Work+life flexibility is an effective retention strategy, but in a 24/7, high-tech, global work reality it is much more. It’s a resource and time management tool for coordinating global clients and teams so that work is done across time zones without burning people out. Too many people are working their traditional “8-to-6” schedule in addition to doing global work after-hours. Something has got to give, and greater flexibility is the solution.
Increasingly, I find business leaders are recognizing that you can’t ask people to work “8-to-6” and then get on calls with Asia from 11pm-3am without rethinking if the standard “8-to-6, in-the-office” model of work even applies anymore. It doesn’t. Flexibility in where, when and how work is done achieves global client and team objectives while giving people the time and energy to still have a personal life.
There is also the issue of fairness. For many individuals in other countries technology constraints require that all after-hours communications take place in the office. Therefore, unlike in the U.S. where late night or early morning calls can often happen at home, employees in less-developed countries will find themselves in the office around-the-clock. In other words, if a global organization makes “8-to-6” the norm for its U.S. employees then those in other times zones are consistently required to sacrifice their work+life fit with early morning or late-night communications. Without effective flexibility, someone somewhere is bearing the 24/7 brunt. To share the sacrifice, organizations need to encourage employees to use flexibility to find a work+life fit that accounts for responsibilities in other time zones, because it can benefit everyone.
A friend who manages a division for a Fortune 500 company recently told me how one of his employees went to my website, read my book and came to him with a work+life fit plan. The employee would work from 8-to-12pm on Wednesdays and then leave the office and go back to work from home from 7:00pm to 12:00 am servicing their Asia clients. Not only does the employee get more time with her daughter, but, as my friend noted, “Our Asia clients are thrilled because they know they can get a live body on Wednesdays without having to either come in early or stay late themselves. It’s a win-win.”
Yes, flexibility is a powerful tool for getting the talent you want and keeping the people you have, but perhaps even more importantly it’s the strategy that reflects the new way we all need to work—service clients effectively and coordinate teams fairly—and still hope to have a personal life in a 24/7 world. Bye, bye “8-to-6!”