Working from Home and flexibility aren’t the same thing, although they are closely related.

Thrown into working from home we’re learning a lot about how it’s not a death nell for productivity. But also that it’s not a guarantee of flexibility either.

With many others, I’m speculating about how we sustain the ability to work from home with the will to increase flexible work practices.

It takes structure to be flexible

The possibility of flexible work practices becoming more routine when not a necessity is particularly exciting.

As we emerge post-covid we need to establish processes so working from home is not novel. And that it doesn’t disadvantage women more than men. We can only hope that children get back to school soon, so that the experiment becomes fairer.

We need new work structures and rhythms that expand the possibilities that working from home and having a meaningful life offers to us, rather than what it detracts. An important contribution from leaders is to make it easier for teams to connect across distance, to make connections simpler, so that they flow. This is proving a real challenge, and it seems that we’ve just dragged our old endless meeting habits into the new environment; without a focused personal touch, that hurts.

We need to build our muscle memory for flexible teamwork so that it becomes effortless. There’s a lot of room for experimentation there.

Now more than ever, taking a coaching approach to your teams will build energising connections. Expand time, don’t shrink it, by keeping a focus on meaning and being truly productive. Maybe doing less is the way to do that. Counter-intuitive, but it works.

What’s your view on what we need to do to make acceptance of flexibility stick? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m working on more ideas and resources to help leaders make work flexible.

Emerging Working from home trends

One of emerging trends in how working from home is working that’s challenging me right now is that women are much more likely than men to reduce their working hours to cope with the extra care responsibilities, especially of children doing school from home.

We already know that women do 66% extra unpaid work at home, and as a result they contribute 1.4 months/year of extra work to a household.

I want to call out those champions who are trying to avoid double penalties for women right now, who are

  • relaxing expectations
  • broadening boundaries  
  • providing extra support
  •  doing as much as they can to make sure that women don’t bear double the brunt of the COVID-19 fallout.

Like the senior leader who said, ‘We need to recognise the extra burdens right now. You have to relax your expectations – aim for about 75% of your usual productivity, be kind to yourself.’ Big shoutout to leaders taking this approach!

And to those who do all they can, as best they can to encourage women to maintain their working hours rather than reduce them. If something’s gotta give, let it not be inevitable that it’s women!

What we need more of are champions who recognise the challenges that women are facing and who do what they can to break through them! To make more of them, check out my article in CEOWORLD magazine to find out how you can proactively support champions, and maybe even be one!

For even more on champions, click the link to download a copy of Chapter 1.

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