We're "Flex-Friendly" and You Can Be Too

I'm proud to announce that Work+Life Fit, Inc. is part of the first class of employers to be certified as Flex-Friendly!  If you visit my Work+Life Fit blog you will see this cool Flex-Friendly 2010 emblem.  Flex Friendly So, what is the Flex-Friendly certification and why does it matter? 

Launched earlier this year, Flex-Friendly is a workplace flexibility directory of companies actively open to flexible ways of working.  Flex-Friendly, “celebrates organizations that meet the needs of our changing workforce.” And your organization can be part of this exciting effort. 

First, I’ll share why the Flex-Friendly credential means so much to Work+Life Fit as an employer, and then the founders of Flex-Friendly, Jane Seibel, CEO, and Dr. Ann Farnsworth, CSO, will share why they created the Flex-Friendly directory and certification process, and what their goals are for the future. 

For Work+Life Fit, it’s proof that we walk our Flex talk

At Work+Life Fit, Inc. and now with our new parent company, the Flex+Strategy Group, flexibility is not only what we do, it is who we are as an organization.  It’s how we operate. 

But would our model withstand the outside scrutiny of a flexibility certification process?  Do we really walk our talk?  Not only did the verdict come back, “Yes, you are indeed Flex-Friendly,” but it was rewarding to join other forward-thinking organizations both large—Accenture, Sara Lee and American Express—and small that feel it was important to reaffirm that flexibility is a powerful, valueable strategic lever. 

How does flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed help Work+Life Fit achieve it’s strategic business objectives?  Here are just a few of the impacts:

Sourcing top talent: The Flex+Strategy Group, the recently-formed parent company of Work+Life Fit, Inc., formalizes the strategic partnership between an alliance of top independent strategy experts in workplace flexibility, individual work+life fit management, innovation, change management, communications and leadership that has helped individuals and organizations use flexibility to tackle 21st Century opportunities and challenges for more than a decade.  

Providing excellent client service across time zones while minimizing burnout:  While there are three core partners that make up the primary FSG/WLF team, we call upon other affiliated subject matter experts as needed to achieve the objectives of our clients.  Also, our clients operate across time zones, flexibly managing when we work allows us to service clients during their business hours while managing burnout on our end. 

Low overhead, nimble operating model that supports innovation: When I was in business school, one of my favorite professors said something that stuck with me, “The business that runs the lowest cost operation survives.”  For more than a decade, I have used strategic flexibility to run FSG/WLF with cost structure that’s as low as possible.

First, I have partnered with talent who prefer to work independently. 

Second, because all of our work is either at the client site or on the phone, we all work remotely.  Having office space would be an unnecessary waste of money for the type of work we do. 

Because of this nimble, low overhead structure, we can focus on a limited number of clients who are committed to starting the process that makes flexibility part of the day-to-day operating model of their business and their people.  And it gives us the freedom to take time out as needed to write and study in order to ensure we continue to add value as forward-thinking thought leaders. 

Individual work+life fit:  Not only does our strategic use of flexibility benefit our business, but we all use it to manage the other parts of our lives.  We have families and are very philanthropic in our communities and in other institutions about which we are passionate.   

Now, let’s hear from the founders of Flex-Friendly…Jane Seibel and Ann Farnsworth: Why Flex-Friendly? 

CY:  Jane and Ann, I am honored that Work+Life Fit, Inc. qualified for the Flex-Friendly certification along with such as impressive list of employers.  Can you explain how the idea for the directory evolved?

Jane Seibel:  I’ve been in this space for a number of years with my company EmployMoms.com which is a staffing company for professional mothers.  I kept hearing all of these great stories about flexibility across all types of companies and industries.  Yet the broad perception was there wasn’t as much flexibility in the workplace as I was seeing.  We wanted to find a way to share what companies were trying to do, no matter what form that flexibility was taking.  In fact, some companies don’t even realize what they are doing is flexibility.  We felt is was crucial to put a face on it, share it and scale it. 

Ann Farnsworth:  It became clear that for employees, after basics benefits such as sick days, vacation and health benefits, everyone wanted some kind of flexibility.  But it’s hard to determine which employers were offering it, especially in your local area.  You have the Working Mother Top 100 of mostly large employers, but what if they aren’t in your community?  And as we researched what this directory and certification would look like, it became clear the individuals and employers saw this as an age and gender neutral issue.  We hope the directory and certification educates both employers and individuals about what flexibility really means,and challenges prevailing misperceptions that the amount of flexibility is limited and what’s there is a perk for moms.  

CY: What I like about the Flex-Friendly certification is that it recognizes all types and levels of flexibility, as well as the broad business outcomes from being flexible from recruiting and retaining talent, health and wellness, to environmental sustainability.

Jane Seibel:  There is a perception that you have to have a formal flexible work arrangement policy in place to to have flexibility.  And that’s not true.  Employees may work a regular 9-to-5 schedule but be able to pop out to see their child’s play.  That’s flexibility, and it matters to employees.  We wanted to celebrate and certify companies no matter where they are on the flexibility spectrum.  They don’t have to have everything figured out but they are committed and trying.  And we want a broad range of industries and company sizes.  We’re getting ready to add two universities to the list.  We have not-for-profits, small businesses as well as large multi-nationals.

Ann Farnsworth: We were surprised how many organizations are in the innovative, preliminary stages of flexibility.  They’re just starting to try it on.  Some companies have a well-developed process in place supporting flexibility.  Others are choosing to keep it very simple with as few procedures as possible.  All we care about with the certification is did it make a difference to your business and to your people?  Many companies we approached that had flexibility said, “We’re just doing this right now, so we aren’t qualified.”  We’d look at what they had and say, “No, this is good.”  They had incredibly grateful and loyal employees.  This is going to become even more important post-recession.  Employers who’ve given their employees some control over their schedule will find people will stick with them. 

CY: What do you want the Flex-Friendly certification to achieve?

Jane Seibel:  Ultimately it would be wonderful if it evolves into a worldwide Flexibility Directory that’s a resource to learn about which organizations are doing good work.  Also, it’s a business to business learning community.  One-size-doesn’t-fit-all, and all types of flexibility don’t apply to all types of jobs and companies.  However, the businesses we certify are committed to evolving and improving.  And they can learn from each other. 

Ann Farnsworth: I agree.  For change to happen, it helps companies to see how other organizations are evolving along the spectrum.  Also, we definitely have a social entrepreneurial focus.  Our goal is to help make the world better.  And the most socially-responsible thing an organization can do is to start with it’s people.  Flexibility is also one of the best green strategies. One of the companies we’ve worked with, TeleTrips, has a product that can calculate how much carbon output an organization can save every year by having their workforce telecommute even 1 day a week.  It’s amazing how big the impact can be.  This is just one example of the type of broad understanding and support for flexibility we are trying to promote with Flex-Friendly.

CY: So how can an organization apply?

Ann Farnsworth:  Reach out and contact us to get started.  We have made the process as easy and streamlined as possible in order to encourage as many companies as we can to apply for recognition.  Again, this is not an award but a certification that verifies what you are doing is good.  It’s fast and simple because we want to celebrate the where your organization is on the flexibility spectrum and encourage continued evolution.  You don’t have to have everything tied neatly in a bow to apply and be recognized. 

Jane Seibel:  The good news is that lots of flexibility is happening in all types of organizations and industries across the country.  Let us help you tell your story about how flexibility has benefited your business and your people. 

To learn more, contact Flex-Friendly directly, and follow them on Twitter @FlexFriendly

CY: Thank you both for spending time sharing the Flex-Friendly story and for recognizingWork+Life Fit, Inc. as a flexibility friendly employer!  I look forward to many more organizations joining us. 

 If you want to learn more about strategic flexibility, be sure to check out my Work+Life Fit blog, and to me on Twitter @caliyost.

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