On August 21, 2019, GHJ hosted its latest Women’s Empowerment Speaker Series on the importance of flexibility in the workplace. The session, titled “Flexibility isn’t a ‘women’s issue,’” was an intentional topic of discussion due to the common misconception that women are the only ones needing flexibility.

Millennials, fathers, people caring for elderly parents, people with disabilities and even pet owners often have very similar needs. Attendees and panelists both reiterated that flexible work arrangements have become something that the rest of us not only desire but also demand.

Defining Your Meaning of Flexibility

As a working mother of two kids and recently back from maternity leave, flexibility has taken on a whole new meaning. It goes far beyond schedules or remote working. It is a new mindset. Flexibility is a multi-purpose tool in my toolbox that helps me successfully flex my role as mother, partner, boss, employee and friend.

Our special guest panelist Nichol Whiteman, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, said it best that “people want to be seen as humans first. Define your own definition of flexibility.”

Flexibility allows you to create your own time and space to recharge and refocus in order to show up as your best self. Then taking the next indicated action towards attaining your goals. In fact, in a recent study by Zenefit, 78 percent of employees survived said flexible work arrangements made them more productive.

There is not one way of mapping out how to create and maintain flexibility. Having a rigid, inflexible approach to work/life balance will cause even more stress, so being open to trial and error will create a path to success for both your team and your company. I feel empowered to embrace flexibility since our firm supports its people on their journey to #BeMore in all aspects of life.

Flexibility is a Leadership Issue

A recent survey on work-life balance by the Department for Work and Pensions found that 41 percent of employees had taken flexible work arrangements into account when deciding to work for their current employer.

Panelist and GHJ Director David Sutton said, “I have found that when flexibility is given to an employee, they put twice as much effort into their work, and the payback is incrementally more, and the results can go off the charts.”

Interestingly enough, a study conducted in 2015 by Stanford University researcher Nicholas Bloom tested whether workers slack off more when working from home. Bloom’s study used a call center in China to study his hypothesis. His team found that working from home led to a 13-percent performance increase. Nine percent of this increase was from working more minutes per shift due to fewer breaks and sick days, and four percent was from being able to take more calls per minute due to a quieter and more convenient working environment.

A dynamic leader knows when to work shoulder-to-shoulder with his/her team, when to act as the coach and when to lead from the front. When their supervisor models an adaptive and flexible approach to leadership, team members feel empowered to embrace flexibility as well.

Flexibility is about Trust

Enabling and empowering employees to make choices about when, where and how to work gets to the core of what flexibility means in the workplace. Leaders need to model what trust looks like by being open, honest and consistent.

Yulia Murzaeva, panelist and senior manager at GHJ, shared that “I spent 35 hours last week taking care of my family, but my team member studies 35 hours for the CPA exam.”

Yulia explained that though their reasons were different, both reasons for needing flexibility are important. Because of that, she makes a concerted effort to promote transparency in communication within her team and provides equal opportunity for flexibility no matter the circumstance.

The more both women and men feel empowered to ask for what they need, the better equipped we are to help others reach their own goals and #BeMore. It creates a more supportive work environment and, in turn, a more productive firm that can better serve its clients.

Flexibility is human issue not a women’s issue.

If organizations get this right, flexible work arrangements can increase employee retention, boost productivity and enable both men and women to create a sustainable work-life balance. In order to attract and retain the best talent, companies and their leaders need to be willing to adapt to today’s needs of both men and women and to be the role models for change.

Jennifer Sullivan WEBSITE Standing

Jennifer Sullivan

Jennifer Sullivan has over 20 years of marketing and business development experience. She is passionate about working with future leaders to build their brand in the marketplace. Every day is a chance to #BeMore. Prior to joining GHJ in 2013, Jennifer started her career as a financial and…Learn More