How One Company Reaffirmed Its Commitment To Make Flexibility Work

Recent high-profile decisions about working from home sparked corporate conversations all over America about how to handle workplace flexibility. Here's how one company responded.

How do you make work flexibility succeed for business and people? This is the real underlying issue in the current debate sparked by Yahoo and Best Buy’s very public announcements of flexible work retrenchment.

To help answer that question, one of my clients, the professional services firm BDO, gave me permission to share the internal communication that they sent to their employees in response to the news.

The message not only reaffirms their commitment, but it also offers clues into the secrets of flexibility staying power that include:

Describing flexibility as an “important business strategy for our organization,” not a nice-to-have-but-optional policy, perk or program.

Acknowledging how valuable flexibility is to employees and clarifying it’s not about work-life “balance”: “93% stated that flexibility and managing work+life fit is important to you.”

Reminding everyone that flexibility must be a win-win to succeed: “must meet the needs of our business as well as our personal lives.”

Reinforcing core success principles of the strategy: performance required; talk to each other; be flexible and see the possibilities.

Reminding people of the skill-building tools, training and support offered for success.

Clarifying the underlying broad “why” or business case for flexibility: “to service clients, manage resources, save costs, and find time for what’s important outside of work.”

Having a senior business executive in the organization sign it (not Human Resources).

Work flexibility, as it was originally structured at Yahoo and Best Buy, was broken. But in organizations like BDO, it is succeeding. Why? That’s the question on which we need to focus. What are the stories of flexible work success that you’ve seen?

Dear Employees of BDO:

Some of you may have been following the media coverage of Yahoo’s recent decision to revoke the option for their employees to work from home. It seems to have been the subject of real and virtual water cooler talk in companies across the country last week. Even though the news cycle may have already moved on to its next hot topic, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some important messages about BDO Flex.

First of all, I want to assure you that BDO Flex continues to be an important business strategy for our organization. We are as committed as ever to using flexibility as a tool to meet both business needs and the needs of our employees and leaders.

In the most recent Pulse survey, 93% of you stated that flexibility and managing work+life fit was important to you. We hear you.

Secondly, in order for BDO Flex to be successful, we all need to work smart and be professional about actively managing our individual and collective use of flexibility, both day-to-day and formal. It’s important to remember that any use of flexibility must meet the needs of our business as well as our personal lives.

To help us work smart and professionally when it comes to Flex, keep these foundational principles in mind:

Performance is required. Using Flex requires continuing to meet performance expectations.

Talk it through. Many Flex challenges can be sorted out by talking them through with your team, career advisor, manager, family and friends - or even yourself.

Be flexible with your Flex. The unexpected will inevitably happen at work or in your personal life, requiring you to adapt along the way.

Be open to possibilities. There are countless ways to combine work and life. Allow yourself to experiment and test new ways of working.

Here are some tools you can find on the BDO Flex portal to help us all think smart about how we use Flex:

Day-to-day Flex worksheet: A tool for employees to use with their supervisor to help plan for and manage the use of day-to-day flexibility

ABC Flex Basics webinar: A one-hour webcast that reviews the nuts and bolts of flexibility at BDO

Help Me Make This Flex Thing Work virtual workshop: A recorded 90-minute working session for employees who are struggling to find a manageable, productive fit in their work and life, and need support now.

As always, we are tracking what is working or not working with BDO Flex and what we can do to make sure we make Flex work for us all.

If you have questions or ideas, please get in touch with any of the following individuals: BDO Flex Strategy Advisors; Your BDO Flex Office Lead; Your HR manager or director, or Executive Director of HR

Or, always feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions as well.

Since BDO Flex was launched in 2008, we’ve built a strong foundation for flexibility. We have many success stories of individuals and teams thinking creatively about where, when and how work gets done to service clients, manage resources, save costs, and find time for what’s important outside of work. I look forward to our continued success.

Thank you,

(Signed by Senior BDO Business Leader)

--Cali Williams Yost has been pioneering ways to lead flexible workplaces in the new economy for nearly two decades. As a consultant, speaker, and CEO and founder of Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, she shows organizations and individuals how to partner for award-winning flexible work success. She is the author of the recently released Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, (Center Street/Hachette, January 2013). Connect on her Work+Life Fit blog and on Twitter @caliyost.

[Broken Clock: Suto Norbert Zsolt via Shutterstock]

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3 Comments

  • Jessica Spencer

    What a great letter. I dream that one day this will become the philosophy at my own workplace - thanks for sharing.

  • AllisonOKelly

    While the news of Yahoo and Best Buy revoking flexible work options was unfortunate, the discussion made way for these positive opportunities: an invitation for frank dialogue around solutions that make flexibility a effective alternative work option and to share success stories of companies who are getting it right. As the founder of a national flexible staffing firm myself, I am thankful for companies like BDO who are willing to come forward, reaffirm their commitment to flexibility and offer their insight as to how flexible work can work for us all. -Allison O'Kelly, founder/CEO Mom Corps

  • LB

    Thanks Cali...This letter states a great committment to the welfare of the company, but especially to its employees.  I understand that sometimes businesses have to change to make itself better, but drastic measures sometimes do not breathe drastic changes.  I hope that Yahoo and Best Buy will be able to work past the deficits of their companies and that committment to the flexibiliy of a balanced worklife for employees is the only way to achieve a more balanced company.