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.


NYTimes: Remote Work is Here to Stay, Employers Lean In

NYT opinion writer Jessica Grose penned an outstanding piece, “Remote Work is Here to Stay. Lean In, Employers.” this past weekend following the release of a new working paper — The Covid-19 Baby Bump – from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper suggested remote work was among the factors that resulted in the first major reversal in U.S. fertility rates in more than a decade because it reduced the opportunity costs (or “what’s given up”) of childbearing for some employees.

Jessica, who also writes the NYT’s On Parenting newsletter, noted some of my thoughts in her piece including one factor not mentioned in the NBER paper that I believe had an impact as well. “The partners of prospective mothers also, in many cases, had the same access to remote work and flexibility, which is further opportunity cost reduction on mothers because they don’t have to shoulder the burden alone.”

As Jessica wrote, “When you can work remotely or more flexibly, the frantic (working parent) dash disappears” and “a million other little pressures (are) relieved.” She cited Future Forum’s latest Pulse Survey which that found 83% of working moms now want location flexibility” and half of the working dads asked “want to work remotely 3 to 5 days a week.”
Yet, the demands to return to office in the name of face time persist. My response, “The complaints that remote work destroys company culture and prevents mentorship directly relate to the fact that the pandemic shift to remote work was crisis-driven and not a thoughtful, intentional implementation.

“A well-executed flexible work strategy addresses upfront, ‘what do we need to do to build culture and mentor talent?’ then determines ‘how, when and where do we do that best based on the realities of our jobs and lives?’ That’s not left to chance.”

It becomes part of a culture where flexibility is “the way we operate.” This is the next evolution of work that all organizations need undertake to attract and retain talent at every age and stage of life, including parents. Define your what. Your why. Your purpose.

As I wrote in a piece for Medium two years ago, “Operating shifts that keep parents in the workforce improve work life for all. The same planning, coordination and support to help parents can help all employees find a better fit between their jobs and the other parts of their lives in the near term, while informing the way work looks long term.”

Until next time, keep reimagining work… and life.


“What keeps you up at night?” My interview on UC Berkeley Extension’s The Future of Work podcast

“What keeps you up at night?”  That’s one of the thought-provoking questions the host of UC Berkeley Extension’s The Future of Work podcast, Jill Finlayson, asked during my recent appearance. Finlayson is also the Director of EDGE (Expanding Diversity and Gender Equity) in Tech Initiative at UC, and the monthly podcast she hosts focuses on the changing evolution of the workforce and the skills needed to stay competitive.

In this episode, The Humanizing of Flexible Work, we discuss the costs and benefits of flexibility, the impacts as more employees work a hybrid schedule, and who might get left behind or forgotten.

But we started our conversation with a question I’ve never been asked before: what keeps me up at night?

First, I am constantly thinking about how can I share with organizations, leaders, and individual employees what I’ve learned over nearly three decades actually transforming work so they don’t feel so overwhelmed. There is a proven path. How can I help them be as excited as I am about the possibilities of a well-executed flexible work strategy? I’ve seen the results and benefits that I call “the spark.”

Second, I still don’t think leaders truly understand that we’re not going back to the old ways of working. Without senior leader buy-in and sponsorship, a broad flexible reimagining of work is much more difficult.

And third, we are still too hyper-focused on where we work. Instead of leading with the work – purpose, values, and also job tasks – and THEN, determining together not just where, but how and when that work is done best.

It’s not that where doesn’t matter. It’s just not the most effective place to start. For example, what leads to a better outcome–setting “anchor days” and then figuring out what you’re going to do on those days onsite together, or looking first at what you need to do and then deciding if anchor days make sense and, if they do, what would the best anchor day or days be?

Yes, change is scary.  But I’ve seen what happens when work is the focal point. You start to ask “How can we do this better?  How can we do this more effectively?” That’s innovation in action.

Take the best of how we worked during the pandemic, and add back what was missing. That’s how you move forward to the best of what’s next and unlock new levels of performance and well-being.

But it requires a consistent process to guide that decision-making and a new set of skills for both leaders and employees. It also requires us to expand beyond hybrid and remote work, which are just two possible ways to work flexibly, and exclude nearly half of the workforce that needs to be onsite for their jobs. To fully seize the beneficial outcomes of high performance flexibility, organizations need to consider the full continuum of how, when, and where work can be done across the entire talent base.

We discuss this and much more, including my look ahead at how, when, and where I believe we’ll be working 10 to 25 years from now. Listen to the full episode.


Moving Past the Office Occupancy Scorecard

While there may have been a Labor Day bump in return to office occupancy, rates have remained steady, and a variety of data indicate “where” we work patterns appear to be stabilizing somewhat. Hopefully, we can now move beyond RTO/hybrid limbo and start to answer these important questions:

  • How are team-based decisions about “where” people will work best being made?
  • Is the work (what we need to do) or the where/location leading these decisions?
  • Do these decisions reflect the core values of the organization? (Read last week’s newsletter on why this matters.)
  • When (hours) are employees working?
  • How are they using technology to enable efficient communication, coordination and collaboration while working flexibly?
  • And, have processes, such as meetings, scheduling and onboarding, been reimagined and updated to support, or be supported by, new work patterns?
  • Do managers and teams have the skills and tools needed to flexibly work with strategic, coordinated intention?
  • Do individuals have the skills and tools they need to flexibly fit their work and life together in a way that considers their needs and the needs of the business?

“The office” is a location. It’s ONE enabler of work, and will continue to play an important, albeit reimagined, role, but it’s not the work itself.

 

Optimizing flexibility to achieve high levels of performance and well-being requires three stages that leaders, managers, and employees need to be trained to execute:

Stage 1 – Define: Use of a CONSISTENT PROCESS (not a policy) to define the unique “how, when, and where” guardrails within which the organization as a whole and individual teams will operate based on the work that needs to get done.

Stage 2 – Operate: Actively plan and coordinate the work, day-to-day, within those flexible operating guardrails.

Stage 3 – Review and Recalibrate: Evolve the guardrails and flexible way of operating as realities and needs change. Because flexibility is never “done.” It’s a continuous loop of improvement and innovation.

More on the role of the office and occupancy rates

Just as work has as fundamentally changed since the start of the pandemic, so has the role of the office. This was a topic I explored with Ryan Anderson, VP Global Research and Insights at MillerKnoll on a recent “Looking Forward” podcast episode (link includes audio and transcript links). Give it a listen or a read if you haven’t yet.

Understandably so, there’s a lot of interest in office occupancy data. But we must remember, pre-pandemic office occupancy was not 100%. Check out my twitter feed for this interesting exchange as Nick Bloom and I try to understand the 100% occupancy on the ‘Y” axis of the often-cited Kastle occupancy barometer:

Our Flex+Strategy Group research found that as far back as nearly a decade ago, one-third of full-time U.S. employees did most of their work from a remote location other than their employers’ office. This aligns with average pre-COVID occupancy rates that ranged between 60%-70% (we have confirmed this pre-pandemic rate with reputable commercial real estate sources).

While occupancy data is important and helpful, if organizations continue to look to it as a scorecard of who’s winning and losing the RTO tug of war, they’ll remain stuck where they are – trying to force an outdated work style that was disappearing even before the pandemic and is no longer valued or understood by most employees.

Hopefully, now that there’s more clarity about the “where” we work, we can focus on:

  • What it will take to work (and live) across workplaces, space AND time successfully and flexibly, and
  • How to make it a win for the business and employees?

The good news is there is answer, and it lies beyond “where.”


In the Boardroom and Why Values are Foundational to High Performance Flexibility

Produced by BDO’s Center for Corporate Governance, BDO in the Boardroom is a podcast for board of directors and those charged with governance. I joined Amy Rojik, Managing Partner, Corporate Governance, on a recent episode to address whether today’s directors truly comprehend the new reality of work and how it’s fundamentally changed.

We discussed why the successful execution of high performance flexibility requires full C-suite participation, organization-wide training, and a willingness to experiment. I shared how the boards and leadership teams that have instilled a strong set of core values and a culture of innovation have more success evolving and optimizing the flexible way their organization operates. 
 
When organizations align their work with their values and live those values, they’re leading with what they need to do. They lead with the work first and in service of the work, then they determine how, when, and where they do that best. Using your office building is not a value, but it can certainly enable connection and culture – those are values. (Yep — Return to office mandates, I’m talking to you.)
 
Whether it’s supporting colleagues or serving customers or communities, when work and values align, that’s what increases productivity and moves organizations forward.
 
Listen to the full BDO In the Boardroom episode. And for a refresher and further insights into why flexibility matters to corporate boards and governance execs, look to my July 26 newsletter on the topic.
 
A bit about my relationship with BDO. The professional services firm is a long-term Flex+Strategy Group client. High performance flexibility serves as a critical business driver for the firm, which continues to take its flexible work strategy to the next level as an integral part of its culture and operations.  
 
“Together, We Thrive” was the theme of their recent partner meeting where I gave a keynote that included stories and insights from the three partners — Meredith Pilaro, Ayoub Sunna, and Daniel Kramer — who champion the national effort. (That’s us illuminated by the backstage lights after we presented.)

The keynote served as a force multiplier kick-off. The goal was to ensure the firm’s 800 partners are poised to lead from a shared understanding and consistent approach as they continue to optimize how, when, and where their offices and teams are working to meet emerging employee and client needs.

This leveling-up execution includes the launch of a new Flex Success training series to provide professionals at all levels the skills and tools to partner with each other to define and execute the flexibility that will work for the unique needs of the firm and its employees. 
 
What is your organization doing to involve, engage and prepare every level for flex success and how can we help? Let me know.


Why Flexibility Matters to Corporate Boards and Governance Execs

As oversight of talent and human capital issues become front and center for corporate boards, I joined KPMG Board Leadership Center’s (BLC) Spring Directors Roundtable as a panelist for a discussion about “What workers want – Understanding the new employee/employer dynamic.” We explored the factors driving employees’ needs and expectations—from personal well-being and work-life fit to alignment with the company’s purpose.

Moderated by KMPG BLC Senior Advisor Stephen L. Brown, the panel also included Columbia Business School’s Todd Jick. Todd is the Reuben Mark Faculty Director of Organizational Character and Leadership and a former independent director of Claire’s Stores, Inc. Our other panelist was Eskalera co-founder and CEO Dane E. Holmes, who is also an independent director of KKR & Co., Inc. and Goldman Sachs’ former global head of human capital management.


We all agreed regardless of how directors structure their oversight of human capital management and talent strategy, it should be part of every board discussion. And as I noted, that includes work flexibility.

When people say, “I want flexibility,” they really want to be able to have some control over how, when, and where they’re going to do their jobs best. That means flexibility is not an HR policy or program that sits outside of the business. But unfortunately, that’s why a lot of organizations are stuck.

Why does this matter now and going forward? Because institutional investors and regulators are increasingly focused on ESG and human-capital metrics, all of which are directly impacted in some way by flexibility in how, when, and where we work.

Read more about our Spring Directors Roundtable in this Insight recap that was published in the July edition of KMPG’s Directors Quarterly publication and is also available at the KMPG Board Leadership Center. Additionally, you can watch webcast replay of the full Roundtable.

Flexibility was also on the agenda at the recent Society for Corporate Governance National Conference where I was a panelist for the general session, “The Modern Workplace” along with Randy Clark, CAO of Sempra Infrastructure, Geralyn Ritter, Head of External Affairs and ESG at Organon, and Adam Kokas, EVP and General Counsel of Atlas Air. We all agreed whether it’s cybersecurity to DEI to pending SEC rules regarding human capital metrics, the flexibility at the core of the modern workplace impacts a variety of management and corporate governance issues.

Lastly, the update of a popular corporate finance textbook reinforces the role strategies such as work flexibility will play in the operational, cultural, and financial success of organizations. The 14th edition of Principles of Corporate Finance (Brealey, Myers, Allen, Edmans) was released earlier this month.

Read more of my thoughts about this.

The days of flexibility as the sole responsibility of HR and thought of as nothing more than an employee perk or policy are long gone. If flexibility isn’t an all-C-suites hands-on-deck issue at your organization, you’re at risk.


Learn to Be More Flexible When $h*t Happens

Recently, I was on the Flip the Tortilla podcast with the impressive Denice Torres, and I loved our fun and insightful conversation so much that I wanted to share some highlights with you!Denice is a former Fortune 500 executive turned entrepreneur and board member.  During her time at Johnson & Johnson, she rose through the ranks to serve as President and Chief Strategy Officer, and is known for leading one of the most successful turnarounds in the company’s history.  Her podcast is thoughtfully described as, “for the underdog at heart and is about rising up, breaking through, and finding a way to achieve your most audacious goals.” The last few years have truly tested us all, and we talked about ways to better adapt to the unpredictable changes and challenges that surround us, not just in work but in our everyday lives. At the beginning of the pandemic we were all under extraordinary stress working from home, perhaps caring for and helping school children all while trying to keep up with the demands of our job. We had no choice. We had to adapt.  But, what does it mean to be adaptable?  It’s more than just a process or skills and tools, it’s a mindset.  There is a science behind the whole concept of flexibility. At the start of the pandemic, we had to be flexible. Now, as we move forward to what’s next, there is a choice.  A choice to be intentional and strategic with the way we operate our business, perform our work and manage our day-to-day lives…or not.   The companies that had already reimagined how, when and where they worked before the pandemic had the technology and communication guardrails in place that made the transition to 100% remote, as a Senior Leader we worked with said in a one-word email: “SEAMLESS”. I know what the exciting possibilities on the other side of this crisis-driven disruption can look like. I’ve seen the innovation. The engagement. The productivity. The collaboration, and the general sense of happiness and well-being.  That “spark” is what keeps me so passionate and fuels my SPARK for this work after more than two decades.  It’s what I want for every organization and every individual going forward.  I encourage you to listen and learn how to be more adaptable and intentional about work, life and leadership when as Torres say, “$h*t Happens.”Also this past week, I had the opportunity to keynote IN PERSON at the Foundation Financial Officers Group (FFOG) conference in Philadelphia!Like so many leaders, financial executives are having to navigate the “next” of work in ways simply unimaginable two years ago. It was rewarding to draw upon two-decades of experience guiding flexible work transformation to simplify the complexity and help leaders feel more confident to take action knowing,”okay, there’s a path.”Is your organization grappling with how to navigate uncharted waters?  Let’s connect on how I can help you and your team today.  Simply reach out to my colleague, Alison Batten at alison@flexstrategygroup.com today (pictured with me at the FFOG conference!) to help us customize a program for you.


What’s driving the four-day work week movement?

What’s driving the most recent global demand for four-day work weeks (a concept that seems to resurface every couple of years)? I explained in an NBC Nightly News story that aired while I was on vacation, and before four-day work week legislation was introduced in California.

First, there’s the “cry for better boundaries” around work hours that’s only been exacerbated by the pandemic, which eliminated for many any remaining physical boundary between work and life.

Then there’s the documented performance improvements. The two companies NBC profiled have had great success with the shorter work week with one CEO saying the change, “helped boost morale and the company’s bottom line.” It’s noteworthy they are smaller companies which is where four-day work weeks have historically had the most success.

Both of the companies – one an online clothing retailer and the other an RV manufacturer – not only reduced the days worked, but also the hours. Each moved to a 32-hour work week. NBC also reported “a years long trial in Iceland was so successful that now 86% of its workforce is on track to work fewer hours after finding productivity remains the same or improved.”

But, to me, the real story isn’t about working fewer hours or fewer days. It’s about a broader reimagining how, when and where your organization operates given the unique needs of your business, job and clients served. At the end of the NBC segment, they shared key points I had emphasized when they interviewed me, “Some experts caution – no one-size-fits all. It depends on the kind of job you have, the type of equipment involved and your customers calendars.”

The four-day work week is a form of time, or WHEN, flexibility that may work for some organizations and jobs but not others. Remote and hybrid work are about WHERE work is done and are feasible in some instances but not others.  It depends.  As much as Iceland, and now California may push for broad, one-size-fits-all adoption, history and experience show it’s not that cut and dry.

To determine what’s best for your organization and your team, always start by asking, “WHAT work do we need to get done” and then HOW, WHEN, and WHERE can we do it best.

“These experiments with a four-day work week deserve headlines for their innovation and impact. Such changes or pilots acknowledge what many feel –  the traditional model of work is, at least, outdated and at worst, broken.”

That’s what I said in a November 2019 LinkedIn post ,“Beyond 4-Day Work Weeks and 5-Hour Work Days”, the last time four-day workweeks made headlines. That was also pre-pandemic! As you’ll learn while reading the post, most of what I wrote then is even more relevant now.  And it will be interesting to see if this time four-day work weeks gain meaningful traction and staying power.

The pandemic accelerated the trend toward greater work flexibility that was already well underway for years. Work has fundamentally changed. Now, people know they can do their jobs differently and effectively. Flexibility across workplaces, spaces and time is both an expectation and a need.

The challenge now is also the opportunity. How will your organization execute its unique flexible “next” of work with strategic intention that benefits both the business and people?

Learn how you can help identify and close any gaps by trying the Flex+Strategy Group’s High Performance Flexibility Assessment. I encourage you and your fellow leaders to complete together to see where you are on the same page and where you are not.  I can’t wait to hear what you find!


Top 2022 Flexible Work Resolutions for Leaders

Welcome to 2022!  The year I believe leaders, line managers, teams and individual employees have the opportunity to come together and ask:

  • “What’s best about the way we worked then, pre-pandemic?”
  • “What’s best about the way we’ve been working now?”
  • “What’s the best way we can work next?”

Then execute that vision of high performance flexibility in a culture of trust and shared leadership.

As those of you who follow our work know, not only is it possible, but we’ve helped make it happen many times, before COVID and over the past almost two years since the pandemic began.

In the new year, we are excited to help others do the same by simplifying the system of change and accelerating the learning curve to achieve strategic, flexible work success!

To get the process started, here are my Top 2022 Flexible Work Resolutions for Leaders:

1. Remember Flexibility is Not New, Just Scaled. 2022 will likely be the year we move beyond crisis-driven flexibility to optimize where, when and how organizations operate going forward.  The good news is there’s a roadmap to follow, because high performance flexibility is not new.  Leaders and organizations, before and during the pandemic, have reimagined the way their organizations and people can operate. To simplify and accelerate your organization’s transformation process, look to their path for guidance. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

2. Flexibility Must Work for People and the Business. Flexibility is NOT a one-size-fits-all policy, program or initiative. High performance flexibility is a process-based way of operating.  It involves the way people plan, coordinate and execute the delivery of goods and services, while managing their lives.  That requires giving teams and individual employees the trust and freedom to answer the question “What do WE need to do, and where, when and how do WE do it best?” guided by flexible work guardrails they’ve set together.

3. It’s Not Just WHERE We Work, but HOW and WHEN.  If high performance flexibility is a digitally-enabled way of operating across workplaces, spaces and time, then 2022 is the year we need to move beyond “hybrid” to describe the model we are trying to achieve. The pandemic taught us work is not organized around “where we go,” but “what we do.” Once the “what” is defined, then “where, when and how do we do that work best” naturally follows. While “place” is still an important enabler of work, “hybrid” is too place-based. A flexible operating model also encompasses HOW we use technology to communicate and collaborate, WHEN we work and the pace at which we perform.  It’s not just where, but also when and how.

4. Give Managers, Teams AND People the Skills and Tools to Optimize Flexibility.  Gaps emerged during the pandemic—people reported they “love the flexibility” but “struggle with boundaries around their work and life.” Employees say their productivity has been the “same or higher” while managers aren’t so sure.  Not surprising because flexibility was executed, practically overnight, in response to a crisis.  There was no time to plan or introduce the skills and tools leaders, teams and individuals needed to efficiently and effectively execute work, and manage life, in a flexible, dynamic way. Train managers, teams and individuals and let them actively experiment with the new skills and tools they need to succeed working flexibly.

5.  Align Leadership Behind “What is High Performance Flexibility and Why It Matters” Then Cascade. To achieve the other four Flexible Work Resolutions in 2022, leadership at all levels must first be able to answer these three questions: What is high performance flexibility in our organization? What does it look like in action?  Why does it matter?  Then ensure the “what” and “why” they define doesn’t get stuck at the top. Cascade it throughout the organization so everyone is aligned–managers, teams and individuals—as they reimagine and optimize how, when and where they work in 2022.


Coronavirus Could Change How, When and Where We Work

This week, the coronavirus (or COVID-19) took a more serious turn in the U.S. with warnings that it could very well impact how, when, and where we work:

“Disruption to everyday life may be severe,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned at a news conference Tuesday. “Schools could be closed, mass public gatherings suspended, and businesses forced to have employees work remotely.”

The global spread of the virus may be a moment that reveals whether employers are ready to respond rapidly to unexpected workplace changes. Business travel could decrease or come to a full stop. More employees may need to work outside of local “business hours” and use video conferencing to operate across time zones. And, if it gets bad enough, many could indeed be asked, or request, to work remotely.

Are organizations ready? Chances are probably not. And, for those open to rethinking how the work would get done, are they ready for the inevitable post-crisis question, “Why don’t we do this all the time?”

How do you prepare your organization to not only flexibly respond to this potential disruption but also to use it as an opportunity to re-imagine work broadly?

Here are five steps to get started: 

  • Acknowledge the possibility that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely. Hoping and praying it doesn’t happen, or simply ignoring it, is not a strategy. Neither is handing everyone a laptop and saying “go work someplace else” on the day they expand wide-scale quarantines. Plan as if the only way to remain operational will be for as many employees as possible to work remotely. Gather a cross-functional team together now that includes business line leaders, IT, HR, Communications, and Facilities to start to plan for different scenarios and optimize execution should circumstances require a rapid response.
  • Map out jobs and tasks that could be affected. Note which roles and duties: 1) Can be done, even partially, without a physical presence in the workplace, 2) Cannot be done, even somewhat, outside of the physical office and 3) Not sure. Challenge any potentially inaccurate default assumptions about specific jobs you may have thought couldn’t be done remotely. And for those in the “not sure” column, be willing to experiment. For example, for years, I’ve been told, “administrative assistants can’t work flexibly.” And, for years, I’ve worked with teams of administrative assistants to prove that is not true. Yes, certain tasks they complete require physical presence, but those can be planned for. The majority of their tasks can happen effectively outside of the traditional model of work AND benefit the business.
  • Audit available IT hardware and software and close any gaps in access and adoption.  Assess the comfort level with using specific applications, such as video conferencing and other collaboration/communication platforms. Where you find gaps, provide training and opportunities for practice before people need to use them. Real-time mastery is not optimal and is inefficient. Identify devices owned by the organization that people could use and clarify acceptable “bring your own” phone and laptop options. Determine if there are any data security issues to consider and how best to address them beforehand.
  • Set up a communications protocol in advance that outlines: how to reach everybody (e.g., all contact information in one place, primary communication channels clarified—email, IM, Slack, etc.); how employees are expected to respond to customers; and how and when teams will coordinate and meet.  
  • Identify ways to measure performance during a flexible response to the coronavirus that could inform broader change. After the flexible response period is over, this data will allow you to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and why. The data will also prepare you in advance to answer the inevitable question once the crisis has passed, “Why don’t we do this all the time?” Depending upon the outcomes, you may decide to continue certain aspects of the flexible response permanently. For example, perhaps you cut business travel by 25% and substituted video conferencing. You determine afterward that about 80% of those meetings were equally as effective virtually. Therefore, a 20% decrease in business travel will continue, but this time as part of the organization’s sustainability strategy to cut carbon emissions.   

An unpredictable challenge like the coronavirus can be disruptive and confusing; however, it’s also an opportunity to proactively experiment with new ways of working. This can ultimately position the organization for future success after the crisis is over. Approach the experience as an opportunity to re-imagine how, when, and where work can be done differently. Something every organization should be doing anyway.

And if you plan and nothing happens? Then, at minimum, you have an organized, flexible work disaster response ready the next time there’s a challenge to operational continuity, which chances are, there will be!

Does your organization have a strategic response ready to implement? If yes, what does that plan entail? If not, why?