Flexible work is a win-win

Yoga Near Lighthouse

What if you, as a worker, could do the things that mattered most to your boss, all the time, and do them using your best possible skills, all the time.

What if you, as an employer, could get all your staff to work great – for themselves and together – all the time.

That’s what happens when work is flexible.

Work doesn’t happen 9-5. It happens whenever, and when people are best prepared to do it. Sometimes that’s in a spare moment on the train.

Sometimes that’s during a 2pm afternoon status meeting.

It can be whenever.

Be flexible in your work and in what work you expect of others.

You’ll be happy (and likely surprised) at the results.

You’re a consultant

If someone pays you for doing something, you’re a consultant. That’s true even when the IRS calls you an employee.

I used to put this different – telling people that every employee is an entrepreneur, for example. Or by talking enthusiastically about how everyone at the office is really a customer support representative (N.B.: The definition of “customer” changes depending on who you are and what you do).

You could also say, everyone’s a freelancer (or “free agent”? :-)).

It’s about individualism.

Maybe you know what I mean, maybe you don’t. What I’m getting at is that whatever you do, you’re responsible for what you do (your work), you have complete control over what you do, your compensation (dollars or otherwise) depends directly on what you do, and you alone carry the burden of the risk that tomorrow your “job” will disappear.

Wow – that’s a lot of loaded statements, and a few of them definitely need a bunch more discussion before they’ll make much sense. Plus, all this applies to information, knowledge, and service workers, not so much to folks who are purely manufacturing goods (although even being a manufacturing employee still involves a lot of service to your company and those around you).

The point is, work – your work – is not something you do, and then just throw over the wall while you wait for your paycheck. It’s also not something you do in hopes that your grumpy manager or cost-cutting finance department won’t whimsically decide to eliminate your position tomorrow.

Work (your work!) is something you do, under your control, and with benefits directly related to the care and thoughtfulness you put into the work. Yeah, 80% of most jobs is fairly routine, stuff you don’t really have to think much about – but still, that 80% is directly possible because of who you are and what you think about.

I always tell people that the best companies go in whatever direction their best employees (or consultants… :-)) take them – despite what those companies think their original plan was and despite how the execution of the business plan is later described in reports and press releases. Companies go where their employees take them, because that’s all they can do – the company doesn’t exist without the people and the people, even under the best guidance and most wonderfully strategic direction, still do what they do best, which is sometimes a little or significantly different from the original plan.

They consult. By providing their best service and ability to help the folks who pay them get to where they all, collectively, are able to get to, by each making use of what they individually can do best.

Yoga, Writing, and Seamanship

I used to work with a guy who would say that the holidays are a time for catching up on work projects that you couldn’t get to do during your regularly salaried hours. Yes, I know, salaried employee means you don’t have limitations on your hours. But in truth, when you are working for a decent company, you do. No good boss expects arbitrary amounts of work from you at vaguely defined times scattered throughout your life.

If at all possible, you should only work for good bosses.

This is always possible.

As much as I sometimes claim I don’t like it, my life is a big routine – one after the other. I have a long urban commute daily, and this is probably the toughest part of my routine, the part I am continually working on finding ways to tweak. I sometimes claim I don’t like routine but if that were true I would toss it all out. Overnight, I could make my life more vague.

But I don’t do that. I believe we all end up doing what we most want, on the whole, most of the time. Whatever it is, in general it’s at least kind of sort of in line with our core values and needs, or else we would toss it out. Sometimes that’s confusing because the thing we are doing seems to be something totally counter-productive to what we tell the world we are working toward.

I’m saying this because I do it all the time. I point fingers at bits and pieces of my life and call them out as nags or short-term glitches. But then years later many of those same nags are still there. There’s something else going on, there’s some core value or need that causes me to hold onto the nag or glitch, for years, even when I claim it’s something I don’t want to be doing or having.

Not to say my life is all stuck. Not at all. After all, just recently I conquered my fear of deploying a “Hello World” application to my Android phone. Just never got around to working through the details before but then I did. It wasn’t hard. Just something that I never got around to devoting the hour of focused time to that was needed to get it done.

That’s a stupid example, because nobody cares about a “Hello World” application on their phone. But you should have seen the smile once I got that nag off my mind!

So that’s not a stupid example.

For me, the holidays are a chance to take a step back and do something outside of the routine. Even though I like the routine in my life (you can quote me on that), when it never gets broken, I stop growing. I need the routine to break, pretty frequently, and not in predictable ways. So the holidays, being days where you tend to do something a bit different from the other days, are at least a tiny little basis for finding that tiny little chance of experiencing a broken routine. If any of this sounds like a recipe for disaster at the holiday dinner table, then… maybe I’m not making myself clear. Then again, that’s why I’m blogging about it instead of publishing this stuff in a hardcover book and going on a lecture tour. 🙂

It always takes me at least a day or two of routine derailment before I really start to enjoy the benefits of the routine being broken. And this time around, the long Thanksgiving weekend, I’m in a mood to do two things: To look back over past and current notes to myself, and to share what I find out more publicly than is usual for me.

Looking back, I find…

Physical fitness is important to me, but it’s something I never do a good job with.

So is home time.

And exploring creative projects.

I’ve also always got some nags going on, as I mentioned briefly above.

I’m constantly on the lookout for doing new things, seeing new ideas.

I like to get better at stuff.

I like using cool technology, and finding ways to let the best tech support non-tech goals.

I like to have fewer goals than ideas.

My work is important to me. And if something is important to you, then it is probably important to me too.

And I like to write.

But I haven’t really figured out, among the so many interests and goals and priorities I have, which of these are the ones most important to me. I have to think that the ones with me the longest – writing and fitness – are likely the most important. Maybe that’s true.

The best I can come up with this morning is that everything I do, I do it in the name of:

Yoga, Writing, and Seamanship

If you are reading this and you feel alienated by that, then that just means I need to do a better job at the Writing of it next time. Which is why this is a blog.