The Quiet Workplace Guide: Beyond the buzzwords of the day

If you haven’t been following the excellent workplace and future of work coverage from Digiday Media’s WorkLife, I recommend you dive into their recent Quiet Workplace Guide. The series examines why leaders need to look beyond the headlines and buzzwords of the day to the deeper human and organizational challenges beneath them in order to lead happy, successful and productive workforces.

I spoke with Managing Editor Jessica Davies for the article “Inside the Quiet Workplace phenomenon: What leaders need to know,” and shared what organizations need to do “to stay ahead of the employee disengagement trend and ensure it doesn’t spread further.”

We discussed how “the pandemic accelerated people-related challenges that were always there but can no longer be ignored in a talent shortage that isn’t going to change even with a recession. And in a work reality that has been fundamentally transformed, people don’t necessarily want to work the way they worked before.

“But they want to be invited into the thinking about the way an organization is going to operate going forward. And until we do that people are going to quiet quit and managers are not going to be able to get the most out of their workforce.”

Employees need to be part of the process on the front side, as leaders and teams first ask, “What we need to get done (and why)” and then together re-imagine the how, when and where work happens best.

I explained, “What we’ve experienced is a crisis-driven suboptimal execution of flexibility,” including remote/hybrid work models, which continue to be a struggle for so many organizations. Some of the problems I outlined included not consistently adopting technology for efficient communication, collaboration and coordination across different workplaces, as well as the fact that most have not figured out what we’re doing when we do come together in person.

The article also included data and perspectives from Dr. Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace and well-being at Gallup; Peter Capelli, professor of management at the Wharton School; and Sarah Robb O’Hagan, CEO of corporate well-being consultancy Exos and a former Fortune 50 C-suite executive.

Read the full article here.

Here’s how we can build on the milestones noted in the article and take work flexibility to the next level in 2023:

Excellent overview of the current state of hybrid work in 2022 by Sarah Green Carmichael.

Here’s how we can build on the milestones noted in the article and take work flexibility to the next level in 2023:

2022: Hybrid work is the norm.

2023: Expand beyond the duality (onsite or home) of “hybrid.” Optimize working flexibly within a broader range of place (onsite at the office, onsite at a co-working space, onsite with a client, home, etc.), space and time parameters that encompass all workers, not just those who can do aspects of their jobs from home.

2022: Manager and employee expectations of days in the office misalign by one day, and bosses have only so much power.2023: Managers and employees partner in a culture of shared leadership. They define together what their priorities are and where, when and how those priorities happen best. They then operate within those mutually agreed guardrails.

2022: Managers “gradually” got comfortable with managing and evaluating employees they don’t see every day.
2023: Accelerate, prioritize and scale the training of managers to effectively build and lead flexible work teams (nipping proximity bias in the bud) AND train employees to play their role in day-to-day flexible work success. Managers can’t do this alone.

2022: Surprise that managers are comfortable allowing remote work on four or more contiguous days.
2023: Limit “surprise” by having managers and their direct reports follow a consistent process to identify the priorities of the team and define where, when and how those priorities are accomplished best. Then there is a rationale behind the outcome (truth is in 2022 most decisions about where and when people work were pretty random and uncoordinated).

2022: One-size-fits-all arrangements don’t work.
2023: Approach flexibility as an intentional, dynamic way of operating–planning, coordinating and executing work–across workplaces, spaces and time, not as an arrangement. What that looks like will be determined by the unique realities of a business and its people.

2022: Long commutes are an obstacle to in-person work, especially for cities.
2023: Government (federal, state, local city and surrounding suburbs), transit, business and real estate leadership join forces to urgently reimagine how cities thrive in the flexible next of work.

2022: Hybrid is more than a schedule and more than just showing up.
2023: Embrace the opportunity to define how your organization will achieve its purpose, live its values, and execute its strategic priorities in a digitally-enabled flexible work reality that’s here to stay.

That’s what has to happen next in 2023 and the good news is…it’s already happening!

#workflexibility #hybridwork #performance #remotework #leadership #futureofwork #flexiblework #innovation #wfh

Tis the Season to Celebrate, Reflect…and Take Time Off

For me, the year-end holidays are a time to celebrate and reflect.

Celebrate professional and personal successes: what you did get done, not what you didn’t; progress, not perfection (still my favorite insights from the work+life fit naturals I studied when writing Tweak It).

And reflect on some of the most important lessons learned, one of which was the need for a true, meaningful, restorative break from work.

As I shared earlier this year when I returned from visiting our daughter who was studying in the U.K., “after (working) two nonstop years, I was ready for a vacation and took two weeks off.” It was, “Just what my heart and soul needed and was the first time I’d taken such a long, mostly work-free break since I’d worked for a bank in the early 1990s.”

Sadly, I am not alone in not taking regular vacations, and I work for myself!  The U.S. ranks as one of the worst countries for offering paid vacation days and paid leave. And, even before the pandemic completely erased the boundaries between work and life, Americans were leaving a record number of vacation days unused.

During the past few years, various studies found that between nearly a third and more than half of us didn’t use all our vacation time.  At the end of 2021, employees on average had 9.5 unused vacation days left, according to Qualtrics. I used to be one of those people.

As I wrote following my vacation, “I’d forgotten how it takes a full week to decompress which then allows you to really relax and enjoy your time away the second week. I will do my best not to forget again and make two-week breaks a priority every year, not just for me but for our entire team.”

Time off is of value not just to the individual, but to colleagues and the organization as well. I came back from that vacation chomping at the bit to dive back into the work I love, and it felt great.

I’ve written previously about how employers can Unlock the Strategic Power of Vacation.

Among my tips:

  • Position vacation/PTO as a form of work flexibility an employee can actively use to fit their work and life together.
  • Regularly prompt employees to plan and coordinate their vacation/PTO. I suggest sending a reminder quarterly.
  • Celebrate vacations and show that your organization values time off and meaningful breaks, seeing them as both a gain for the employee and the organization. 

So I and everyone who is part of the FSG family will walk our talk this holiday season.  From Friday, December 23rd until Monday, January, 2nd, we will be closed to celebrate, reflect…rest, and restore.

And in the new year, whether it’s a vacation with travel or just a few hours outside, “Deliberate breaks. Rest. Changes in perspective.  All need to be a part of our work+life fit.” Hopefully, it will be part of yours as well.


Download the  TWEAK IT PRACTICE™ tool to….

  • “Tweak”
    • What do I need to do?
    • Small, meaningful action or priority
  • Work and Personal
  • Standard (Habit) and Unique (Moment) Tweaks
  • Plan, coordinate and execute your work and personal priorities WITHIN team ”how, when and where” flexibility guardrails

Tweak it Practice:

  • Set up
    • Work and Personal Calendar
    • Weekly Practice (Correspond to Priority-Setting/Update Check ins)
  • Weekly Practice
    • Step 1: Look Back: Did you do what you planned? Celebrate Success and Progress, not Perfection! 
    • Step 2: Look forward: Identify Tweaks of the Week or “What do I need/want to do?” 
    • Step 3: Plan “When, Where, How” WITHIN team guardrails
    • Step 4: Add to Calendar



  • Time for focused work
  • Check in at start and end of day with overseas colleagues
  • Coffee/lunch/dinner (virtual or in person) with a colleague or team
  • Plan two 15-minute exercise “snacks” a day
  • Dinner with your partner or a friend/Put your child to bed


  • Participate in partner meeting with client 
  • Sign up for technical training session 
  • Plan colleague’s birthday celebration
  • Get a massage

Tips to Manage Accessibility and Responsiveness at Work

From the extremes of Millennial/Gen-Z #hustle culture to the pending “Right to Disconnect” legislation in New York City, we continue to grapple with how to set better boundaries around, and within, our jobs. 

Clocks and walls no longer tell us where work ends, and the other parts of life begin. Back in the day, we didn’t need to be intentional about communicating how, when, and where we worked. Being in the office nine-to-five, Monday-Friday, was the general rule-of-thumb most followed. Not anymore.  Now, it’s potentially 24/7, work anytime and anywhere. 

That’s why employees, teams, and supervisors need to master a new set of skills and tools that support the ongoing clarification of expectations related to accessibility and responsiveness. The solution isn’t one-size-fits-all. It will vary by circumstance and person. 

Here are three get-started tips that can help colleagues, clients, and others connect while carving out space for focused work and managing personal well-being. 

Go Beyond the Typical “Out of the Office” Auto-Reply

We have so many ways to communicate—email, instant message, text, mobile phone, Slack notifications, etc.  Let’s start with email since, according to our research, it remains the primary communication tool for the majority of full-time employees. 

Most people consistently set an auto-reply message when they are out of the office (OOO). That autoresponder usually includes information about when the person will return and who to contact for a more rapid response. But, this typical “OOO” doesn’t adequately convey the more nuanced information required to manage accessibility expectations in a flexible work culture. 

Consider more specific, instructive email auto-replies such as: 

  • “Working Remotely – I will respond to your message as soon as I can. Please call or text me at 333-333-3333 if you require more immediate assistance.” The need for this type of auto-response depends upon your work environment. In practice, working remotely should make no difference in how or when you respond making this auto-reply unnecessary. However, if people still don’t quite get that remote working means you are working, it limits some of the possible doubt that can slip in when you aren’t in the office and don’t respond immediately. 
  • “Focused Working – I am working but only checking email periodically. I can be reached by mobile or text 333-333-3333. Otherwise, I will respond as soon as I can.”
  • “Traveling – I am traveling and will not be reachable until ‘X’. I will respond as soon as I can. Please contact _____ for more immediate assistance.” Yes, you are out of the office, but you are working so expect a reply when you are accessible again. 
  • “PTO – I will be out of the office on PTO (you don’t need to say sick or on vacation) and will respond when I get back to the office. Please contact______ for more immediate assistance.” You are not in the office, and you are not available. That doesn’t mean you aren’t checking messages, but you’ve set a clear expectation you are not going to reply. This is an important boundary if you are truly going to disconnect when you are on vacation or are sick, which, according to a recent New York Times article is a challenge. 

Here’s an example of a creative “OOO” response from a New York Magazine feature on Krista Tippett, the host of the popular NPR radio show/podcast On Being, “When you email Tippett, you get an auto-reply that says, ‘I’m in year two of my vow to forsake hurry as a way to move through my days.’ She tends to reply the same day, regardless.” As the leader, Tippett can use whatever auto-reply message she wants (I’m curious what other members of her staff do); however, it gets the point across that, while she is still reviewing messages, the response may not be immediate.

Need some help composing more nuanced and informative email auto-replies? You can find inspiration from the Slack app’s varied status options:

Check in frequently and recalibrate

During an accessibility and responsiveness exercise we facilitated with a team, an employee asked, “If I choose to bring a company laptop home to catch up on work, am I expected to respond to a customer email that I receive after hours?” The answer from the group was “Yes, sometimes you do.” In this group’s particular business and for this exempt worker, sometimes there are projects and issues that require work outside of the traditional business day. In those cases, yes, you would have to respond after hours. But when those projects are completed and it’s back to business as usual, then no.

The choice comes down to professional judgment; however, sometimes it’s difficult for employees to know when they can or must modify their level of accessibility and responsiveness. Leaders should check in and make sure their boundaries match the task at hand.  

The biggest mistake I see leaders make is they think, “Oh, they know.” Assume they don’t and check-in, especially when you notice levels of after-hours communications that aren’t required to get the job done effectively. For those who think it’s more convenient to send or respond to non-urgent work-related communications in the morning, at night or on the weekends, encourage the use of the “Send Later” function in email or make it clear you don’t expect a response to anything not marked “urgent/priority.”

Don’t make immediate response the standard 

Try this thought experiment. Imagine the people you work with are in the office together, at the same time, every day. Are you able to immediately find and get a response from everyone when you reach out? No, you’re not. People are in meetings. They go to the bathroom. They go to lunch. They run an errand. It’s the same when people work flexibly. 

But for some reason, there’s a tendency to make anything less than an immediate response, all the time, a sign of trouble or even abuse. Not only is that unrealistic, but it undermines the trust and shared accountability that is the foundation of flexible work team success.   

For peace of mind that you can reach someone right away if necessary, we encourage teams to create a snapshot of everyone’s mobile phone numbers. One client took it a step further and encouraged everyone to screenshot the grid and keep it on their phones for easy access in one place. 

These are a few basic steps that a team can follow to set better boundaries. By clarifying expectations related to accessibility and responsiveness, you minimize misunderstandings, doubts, stress, and burnout. Jobs in today’s flexible work culture will get done effectively no matter how, when or where people are doing them.

What are some of the ways you and your colleagues set boundaries around, and within, your work? How do you clarify when you can be reached and how rapidly you will respond?

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


Why Work+Life Fit vs. Balance: One Person’s Spot On Perspective

It’s one thing for me to passionately extol the virtues of shifting from work-life “balance” to work+life “fit.”  It’s quite another for someone else to explain why it makes a difference for them.

During a recent Knowledge@Wharton interview on SiriusXM, Morra Aarons-Mele, author of Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Guide to Getting Out There When You’d Really Rather Stay Home, was asked “What most people call work/life balance, you call work/life fit. Explain the difference for us.”  Here’s what she said:

“The term was coined by a mentor of mine, Cali Yost, [CEO and founder of Flex Strategy Group]. I love it because, first of all, work/life balance is a lie. Anyone can tell you that. I don’t like work/life balance for two other reasons. The first is that I think it’s become totally twinned with parenthood and being a working mom, and that is not good for anyone. There are a lot of people who don’t have kids at home and who really crave a life. Let’s be honest: It’s not about having kids.

The other thing is that we want to work in a way that suits us, like we just talked about. You’re on, and then you’re off for a little while. That’s your work-life fit. I have friends, clients, my husband, who love to work all the time. I don’t judge them. That’s their work-life fit. I really love my work, but I need to work in a space that I can control.

I am no good at showing up at an office for 10 hours a day and sitting in an open-plan cubicle. That’s not my thing. I’m bad at it. But give me control over my time and space, and I’m amazing. I think fit is about what works for you, with compromise at the edges, and becoming the best person you can be in your career. It’s so much healthier than balance.”

Spot on, Morra! And thank you for the shout out. 😉

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

Jeff Bezos is Right about Work-Life Balance, But…

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

“Word! Halleluiah! Amen!” That was my reaction when I heard Jeff Bezos dropped an important truth bomb we all needed to hear—“work-life balance” IS indeed a debilitating phrase.

Not necessarily because there is a strict trade-off as Bezos implied, but because balance does not exist! This is an argument I’ve been making for more than 15 years. There is no such thing as balance. For most, balance infers the goal is a 50-50 split between work and the rest of our lives which rarely, if ever, happens. As a result, balance becomes the Holy Grail we never get and leaves us always thinking we need more balance. No, we don’t. We need to fit work and life together in a way that allows us to be our best on and off the job.

Bezos is right. “If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy and if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy.” But where Bezos and I differ is on how to achieve this state of professional and personal well-being.

For Bezos, the answer is a “mesh” between work and life or work-life “harmony.” Work and life are completely integrated into one whole. Work and life are one and the same. But for many, this “integration” is the problem.

What they seek, and what they need, are better boundaries around work and life. More clarity around expectations of accessibility and responsiveness. Less “mesh.”

While Bezos may call his fit a complete “mesh,” even he describes how he sets boundaries and limits his accessibility by “eating with his family, takes a limited number of meetings and sets aside time for tasks such as washing his own dishes.” That’s something we all need to do. We need to encourage employees and colleagues to take control and find their work+life fit (my preferred term) based upon their ever-changing unique realities.

Whether we use fit, balance, harmony, integration or some other term to describe the important goal of intentionally managing work and life, we need to do the following:

  1. Explore the myriad of possibilities for the way work and life can fit together in today’s increasingly flexible workplaces.
  2. Recognize each of us has a completely different set of work and life realities at any given time. No two people are the same.
  3. Reaffirm there is no “right” way to manage work and life; therefore, a one size fits all policy won’t work and we can’t compare ourselves to others.
  4. Integration demands boundaries.
  5. Whatever term we use, remember it’s a verb, not a noun. We have to actively manage how work and life fit together and understand that fit is always changing. Sometimes there’s more work and less life. Sometimes vis versa.

Props, high fives and kudos to Bezos for reinforcing an important truth—there is no such thing as work-life balance—and for being a voice and a champion on this issue rather than leaving it to Human Resources to manage, as so many do.

If more CEOs and business leaders want employees that “come into the office and give everyone a kick in their step,” then we need to make it a strategic priority to help colleagues find and leverage the flexibility inherent in today’s workplaces.

(Check out my LinkedIn Learning course, Finding Work+Life Fit, for an introduction to work+life fit “how-to” basics.)

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

Why I Banished the Phrase “Work-Life Balance”

If you’ve ever set the daunting goal of work-life “balance,” you know it doesn’t exist. It’s not achievable, so working toward it feels exhausting.

I realized that the “B” word wasn’t helpful almost 20 years ago, when I was talking to a senior leader in a large bank. I was trying to convince him he needed to give his people more “balance.” I pulled out all of my research and data. Finally, he stopped me and said, “Every time you say ‘balance,’ all I hear is ‘work less.’ We have so much work to get done, and I can’t agree to any policy that’s going to lead to less work.”

A lightbulb went off for me. I needed to start talking about “fit” — how everyone has a unique work+life fit that allows them to get their jobs done and manage life in a way that works for them. “Fit” allows for personalization, creativity and innovation. It isn’t one-size-fits-all. It helps us move toward a space of potential and possibility that’s exciting.

I recently talked to entrepreneur Morra Aarons-Mele on her podcast “Hiding in the Bathroom,” about what work+life fit means for each of us and how teams can create a flexible culture that works for everyone. Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Why We Need to De-Gender, De-Parent and De-Age the Flexibility Conversation

Say it with me: Work+life fit is not a mommy issue. Unfortunately, the conversation about work, life and flexibility has become all about moms, but it’s not. We all need to know how to intentionally fit our work and life together, to be our best on and off the job. So when we just talk about moms and women, we’re missing out on a huge opportunity to help everyone leverage whatever work flexibility they need to be productive and happy.

Flexibility in the way we work today isn’t about women, it isn’t about parents, and it isn’t just for millennials. I’m thankful that millennials have made flexibility a cultural norm inside organizations, but work+life fit is about everyone — including those valuable, experienced Baby Boomers who might consider sticking around to help with project work instead of retiring if they have the flexibility they’re looking for.

What We Can Learn from Work+Life Fit Naturals

When I was researching my book “Tweak It,” I discovered that a small percentage of people (10-15 percent) are, what I call, work+life fit naturals. They seem, from the outside, to fit all of the parts of their life together without breaking a sweat. I figured their secrets must be very complicated (since I was not, I’ll admit, a work+life fit natural), or we’d all be doing it. But it’s actually pretty simple, and it’s more “intentional” than “natural”.

Here are the steps you can follow to think and behave like a “natural”:

  • Sit down at least once a week and think about the small, meaningful priorities you need to get done at work and in your personal life over the next seven days. Look at what habits (like exercise) and what moments (an important training and your kid’s science fair) you want to fit in.
  • Create a combined calendar where you can see all of those different priorities in one view and schedule your “tweaks” for the week.
  • Consider what resources you’ll need to make your work+life fit tweaks a reality. What flexibility do you need in how, when or where you work? What tools or technology do you need to set up? Who do you need to communicate and collaborate with to make sure everything flows seamlessly? If your flexibility (like coming in late to work on Tuesday or working from home on Friday) will affect someone else, let them know about it so that you can plan together.
  • Will it all happen as perfectly as you plan? Probably not. Things come up. Regardless, at the end of the week, celebrate your success. Work+life fit naturals don’t focus on the goals they didn’t quite reach or the hanging tasks that didn’t get finished. They celebrate the little victories, since they know that doing 60% of what you intentionally planned is better than 0%.

Even though our research shows that 97% of full-time U.S. workers say they have some degree of work+life flexibility and one-third already do most of their work from a remote location — not on their employer’s site — many workers still think “nah, I can’t work differently.” I’ve heard from many, many managers who were shocked when employees quit instead of asking to work remotely or rethink their schedule. My advice: Put together a thoughtful plan. Consider how being flexible in the way you do your job could help you remain productive, manage your life and stick around. If you’re a good performer, you’re going to be even better if you have greater flexibility and control, and managers know that.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you fit work and life together? What tweaks help you be your best, on and off the job? If you’ve joined me in banishing “balance,” what advice do you have for others?

WNYC w/ Manoush Zomorodi: Realities of Achieving Work/Life Balance

Yesterday, I appeared on WNYC with host Manoush Zomorodi, New America’s Anne-Marie Slaughter, and writer Kashana Cauley to discuss work, life and flexibility from multiple perspectives.

The segment is part of a series that I highly recommend called “Taking the Lead” which is currently airing on Zomorodi’s regular WNYC podcast, Note to Self. The series follows the journey of two female entrepreneurs, who are also mothers, as they develop and try to get funding for a new app, Need/Done.

Highlights from yesterday’s Leonard Lopate Show segment include:

1) Why we need to reframe the entire “work and life” discussion/debate from “balance” to work+life “fit” and caregiving, and from an issue for mothers to something we ALL need to manage today.

2) Why the challenges of managing work and life are the same but also different for higher income, white collar workers versus lower income, part-time (not by choice) and shift workers.

3) Public policy changes such as paid leave and child care supports are critical to all caregivers, but employers and individuals can also take steps that will be mutually beneficial.

NYTimes Mag Gets It Right–“Work-Life” a Top Business Trend

This past Sunday, The New York Times Magazine ran a special “Work” issue. One of the articles, “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” , explained why “creating a more flexible office is about much more than policies. It’s about changing the entire culture.”

We’re honored that the article featured our research and the innovative flexible work culture initiatives of two of our clients, BDO USA and CECP.

But, what really matters is that The New York Times got it right: “Work-Life” is a top business trend.

In fact, “WorkLife–Rethinking the office for an always-on economy” headlined the front page of the print version of the magazine (please note all of the fantastic images shared below were created by James Graham for The New York Times).  This alone is huge.

NYTimes 1


But then, in the table of contents, the article in which our work is mentioned–“Rethinking the Work-Life Equation (online title) or “Parent Companies” (in print title)–sits smack dab in the middle of the other key trends covered in the issue.  This placement at the center of “what Google learned about teams,” “the post-cubicle office,” “diversity in the workplace” and “failure to eat lunch” is symbolically appropriate. All of these trends inter-relate and influence how we flexibly fit work and life together to be our best, on and off the job.

NYTimes 2

Next, there are the two pages that kick off the issue.  The first page is a perfect description of today’s complex, flexible work+life fit reality we now need to manage.

NYTimes 3

And the second page simply says it all, clearly and concisely…Work-Life.

NYTimes 4


Finally, the graphic that accompanies the “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” article is one of the best visual depictions of the uniqueness and fluidity of each person’s work+life fit I’ve seen.



Hopefully, the message and symbolic position throughout the entire issue will FINALLY shift flexibility and work+life fit from the category of, “perk, benefit, policy,” where it doesn’t belong, to “strategic business imperative,” where it should be.

I also hope that organizations will be inspired to devote attention and resources required to develop a work culture that is both high performing and flexible. That’s the cultural combination that will attract and retain top talent, increase productivity and improve employee work+life fit.

Many thanks to The New York Times Magazine.  Work, life and flexibility are indeed the future of work.

Let’s stay connected!  I invite you to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.