immediate real-time collaboration and information sharing. At the moment, the technology to replicate that degree of oversight and coordination either doesn’t exist or everyone hasn’t adequately mastered it. Therefore, to complete those tasks, the team agrees it makes sense to work together in the same location at the same time.
  • An agreement that the team could experiment with doing the more straightforward, less complicated aspects of the engagement flexibly. Each team member will plan, how, when, and where they will complete those tasks, optimally a week in advance. This gives managers time to review and adjust the proposed flexibility based on the engagement’s real-time progress.
  • A recognition that everyone—the partner, managers, and the engagement team–needs to be even more intentional and organized with their planning, as well as willing to recalibrate their flexibility to respond to unexpected shifts in the engagement’s progress.

At the end of busy season, review the results of the experiment. Revise based on outcomes. Rinse. Repeat.

What’s happening in your workplace? Has the clash between the flexible work expectations of younger employees and your organization’s traditional work practices escalated? If you need to “remix,” what could that look like?

Click HERE to be added to the Flex Strategy Group Newsletter and receive periodic updates and insights from Cali Williams Yost.


Gen-Y: “Promote Yourself” to Get the Work Flexibility and “Balance” You Desire

Trust me, my corporate clients recognize that Gen-Y/Millennials place a high premium on work-life “balance” and flexibility in the when, where and how they do their jobs.  

What those same corporate clients don’t 100% trust is that their under 30 year old employees understand that the secret to “balance” and greater flexibility is…performance and results.

In other words, if you consistently deliver and “do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it,” fewer people are going to stand in your way if you want to work from home one day or shift your hours (assuming it makes sense for your job).

But how do you achieve that optimal level of performance and deliver those results in today’s workplace so that, in turn, you can achieve your goals, on and off the job?

In every generation, there will always be people who don’t want to make the effort.  But my experience has been that most millennials are willing to work hard.  They just need someone to lay out what that looks like in action, because the secrets to success that worked for their 50 year old boss, aren’t necessarily going to work for them.

Dan Schawbel’s new book, “Promote Yourself,” is a great place to start.  It offers an honest roadmap, like his “14 rules of the new workplace that millennials need to master“:

  1. Your job description is just the beginning.
  2. Your job is temporary.
  3. You’re going to need a lot of skills you probably don’t have right now.
  4. Your reputation is the single greatest asset you have.
  5. Your personal life is now public.
  6. You need to build a positive presence in new media.
  7. You’ll need to work with people from different generations.
  8. Your boss’s career comes first.
  9. The one with the most connections wins.
  10. Remember the rule of one.
  11. You are the future.
  12. Entrepreneurship is for everyone, not just business owners.
  13. Hours are out, accomplishments are in.
  14. Your career is in your hands, not your employer’s.
Millennials, if you follow these steps, you are much more likely to hear “let’s give that flexibility you want a try,” rather than the often unfair and misguided “you just don’t want to work hard.
To learn more about Dan Schawbel and “Promote Yourself”

Elder Care “Tweaks” to Prepare Now, Before It Strikes

I recently appeared on Huffington Post Live to discuss “Elder Care for the Baby Boomer Generation.”  Joining me on the segment was TWEAK IT elder care expert, Denise Brown, founder of Caregiving.com, the amazing, online information and support community that helps men and women succeed with the difficult task of caring for adult family members.

After the segment, I asked Denise to share specific tweaks that we can make today to prepare for future caregiving responsibilities.  As she points out, “Eldercare is not something that happens to someone else. It will happen to all of us.”

You can find more of Denise’s wisdom in TWEAK IT:Make What Matters to You Happen Every DayHere’s one of her extra bonus “tweaks” from the TWEAK IT Together community site:

“Create back-up plans and then a back-up plan for your back-up plan. Research options in the community, even if you think you won’t need them. You never know. You have to ask the “what ifs.” It’s best to prepared, just in case. Check with your employer about an EAP or Work/Life benefit. Often EAPS and work/life providers will research options in your community (and your aging relative’s if he/she lives in another state) and help you create your back-up plans.(Click here to learn what to do if you don’t have access to an EAP).”

What small actions have you taken today to get ready to take care of your aging family members in the future?  Be sure to share in the comments section below or on Facebook.


5 Years Later, Reflecting Back on Life in the Eldercare Trenches

Today begins a “week of action” for the bloggers who are part of  AARP’s caregiving “kitchen cabinet.”  Not only do I deal with eldercare/family caregiving issues professionally as a work+life strategy consultant, but I have been a caregiver myself.

As my call-to-action, I wanted to go back and reflect on how I felt in August, 2007 as I began to emerge from the eldercare trenches having just lost my mother to an 18 month fight with lung cancer.  I had written a blog post entitled “Mom’s Peaceful Passing–Eldercare True Confessions.”  Reading my words today, I am transported back to the exhaustion, complicated feelings and hard realizations.  But mostly, I am proud.

I am proud of my mom.  Proud of my sisters and even proud of myself.  My mom brought us into this world, and we can honestly say that we shepherded her through her final transition in as loving and peaceful a way as possible.

But we were lucky.  My sisters and I had very flexible jobs. My mother had enough money to get the care she needed (assuming it was available, which is a whole other issue.)  And it was still hard. Harder than I remember.  Clearly, time has softened the edges of the experience, but it hasn’t dimmed the insights and passion that continue to inform my work in this area.

Were you a caregiver in the past?  When you reflect back on the experience today, how do you feel?  What do you wish others knew that you may have learned the hard way?  Here is my story from August, 2007.  I would love to hear yours.

Mom’s Peaceful Passing–Eldercare True Confessions

My mom peacefully passed away on July 6th after waging a heroic eighteen-month battle with lung cancer. I want to thank everyone who has sent messages of support and shared their personal stories of caring for an adult they loved. It has meant so much to me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Over the past six weeks as my sisters and I provided 24/7 care until her death, then arranged my mother’s funeral, I had no capacity for blogging. But now, two-weeks into my “re-entry,” I would like to share some personal observations about eldercare. My experience has radically changed how I will professionally approach this major work+life transition going forward.

I had to save my true confessions about eldercare until after her death, because reading them would have been too painful for her. Because the truth is that eldercare is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.While I would do it again in a heart beat, it’s a responsibility that exacts a tremendous toll—physically and emotionally—straining even the most well-thought-out work+life fit.

The best way to describe what I mean is to compare eldercare to working after having my children, who are now nine and six. (Note that for the purpose of this comparison, I’m assuming that the children do not have special needs. To learn more about those unique challenges, see guest blogger, Linda Roundtree’s, excellent posting).

Like eldercare, becoming a parent is a huge transition. In both circumstances you are often sleep deprived and have absolutely no time for yourself. But, in general, caring for your child is:

  • Happy and rewarding;
  • Based on a relatively predictable curve of development with care readily available, albeit for a price; and
  • Controlled by you. You say how, when, and where the child will be cared for and the child must comply, willingly or unwillingly.

In contrast eldercare is sad, unpredictable, and rarely, if ever, fully controlled by you. Let’s briefly look at each aspect of this comparison.

Sad

Even at its most difficult, caring for a child always involves the possibilities of the future. Caring for an aging or sick adult is about loss. Loss of the vibrant person. Loss of their pain-free existence and control over even the most mundane activities of life. And, ultimately, death. Because the work+life fit equation is based on time and energy, the pervasive sadness of eldercare is an energy drain that doesn’t exist with child care.

Unpredictable

Yes, my children will unexpectedly wake up sick and not be able to go school, we’ll have a snow day, or my nanny will be running late. But for the most part, things are pretty predictable. Not so with eldercare.

While every child is unique, there is a general developmental curve they will follow. With eldercare, there is no such curve. Every adult’s medical, family, financial, emotional, and community circumstance is completely unique. And there is a shocking lack of affordable care. For the most part, unless you are very poor, very wealthy, or have excellent long-term health care, you are on your own. In fact, I don’t think most people, or employers, have any idea just how on your own you will be when dealing with eldercare.

In our case, my mom was single so my sisters and I were her primary caregivers. Thankfully, she had a wonderful community of friends and enough resources to support the care she required. But even so, we had to provide a tremendous amount of care, because there are many things you still have to and want to do yourself. And, both my sisters and I had a great deal of job flexibility. We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t.

Even with the flexibility that comes from working for myself, trying to plan my work around my mom’s care was almost impossible. I just had to take my best guess, and my best guess wasn’t always accurate. I probably should have said “no” more than I did, but I just wasn’t sure what my capacity would be. (Success Blog posting).

As I recently explained to a friend, it was like holding my breath for the last 18 months, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it always did at the busiest time for work. Toward the end, when the level of unpredictability accelerated, I began to understand why people would be forced to give up working. The ability to plan anything beyond just making sure your loved one has what they need is almost impossible.

Not Being Fully in Control

Now perhaps I was naïve, but I failed to consider the fact that my mother would have very strong ideas about how, when, and where she would be cared for. Very often those ideas didn’t coordinate with what my sisters and I thought would be best for her and, perhaps, most convenient for us and our work+life fit realities.

It was just one more unique element of eldercare that often added more time, more worry, and more stress to the equation than anything I’d experienced with child care.

As much as I consider my children’s wishes and well-being, their father and I have the last word. When your parent is mentally lucid which my mom was until three days before she died, your ability to dictate the details of care are very limited. In fact, we came up with a mantra, “hey, it’s her journey,” just to help us not worry as much when we disagreed with her choices, which was often. But they were her choices.

I look forward to using my 18 months in the trenches learning first-hand about the unique challenges of eldercare. As a school psychologist who dedicated her life to helping others, my mom would have wanted that. And now, as she would say, “I’d love to hear what your experience has been.” Let me know. And it’s great to be back!