Why staying limber helps



Flexible arrangements at the workplace enable peak performance.

We all know that physical flexibility helps us perform everyday activities with ease — without it, daily activities become so much more difficult to perform.

In the same way, workplace flexibility allows us to perform our best in our career. Without it, we may worry or be distracted from our day-to-day responsibilities. Flexibility isn’t a new concept, but it has become an increasingly important factor in attracting and retaining the best talent.

GETTING THE BEST OUT OF FLEXIBILITY

To harness flexibility’s full potential, organizations need to foster an environment that enables employees to weave their personal and professional roles into the fabric of their lives. Only then can they make the best contribution to their organization.

IT’S MORE THAN JUST ACCOMMODATING A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT

There is no one-size-fits-all version of flexibility. Everyone has unique flexibility needs. We often think of flexibility in the context of family needs — being able to attend children’s school events, for example — but it’s not the only form of flexibility.

True flexibility is broader than that. A colleague who com- petes on a sports team may need to leave work early to train with the team. Another may have a commitment to the community and needs to take a sabbatical to fulfil that commitment.

NEEDS MAY CHANGE OVER TIME

Imraan is a great example of an employee with differing needs. Early in his career, Imraan used flexibility to start his workday early so he could pursue additional education for a few hours each week. Later, when he had children, his needs changed. When his son became ill, Imraan sought flexibility to take Friday afternoons off for four months to spend time with the child. Later on in life, Imraan’s needs changed again when he became the chair of a local charity.

FLEXIBILITY SHOULD BE PART OF THE COMPANY CULTURE

You can’t predict a person’s needs. That’s why it’s important to embed flexibility in the workplace and ensure it’s supported from the top down. At EY, for instance, we encourage our teams to discuss their personal schedules at the start of every project to ensure resource needs are met while acknowledging individual needs for flexibility.

MEETING PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL NEEDS

At the beginning of an audit assignment, for example, the team needs to know that Jakub drops his kids off at daycare on Tuesday mornings and that Susan is part of a Wednesday evening volleyball league. If all parties communicate their personal and professional needs the team can work flexibly and still be successful.

Facilitating these conversations ensures no one feels they are seen to be less committed to their work because of obligations outside the office.

THE BENEFITS OF BEING FLEXIBLE

Providing flexible arrangements enables peak performance. And at the end of the day, that means better service for your clients.

New technology has also enabled flexibility to flourish; being able to connect to the office from different locations at different times empowers employees to get the work done in whatever way works best for them.

ENSURING SUCCESS

To make flexibility work, organizations must cultivate a culture where everyone takes responsibility for making sure the work gets done to the highest standards and must understand that employees can achieve this in different ways.

Just as limber muscles help our bodies reach their potential, organizations that promote flexibility in a variety of ways will be better positioned to leap towards greater success.

About the Author

Fiona Macfarlane


Fiona Macfarlane is managing partner of EY's British Columbia practice and the firm's chief inclusiveness officer.

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