It wasn’t that long ago when “going to work” always meant the same thing: traveling to the same place, at the same time, on the same days as everyone else.
According to a recent national survey of full-time U.S. employees, co-sponsored by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc. (FSG/WLF) and Citrix, one-third of respondents said they did most of their work from a remote location away from their employer’s site. Almost all employees reported they have some level of work-life flexibility.
Since most of us have wiggle room in the way we work, then how do we take advantage of that flexibility to be more productive and happy?
Cali Yost, CEO of FSG/WLF, shared some tips with me on how to achieve flexible work success.
1. Prove you’re trustworthy by consistently delivering
The research found that nine out of 10 full-time employees feel their managers trust them to do their jobs regardless of when or where they work. “You will have more freedom to work flexibly if you consistently reaffirm your trustworthiness,” Yost says. She advises that employees regularly confirm deadlines and deliverables; keep managers and colleagues up to date on progress; and deliver as promised regardless of where, when, or how you do your job.
2. Use technology to collaborate
According to the survey, we’re stuck in the 1990s when it comes to using technology to keep colleagues informed about our work. Most of us still use email, word documents, and spreadsheets to keep others updated. And we’re inconsistent in how we store, share, and access work across personal and company devices.
A few technologies that help solve this issue are secure, cloud-based, file sharing solutions such as DropBox, GoogleDocs, and ShareFile. Video conferencing options like GoToMeeting and WebEx can help people meet and work on documents together in real time. Project management software such as Asana, Podio, and Slack can help teams centralize communications and track progress.
“Leading companies have adopted mobile workspaces, next generation ‘desktops’ that give employees access to their work content on the same devices they use in their personal lives,” says Citrix’s Natalie Lambert, a well-known expert on mobile workspace strategy. This means employees have access to all of the applications, corporate data, and other internal resources they need to get their jobs done.
3. Coordinate your flexibility with colleagues, not just the boss
Only half of survey respondents said they shared their plans to make informal changes in how, when, and where they worked with their teammates. “Since employees are spread across multiple locations, working at different times, we need to coordinate more intentionally with co-workers to ensure everything gets done,” Yost says. She suggests providing teammates with a weekly heads up about flexible work plans, letting them know how you can be reached so time isn’t wasted trying to find you or a piece of work.
4. Learn to use work flexibility to achieve your goals, on and off the job
According to the research, even though most respondents said they had some type of work life flexibility, a majority (52 percent) reported they received no training or guidance on how to use that flexibility. “Training and guidance would help employees figure out if they could occasionally work off site to finish a report in a quiet space or adjust their schedule a few times a week to hit the gym,” Yost says. “The key is to learn how to make those occasional tweaks happen in a way that meets your needs and the needs of the business.”
When we have major or minor life changes — a need to provide elder care or child care, or construction that adds to a commute – Yost says employees need to learn how to propose a formal plan to change their work style.
The way we work has changed but with better communication, coordination, and skill building, flexible work success can be yours!