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Making Flexible work, work
Jan 21, 2015

Making Flexible work, work

You must always be able to predict what's next and then have the flexibility to evolve.

- Mark Benioff

I recently wrote an article for the Law Society of New South Wales on Making Flexible Work, work. and work well.  When I first started to write the article I thought the best place to start would be with the many colleagues and friends I had who I knew had, or were, working flexibly. My plan was to cheat a little and use their experience to write my article, specifically asking what plans and processes were put in place to ensure part time really was part time work.  This was not as clever as I thought it was as most of their responses were not what I was looking for exactly and included:

  • I could tell you but then I would have to kill you.
  • Oh boy, this is a can of worms
  • This is the reason I have not gone to a nine day fortnight, as much as I would love to. I already bring home too much work :(
  • This is my current assignment topic - sources say it is not possible
  • Very hard to do MJ when we have all worked full time plus managing family/home. I think we all struggle to say 'no'!  Clear goals and agreed expectations in the work place is the key.
  • Flying around like an idiot and being surgically attached to my phone. I can do anything in the car park at football training!
  • I gave up and started working full time- sorry, probably not helpful
  • Epic fail here too

?So far, not so good.  But then I finally had this gem:

Flexibility goes both ways if you have to put in extra time on days off ensure you are remunerated.  The employer needs to be flexible in allowing this type of employee slack to attend to other commitments, change days while being able to manage clients and customers in a way that is real given part-time status.  It has to be OK to tell clients someone is working part time and discuss how a matter can be managed in that time frame.  Set very clear boundaries.  When I'm with my child I'll do my best,  but may need to negotiate a different time frame or assign the task to someone else.  The type of work is important - discuss what types of work have longer or more flexible timeframes and give this work to part-time employees.  Support systems, technology and staff need to be set up to assist part-time and flexible workers.  Support staff need training on how to support part-time workers and the broader team.  Value value value -  ensure the genuine attitude is 'we're lucky to have you'  not that 'we are doing you a favour'.  The supervisor needs to express openly appreciation encouragement and support and ensure promotions, pay increases and training opportunities are dealt with in the same way as with other staff. These things have been critical to me working part time for the last 10 years -  I hope it's helpful.  

Indeed it was, as it refelcted my own views of how flexible work must work.

Most importantly, communication is key.

You can read the finished article here.