Promoting Flexibility in the Workplace
I don’t believe there’s a business owner out there who doesn’t struggle with the challenge of finding balance in their life. In my case, building walls to separate my personal and professional lives is not realistic. Let’s face it— I’m never a part-time mom and I’m never a part-time owner of Wise Group Communications.
My decision to buy my company eight years ago was based on wanting control; namely, control of my life. I wanted a work situation where I had the flexibility to spend time with our three children, then 3, 7 and 10. I made it a top priority to pick up my kids from school and be involved in their after-school world. While this priority gave me a balance, it required me to set a few necessary guidelines.
One of these guidelines was “No mind wandering when I’m with the kids.” That was easier said than done. As an entrepreneur, my mind always wanders. When I’m at home, it wanders to a possible solution for a problem at work or a new opportunity for the company. And when I’m at work, it wanders to family engagements and library books the kids forgot to return. While this mind wandering can’t be avoided, I found I could achieve a sense of balance through flexibility.
Assuming my employees also desired balance in their lives, I found giving them flexibility in the form of control benefited both them and the company. To this day, I encourage my staff to take ownership of their projects and schedules. They have peace of mind, knowing if a child or parent gets sick, they can adjust their schedule. If a major life interruption happens, they know they can focus on the situation because the entire team has their back.
This arrangement is successful for Wise Group because we hire and retain the best people who are responsible with their flextime and passionate about their work. We also have systems in place to support flexibility:
- Each client project has a back-up person
- All employees work from home when necessary and access servers at the office
- Everyone knows what’s on everyone else’s plate— weekly updates culled from each staff member are distributed
- Everyone pulls together when something unexpected (personal or professional) occurs to ensure all projects continue to run smoothly
Offering flexibility to your employees is built on trust and desire, and it breeds loyalty. I’ve learned that you must trust your employees to be responsible and not take advantage of the flextime arrangement. The payoff comes in loyalty— good workers who stay for years. I have found that our clients are comforted knowing their main contact person has critical historical knowledge and will be around for the next project.
In the end, this flexible management approach has proved profitable on all accounts. Wise Group has had significant growth in the past five years, the staff and clients are happy, and I get to spend precious moments with the people who support me when I’m not supporting others: My family. That’s a win-win situation if I’ve ever seen one!