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179: Exploring Flexibility and Personal Preferences with Molly Johnson-Jones
27th October 2023 • Happier At Work® • Aoife O'Brien
00:00:00 00:47:34

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How do you make flexibility work for you?  In today’s episode of the Happier at Work podcast, host Aoife O’Brien is joined by Molly Johnson-Jones, founder of Flexa. Molly shares her experiences and thoughts on the topic of flexibility at work, a subject that has been gaining momentum and transforming the way we approach work-life balance. 

Molly's take on flexibility revolves around the idea of setting boundaries and finding the perfect balance between work and personal life. She highlighted the importance of creating a flexible work environment that allows individuals to thrive by adapting their schedules to meet their individual needs.

One key aspect Molly touches upon was the misconception that flexibility means constantly being available or working longer hours. She emphasised the need for intentional planning and embracing the freedom to take time off when work is complete, rather than searching for unnecessary tasks to fill the day. Taking personal time and rejuvenating is just as important as being productive during work hours.


Molly also discusses the varying perspectives on flexibility among different generations. As millennials continue moving into leadership roles, she predicts a higher rate of acceptance and adoption of remote work practices. However, fear of the unknown and the traditional face-to-face interactions valued by older generations can still influence the desire to return to the office.


Molly sheds light on the challenges faced by larger corporations in implementing organisational transformations due to their size. However, she stressed the importance of flexibility in attracting diverse talent and improving engagement and productivity. By being transparent about their flexible work offerings, companies can drive change and pioneer new approaches that meet the needs of their employees.


The main points throughout this podcast include:

- creating clear expectations and boundaries

- the need for effective communication regarding availability and online presence 

- the consequences for not meeting performance expectations

- intentional management and self-awareness

- adapting work styles to fit individual preferences

- finding productive environments that suit each person's needs

- asking employees how they prefer to be managed and tailoring leadership styles accordingly

 

Connect with Molly

Molly’s LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-johnson-jones/ 

Flexa’s LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/flexa-careers/ 

Flexa’s Twitter https://twitter.com/Flexa_Careers 

Flexa’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/flexa_careers/ 

Flexa’s TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@flexa_careers 


Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!


Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:

Website: https://happieratwork.ie 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aoifemobrien/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HappierAtWorkHQ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/happieratwork.ie/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/happieratwork.ie

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm0FKS19I5qSlFFmkx1YGqA

Transcripts

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Molly, you're so welcome to the Happier at Work podcast. I'm really excited to have

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this conversation with you today. Do you want to give people a little bit about

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your background and how you got to where you are today? Absolutely. Well,

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thank you very much for having me, first of all. Yeah. So I'm

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I'm Molly. I am the CEO and cofounder of Flexa.

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And Flexa is the platform where Flexible companies get

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discovered so we enable people to search by how they want to work

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as well as what they want to do. So making The job

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hunting process much more transparent by enabling people to filter out companies

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based on exactly what their working environment preferences are.

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I mean, didn't always do this. We launched about 2 weeks before

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the pandemic started.

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Literally, like, Couldn't have timed it at a more weird time.

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Thankfully, it all worked out well in the end. We've now got over 1 and

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a half 1000000 people using At that at that point we had zero. We literally

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just watched that film. And the reason for us starting it,

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very much came from from personal experience of Not

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having that kind of information, when I was when I was doing my job

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hunt and, I just started my career in investment

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banking very much not flexible, in the office 5 days a

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week, 16 hours a day, absolutely no flexibility on hours, location,

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anything, Which is actually really not well suited to me

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at all because I have an autoimmune disease. It means that sometimes I can't

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walk. So being able to get Get into an

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office 5 days a week was was actually quite difficult for me. And after about

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18 months, they said that I could request the option to work from

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home one day a week. And 10 days later, they put a

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settlement package in front of me, Zachary, and told me to leave immediately.

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So I then learned The whole way that, they definitely weren't

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open to flexible working. And I was plunged into that job hunting

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process needing One day a week from home, but not being able to find that

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information. And that's a problem that's now experienced by

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hundreds of millions of people all over the world because Flexibility

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has been realized as, yeah, such an enormous, non

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negotiable for so many people. Definitely. There's There's so much I want to

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explore with you. I think the first question I have is in

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relation to the investment bank. Obviously, you're not gonna name names, but,

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Presumably, having gone through the pandemic, they're a little bit more

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open to flexibility or that entire industry is a bit a little bit more open

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to flexibility. What are you seeing yourself? There

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are there's definitely a bit more openness. I don't think that kind of thing would

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have probably wouldn't happen now or at least I hope it wouldn't,

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but there are in traditional industries there's still a lot less flexibility and

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I'm sure you've seen the studies where it's, There's a recent one from

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KPMG that said that 64% of CEOs hope that

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we will be in the office 5 days a week by

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2026 which is quite scary that that's

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the ideal that they are striving to reintroduce. I hope the reality is

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different but A lot of those CEOs are from traditional industries like

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finance, insurance etc, so I think the

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rate of change In industries like finance, investment banking

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has been frustratingly slow, and one of those reasons is, I

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think, both cause and effect A very undiverse workforce,

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so therefore less likely to push and need flexibility, but also they're

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never going to be able to change that because without offering Flexibility.

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You cannot have an inclusive work environment, which therefore won't foster

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diversity. Yeah. So chicken and egg situation, essentially.

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Yeah. Coming back to the CEO, so you mentioned they kind of tend to be

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traditional. What do you think is driving that sense that they want to have

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people in the office 5 days a week? I think it's,

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quite a complex mixture of factors. I think one is

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it's, generational. So these are the

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People who made their careers by being in an office

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face to face, getting to know people over a pint at lunchtime and

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taking people out on the golf course,

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And those are generations also that don't really value flexibility quite as

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much as Gen Z and Millennials do, and obviously Sam's generation

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To a slightly lesser extent than Gen Z to Millennials but still much more,

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for lack of a better term, the payment generation.

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So I think that's partly knowing familiarity and being like, well I

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did it so why wouldn't the next generation do that?' And I think

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actually as we see millennials and Gen Y come

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into leading in those kind of c suite roles

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there will be A higher rate of change. I think

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also the other bits that are driving the desire to return to the office

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is fear of the unknown. I think it's very

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it's very difficult for people to, kind of, adapt and change

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when something is totally, totally new to them and I think They

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worry that their management styles actually no, they

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probably don't worry but their management styles are not adapted to

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They're distributed teams. It's a very different way of managing. It's very

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intentional. It's not as simple as, oh, you're here at your desk on time. That

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means you're committed and you're leaving it bit later than everybody else. That means you're

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the hardest worker. You know, that's, that's a very easy way of

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managing someone, and I think they're lacking

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The ability to potentially intentionally manage. Not everyone, of

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course, is sweeping generalisations. And I think the final one is a lack of trust.

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I think that they have genuinely believed the rhetoric that when people are at home

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they're sitting watching Netflix in their pyjamas and not doing anything.

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So I think it's a high level of suspicion and a lack of

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trust that is also driving that desire for performance to be measured

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by 'Presenteeism' again rather than output which ultimately is the best

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spectrum. It's 'Yeah. Are you getting stuff done or not? It doesn't matter where you

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are.' Exactly. Yeah. Even if you are sitting at at home watching

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Netflix in your pajamas, if you're still getting the work done, then that's okay.

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Yeah. But it has been shown that, actually,

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it's tend to be the opposite to that. So we we have

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this perception that people are at home. They're not actually getting

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much work done, but it's been shown that they're

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oftentimes, it's the opposite. So they're they're getting more work done to the point of

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actually reaching burnout. Any any thoughts around that? Yeah.

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Again, I think it's, there's so many factors, you know. It's the kind of thing

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we could talk about all day of, Remote and

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burnout and lack of boundaries and I think a lot of a lot of the,

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difficulty in adjusting to working from home and putting up those boundaries, I think,

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people didn't know how to manage themselves in this environment. Like,

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it was very much a new experience working from home and if you're

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if you're always in front of your laptop and sometimes that's watching Netflix in the

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evening but then you've got snap notifications on and, you know, you

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have to create your own boundaries and again be, Can't smash that word intentional. Like,

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you have to be very intentional with the way that you work. I think people

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are getting a bit better at that now and kind of understanding

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themselves and how they work best. Like personally, I

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thrive when there's a lack of boundaries. I like everything

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Molding into 1 and therefore being able to go and get my nails

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done at lunchtime or go to the gym and then come back to work. Like

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that, I thrive in that environment but there are people here much who prefer

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rigidity and need to create their own boundaries. So I think that's kind of

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a whole big topic of how we get the best out of ourselves At home,

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but the productivity discussion, I think,

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is quite frustrating because There's absolutely no evidence

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that being in the office 5 days a week is more productive.

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The biggest study that was done It was done by Nick Bloom. He's a

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professor at Stanford, and he look he's looking at productivity,

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happiness, and engagement. And it's a study that I create the most because

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It's the most widespread in terms of industries and one of the biggest sample

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sizes, and it's also relevant it's across

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roles as well rather than just looking at one role type. That's pretty

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reliable, when we look at how the workforce is behaving.

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And he found that the productivity with hybrid and

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in office was Pretty much the same. And then remote it was slightly lower.

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But remote obviously has those massive cost savings and also, it's cheaper

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to Attract talent. Mhmm. And also

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people are generally happier. So there's those benefits, so particular

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for Startups and scale ups remote remote first often makes sense. And

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then who looks at hybrid in an office? And hybrid also could mean remote first,

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like going in twice a month or once a month. Just some

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form of regular in person contact. And he found that that was equally as productive

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as going to the office every day, but people were happier, More

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engaged, better diversity, and it

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was easier to attract and retain talent as well. So there is no

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upside to going into the office every single day and it's quite

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frustrating that there is still this rhetoric that that is the way what we should

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get back People need to get back to work. They've all been working this whole

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time just in different places, and so I

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hope that more studies And more, obviously, very

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credible people start to openly speak about

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this because we do need to find a balance and we do need to find

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a for what was a 5 day

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inflexible way of working because we've learnt so much. Like,

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why would we go back to that That way of working that did not enable

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everybody to thrive. It enabled a very select group of people too.

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Yeah. And that goes back to this idea of diversity that you were talking

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about, Molly, I'd love to come back to this idea of talking about

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outputs and outcomes from work because it's something I never

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tire of talking about this stuff and how to shift that mindset from

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well, you know, I worked from 9 till 5 today. Therefore,

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I was productive, but rather, like, thinking

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about your priorities, how you're impacting on the organization,

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and what we need to focus on. Because I think it It's taking a huge

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mindset shift for people to think in those terms rather than,

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oh, well, if I took 2 hours off here, then I'll make up those 2

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those other 2 hours as opposed to, well, I've got everything done

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that I need to do today, so it's okay if I knock off early.

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Yep. It's a very It's a huge

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mindset shift, isn't it, right? I think the idea of flexibility, and I

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when I think of flexibility it's a two way street, but I also see

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it in my head as being like, If work is a big

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block of time, right, on some days that block might be

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6 hours, on other days that block might be 12 if you've got a really,

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Busy day. And depending on how you like to work, you

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might chop that up. Like, I'm online from usually about, like, 8 in the

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morning till about 11 at night and I chop That block of work up

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depending on what else I'm doing. And if I don't have

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any more, then obviously I won't go back and try and find new work. And

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I think, The first thing is that flexibility is a two way street. So

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for for flexible working to work, when you do have a quiet day,

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yes, it should be that you don't sit staring at your laptop wondering if anything

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else is going to happen. You should go and, as you said, kind of clock

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off. But then on another day where your company does need you

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To work longer because there's deadlines and more stuff to get done, you are there

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as well because you're conscious that 3 days ago you were able to start working

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at 4. And I think sometimes that is forgotten and it's

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one of the definitely the benefits it affects working, but being in an office 9

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till 5 does not allow for because you aren't there. And it's bad for the

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company as well because then when you need people past 5 or 6 or

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whenever culturally it's acceptable to leave, you're less likely to have

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So that's the kind of first bits. And then I think there's also, like

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time is just a terrible marker of performance. Yeah. Like, some

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of my longest days have been some of my least productive days because I kept

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trying to get at it right and you keep trying to bring back to

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being productive. And I think again it comes Tattoo intentionality and

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intentional management. Like, are employees being

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targeted with whether it's KPIs or or specific

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weekly tasks that need to get done. Like, are they clear on what they're meant

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to be achieving rather than just grinding away for hours?

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And some of the best companies I know that that do it is very KPI

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based and very much, like, these are your responsibilities to move the

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needle on. You have freedom over how you do that, but we expect you

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to get to here this quarter or here this year, and

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given more trust and autonomy because You can't work without

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trust and autonomy either.

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Absolutely. It's interesting that you bring up the

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topic of autonomy. It's something I spoke about on a recent episode of the

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podcast, and I suppose it it formed a huge part of the

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research that I did myself for my masters a few years ago, the importance

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of And I suppose, for me, the important thing

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with autonomy is the balance. So it's not giving people too much autonomy

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so that they're kind of left a bit directionless, but it's

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also not about controlling everything that they do so they feel a total lack of

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autonomy. So as you were mentioning there, it's having those really clear

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expectations, be they through KPIs, OKRs, but then

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giving people, kind of flexibility around how they're going

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to achieve that. So you give them a really clear direction and guidelines, and

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then leave them to their own devices. And if they need support, know that that

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you're there to support them. Yeah. And I think that works for the

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majority. I think sometimes you do have people that do

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need to be spoon fed and they prefer that. And I think also

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it's about Not like my,

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automatic way of managing somebody is not necessarily the best way to manage them either,

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so I'd always ask someone, like, How do you want to be managed? Like,

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what will help you to thrive? Like, do you need me to tell you at

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the beginning of the week all the things that need to get done? Or do

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you want me to give you a big goal and you work towards that, working

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those things out. And it varies between between

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the individual and something I've really noticed that I

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find fascinating from managing quite a few people over time is that

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women are often much more aware of how they want to be managed. And when

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you ask when you ask them they're like, 'that's a weird question'.

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We've spent more time having to think,

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in companies, how we come across and how we want to progress and it's like

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there's been much more thought gone into

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How we work? Yeah. We have much more awareness around

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what we're doing and whether or not we're saying the right thing or kind of

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almost catching ourselves or masking because we know that we

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need to be seen as performing at work. Interesting. And it has to be more

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strategic in the way that we I'll see you at work if we're gonna be

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given the same progression opportunities and same,

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ownership, I think, as well, sadly. Yeah. Yeah. I'd love to

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come back. You mentioned earlier about yourself and how you

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like to work, and I suppose I did see A post on LinkedIn about that,

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and I was like, wow. Isn't it so refreshing to hear someone say that?

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So it's not about Completely reduce hours

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and compress time and all of this kind of stuff. It's about finding for

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ourselves how we like to work. And when you said that, I was

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like, Wow. So I think you talked about 7 days a week, and

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it's okay. And we all have different ways of switching off.

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And And do you wanna talk to me about that? Because for me, it's sort

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of maybe it doesn't apply necessarily in a a

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corporate setting, but Certainly, as a business owner, I was I found it very

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refreshing to see that it's actually okay. It's like permission slip to

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to work in that way because it works for you. Yeah and that,

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you know, I think lots of companies are trying to

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adapt to the different needs of their workforces and as you said, like,

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There is this burnout issue, but then also if somebody wants to work 7 days

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a week and they're working slightly reduced hours 7 days a week like a DU,

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I wouldn't personally stop them. Like, that's the way of working that works for them

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and we have people who do that here. Yeah. I think

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It's again about kind of looking at the output but also checking in with people.

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Like if someone's working really late 1 evening

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I won't really notice or say anything but if that keeps

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happening then you check-in with them and you say, you

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know, Is it that you're taking a bit of time in the day and then

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you're just preferring working in the evening or can I help them take something off

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your plate? So I think, for it to work, it's also about

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having that, very supportive management and awareness as

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well. But, yeah, for me, Flexibility

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is about choice and about freedom, and I think

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we haven't had to think about that in our careers until

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COVID forced us into this mass flexibility experiment.

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I think it's like going to school isn't it? You get you just turn up

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5 days a week and You know that you've got to be there at 9

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and you'll probably leave around 6 or 7. Mhmm.

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And that was just the way it was done so we never really learnt How

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we were most productive within any other environment apart

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from that. And so now I think when it's you know, I I work

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and travel. I've worked in Canada, in

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Greece and Slovenia and, you know, all over the world, and

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I've been able to combine that with Running your company

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and understanding that, you know, I I'm not a particularly

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morning person, so I probably won't start until half 9, 10.

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And then I'd like to be able to go and exercise at lunchtime, and then

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I'll probably, head home at half 6, 7,

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do some exercise, and then pick work up again in the evening if I've

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but I know that that works for me and I always encourage different

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people to experiment with what works for them. Like, we have core hours

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of 11 free at Flexa and people are totally free outside of that

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to do whatever works for them. We just expect people to be online for

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those 4 hours so there's Collaboration time.

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Yeah, we have this whole, that we have this enormous opportunity in front of us

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for people to create ways of working that Truly do enable them to

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reach their potential, both professionally and personally,

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and it's something that we've never really had before, Because, yeah,

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as I said, it was like going to school. You just turned up, you did

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your work, and you left again. Mhmm. And that was the expectation

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there. So I think we've ventured into a lot of unknown for a lot of

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people and I think there are teething problems like mental health,

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consequences and burnout and For some people not doing enough

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work and then 64% of CEOs believing that no one's

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doing anything. You know, we've got these issues to overcome but I think they will

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come out in the wash over the Out of 3 to 5 years.

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Really, I think it's, interesting. I love this idea of

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facilitating people reaching their potential. And what you said about

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work being like school, do you just sort of show up? You know, you have

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to be there for certain core hours. If I think back to my own corporate

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days, and if I have client meeting, I knew I had to be

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there. So that might have been an afternoon. It might have been an hour or

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2 in the middle of the day, it might have been there for the whole

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day, but I knew. And, again, it was like you show up and you just

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know that you have to be in a certain place to do a certain thing.

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But but the thought behind beyond

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the hours that you're putting in of, like, what's the impact that I want to

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have through the work that I do. Yeah. What's going to move the

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dial for me and my career personally? What's gonna move the dial for the business

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that I'm working for, for the team that I'm working with in order

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to reach their objectives as well. So there's so many

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things I think that we didn't really consider from a work perspective.

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And like you say, this has given us a huge opportunity to consider all of

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those kinds of things in a way we've never really thought about them before.

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Yeah totally, and I think we've also

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been able to explore the different kinds of work. So for me there's a difference

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between Sitting at my laptop, being there,

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working through, like, you know, the hard stuff that you need a screen for.

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Then there's your kind of ad hoc work replying to emails, replying to messages,

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Gestures, voice notes that actually that's a level of work that I

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think I've probably found most powerful running a business

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because Although you yourself are not necessarily

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producing anything, you're unblocking people, you're answering

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questions, you're making sure that you're not standing in

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anyone's way. And I think the more fixed hours approach doesn't

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enable you to do that. So that's why I'm online so much is because at

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At any one time that somebody would need me, I can just voice note a

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response to a question or make a decision. And for me, that doesn't feel

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like work. It just kinda feels like You're checking in and you're carrying on

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but it's enabled us to move so much more quickly and I think it's that

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that layer of work It's kinda work but kinda doesn't feel like

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it. That flexibility has really unlocked and I think

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that's really exciting to be able to see what level of productivity and

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progress we can make when there's your work work where you're sitting in your laptop

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and focusing, but then also this other level of

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Technology facilitated communication amongst distributed

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teams. Yeah. I mean, just the other work that you do away

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from the laptop as well, like, with the notepad and pen or the

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thinking time that everyone needs as well. I think we forget about that

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sometimes. Yeah. But I I love this idea that you're talking about,

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like, the different kinds of work, and it brought me back to a question

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that It was posed on the podcast probably about a year ago now,

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but it's like philosophical question. What is work? Like, what actually is work?

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So how do you define it? Is work only when you're in front of the

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laptop. Is you know? And you're kinda saying, actually,

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a really important part of the work that you do is that ad hoc stuff

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that's unblocking the way for other people to be able to get their

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jobs done. So you're not standing in the way or you're realizing what the

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issues are or you're solving problems

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there in the moment. Yeah. So I love that that

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kind of approach. It brings me on to this idea of

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asynchronous. So I hear a lot of people talking about asynchronous work and the importance

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of that for flexibilities. You wanna kinda talk about that in the context of saying,

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Okay. Well, I need to be there to unblock these problems and solve the

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problems kind of in real time almost. Yeah. I think,

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some companies have made totally asynchronous working work where

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people will be working all in different time zones and It's all done

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by Loom meetings and Loom videos and recorded meetings

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and Slack messages and things. I

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personally couldn't see that working for our company and there are lots of companies that

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feel like that is almost like a level Too far. Yeah.

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It's that kind of no rules approach, and I

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think actually You can't really

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have true freedom without boundaries. Like, people need to know where they stand

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and what the expectations are of them, which I'm sure asynchronous companies do

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ultimately have. But I'm sure there's a natural,

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gathering together of people at certain hours, which is why we have the core hours

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approach of, like, this is our Get you done

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time. And then otherwise, it's kind of like voice noting back and forth and

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working around things. But there'll never be more than, say, 2 hours where

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somebody's out of something, and not kind of moving moving things

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along. So I think the asynchronous Tactics

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work very well in tandem with either in person

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contemporaneous collaboration or remote contemporaneous collaboration.

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I personally would struggle to Never be

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working with somebody at the same time and just bouncing back and forth and making

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progress. Like, for me that wouldn't work and I know it's It's the same for

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a lot of companies but again it's that kind of type it's the

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ways different ways of working. We don't have to have 1. We can have many

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In many types of working and ways of working in one day, and that actually

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probably is the most effective of of all of The in

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person time, that remote time, that asynchronous time, that contemporaneous

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collaboration time. There's lots and lots of different types. It probably comes back

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again to personal preferences on figuring out what works really well for you

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because when I'm thinking about it, again, thinking back to my corporate

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days when we were working with teams all over the world. And in order to

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move projects forward, it's really hard to do

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that if you send a request and something comes back, and then you have to

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almost wait a day before you can get something else back because of the different

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time zones. And it makes it really hard to progress on projects like

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that. So I can understand in in in in some

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ways. And maybe there's kind of better rules to have around it of, like, this

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is the order of events or this is the order of the sequence of things

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so that you get things back in a time that suits you better rather than

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a time that suits the the kind of the messenger better, if you

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like. But I I love this idea that you said about

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freedom with boundaries. So giving people that freedom, but,

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again, setting those clear expectations and giving them boundaries around

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What is what what they're going to do? So that might be, as you

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mentioned, the 11 to to 3 o'clock. Any other thoughts

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to to add on that before we move on? Being clear, yeah, you know

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imagine if you were going to someone's house and they were like you turn up

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between 12 and 7 and you'd be like what? Like, what

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time do you actually want me? And so, like,

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naturally people like a bit of guidance, but you don't like being told

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exactly what to do. But, yeah, being clear that it's, like, it's

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okay, like, we we try to get those boundaries like a flex, like, it's okay

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to start any time between, you know, 6 in the morning and 11 in the

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morning. Like, whatever works for you, but we expect you online 4 hours after that.

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And then it's fine for you to chop and change, but You have to

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be clear on what you expect from people and also what the consequences

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are if somebody is availing of, like,

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the utmost flexibility, but they're not Forming. And I think

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so there's 2 different things within that. There's your expectations on your working environment

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and boundaries of your working environment, and then

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Also, expectations from a performance perspective and what the

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consequences of that will be because naturally,

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As humans, when things start to go wrong, we're gonna want to try and pull

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a bit of control back so those boundaries do

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become Stricter. And then, you know, maybe coming back to

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the 64% of CEOs conversation, like, maybe what's that's what they're feeling right

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now. Like, they We are in a macroeconomic downturn. They are

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potentially potentially therefore trying to take back

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control and take back control of their performance in their business and they

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are erroneously blaming that on not being able to see people, you

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know. There's loads of different ways that, I think people tend

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to Panic a little bit in those situations. But Yeah. I think maybe

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even building on your earlier point about equipping people with

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the The tools to be able to do that are equipping people with the

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the proper guidance themselves. So training for

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managers and how to manage people in that remote or

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hybrid environment as opposed to solely in the office when

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they have tended to manage by, oh, you're here at this time. You must be

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a great worker. So the the very different skills that are

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required in order to manage people in that remote or or hybrid

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environment. It's it's hugely different. I I I think I

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would actually say as a manager, As

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in anyone managing, it is harder to manage somebody

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in a remote first hybrid distributed environment because it is more

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intentional. Yeah. But It's more effective. I

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personally I think like I have seen and

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had stronger relationships managing a distributed Team and

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seeing other people do that than in the office because in the office it's

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probably incorrectly seen as easy because all based on presenteeism.

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Yeah. So it it is harder and I what I hope comes out of

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it is I think that the, like, management,

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Track and pro career progression is, like, really over glorified.

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Yes. Agreed. Again, another thing I talk about all the

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time. Like, not everybody is good at managing people. Mhmm.

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Not everyone wants to. No. But yet it's seen as, like, that

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is what You do as you progress in your career and what I hope is

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that people with, you know, flexibility

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and it being much more intentional management and ultimately more skilled.

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I hope that we also start to see more recognition and more

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acceptance of The kind of IT individual contributor

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pathway because, you know,

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if you didn't like managing people in person, it's even worse if you're doing it

Speaker:

Remaining. Yeah. And, ultimately, that's just as valid as a

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career pathway, as managing people is Yeah. Really. And

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I'm sure not just the CEOs get this sense that they need to

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kind of clamp down on people if they're not performing. I'm Sure. It's in

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it's managers as well are feeling like I need to give that person less

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control, which probably drives them poor performance again. So

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that that understanding piece of, like, what's actually driving that

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behavior. But, yeah, it's something I talk about all the time is this

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is How do we create careers where you don't have to

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become a manager where it's not, as you said, glorified that this is

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the only way to progress in my career. It's the only way to earn more

Speaker:

money, etcetera, etcetera, but actually providing the opportunity for people to

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contribute to the organization, but not have responsibility for managing people.

Speaker:

Molly, you use this term intentional quite a bit throughout the podcast. I'd

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love to to get your thoughts on what that means. What does that mean to

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you? Good question.

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Intentional, yeah, in the sense of management or

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Understanding yourself. I think when I talk about intentionality, it's

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thinking more about

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Either yourself or other people. So I think

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in work, it's often

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The people, the very human side of it, the emotional side of it is often

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ignored. And I think what,

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flexibility has kind of forced us to do is realise that

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Home life, work life, emotions, professionalism, they're all intertwined.

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And that's why I talk about flexibility requiring more intentional

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management because I think you have to bother to get to know the person you're

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managing or you have to bother to get to know yourself to understand how

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you're going to thrive because you're not just given not just put in a box

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and told to perform. Like, you're given a lot more freedom, and with

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freedom, you have to start to understand yourself. So intentionality, I

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think, Is, making a conscious decision to

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try to understand the situation and how that can best be handled

Speaker:

rather than just reversing to Familiar tactics.

Speaker:

Mhmm. Yeah. Yeah. I love that explanation. I love that description.

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Something that I kind of that occurred to me at the Start of our conversation

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was I'd love to understand more about the kinds of

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companies that you see embracing flexibility already. So we're kinda

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we Kinda touched on this idea that the those maybe

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big, more traditional industries, big traditional companies are

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less likely to do it. They're more likely to stick with their traditional tactics,

Speaker:

but I'd love to understand more about the kinds of companies that you're seeing

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embracing flexibility at work. Thankfully we

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are seeing hundreds of companies doing it, and it's

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not always Start ups and

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scale ups as you might expect. I think naturally it's harder to

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create change in corporates because you've got tens of

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thousands of people to undergo, like, an

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organizational transformation project switch which is a lot harder than a 100 people.

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But we are seeing Tiny start ups that have had it in their

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DNA from the very beginning all the way through to scale ups that

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were around from before the pandemic, but they further embraced it because they've Seeing how

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much it can help up to corporates like, you know, we work with Mars,

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Virgin Media, Centrica, all of whom were very

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traditional businesses before, Well, some slightly before the

Speaker:

pandemic, but, you know, back to 2010, incredibly traditional businesses that

Speaker:

have seen the potential that

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Flexibility has both in terms of talent attraction,

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also in terms of engagement and productivity, but fundamentally diversity

Speaker:

It's key for those large corporates because they literally

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can't, they can't hire enough diverse talents at that

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scale, so they've had to really embrace flexibility and it's wonderful to

Speaker:

see so many companies, you know, work with

Speaker:

us want to be super transparent over what they're offering because that's how we

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create change is by flying that flag and pioneering all of

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these different flexibility approaches. So there's

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no I always talk about it not like a vertical of an industry or a

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company size but a horizontal of Flexible work

Speaker:

environment, but it's a spectrum, isn't it? There's 2 days a week from home

Speaker:

and a little bit of flexibility and start and finish time all the way through

Speaker:

to Asynchronous, fully remote, work anywhere in the world,

Speaker:

and everything in between as well. Yeah. Brilliant. I was

Speaker:

gonna ask about that as well. I love your description that it's a horizontal

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rather than than a vertical, so you can't necessarily they have they obviously

Speaker:

have one thing in common, that is that they want to support their workers. They

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want to drive See, and they want to create happier working

Speaker:

environments through flexibility as well. They have this belief in flexibility.

Speaker:

You mentioned transparency as well, and that I suppose one of the key

Speaker:

drivers for you setting up Flexa to begin with is this idea of flexibility

Speaker:

because you couldn't find it anywhere else. Now,

Speaker:

coming back to, I suppose, the likes of LinkedIn, and what I'm seeing there is

Speaker:

that they're advertising things as fully remote when, actually, they're not. So

Speaker:

I love the idea that you are offering this total

Speaker:

transparency about, well, what is actually on offer here? But can you can you talk

Speaker:

to us about the different types of that people aren't offering because I know there's

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some kind of unusual things that you that you have that you talk

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about. Yeah. So I think

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Transparency for me is so important because just the word flexible working

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is ultimately meaningless. Like, nobody knows what that involves. And

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80% of the global office say that flexibility of some

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kind is a non negotiable one, but how do you match

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those 2 things up when an individual But once

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2 days a week in the office versus 1 day a month in the office

Speaker:

versus never to go into the office, there are 3 different people looking for 3

Speaker:

different roles even if they have the same skill sets and they're looking for the

Speaker:

same job title. And yet companies are still going with the generic,

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yeah, whatever, where OpenStruct's working. So that's incredibly

Speaker:

inefficient. It's like you're going to be playing musical chairs

Speaker:

until 2050. Like, we need to be able to let people match

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themselves up with Companies that suit their working preferences and

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companies, if they're transparent, will attract aligned talent that

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thrive in the environment that they have. And as you

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said about the LinkedIn remote issue, like, companies have a

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tendency to want to catfish people into applying because there's

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this, Myth that I think is really, really prevalent within

Speaker:

the industry that getting as many applications as possible

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or appealing to as many people as possible is what you want.

Speaker:

No. Whereas you don't. You want people to opt out of applying

Speaker:

because you're not right for them. Exactly. But then you get people that opt in

Speaker:

because you're a perfect company and purpose environment for

Speaker:

them. And that information should be provided up front. There's no point wasting both

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parties' time and going through 3 hours of interviews when you find out that it's

Speaker:

Bad match. Mhmm. Yeah. I think recruitment can learn a lot

Speaker:

from dating in that respect. Like, people disclose a lot of information before they go

Speaker:

on a date because what's the point of going on a date Otherwise, there's gonna

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be non negotiables for both parties. So that's

Speaker:

what we're trying to facilitate because we spoke to so many companies.

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In my previous career I saw it a lot with companies that offer flexibility

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and asked them why they didn't publicise it and they were like, well, Where can

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we? People have already where they do put it, like their careers are paid to

Speaker:

a job description. Mhmm. The company the individual already heard about

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that company and gotten to the point of being interested whereas actually

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that how many companies have you never heard of? Probably 99.9%

Speaker:

of them. Yeah. You don't have an employer brand like Google or

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Patagonia or Innocent or Coca Cola.

Speaker:

But by leveraging a flexible working environment, you can be matched to great talent

Speaker:

without them having to know who you are. Yes. And without having to get in

Speaker:

this, get Your employer got lost

Speaker:

in meaningless black and white job adverts that everyone hates reading.

Speaker:

Yes. So, Yeah, we're just trying to make it

Speaker:

genuinely transparent and easy to find the information that lets people make

Speaker:

an educated decision about whether or not your company is the right place to work.

Speaker:

Because I think there was this really shocking stat when LinkedIn first, launched

Speaker:

those filters of hybrid, remote, and in person. And

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68% of companies text remote and only 18% of them actually

Speaker:

were. Yeah. But what were we meant to do with that information? And I had

Speaker:

a text from somebody the other day, a friend of mine, Like, I applied

Speaker:

to a role on, LinkedIn, and it was down as remote. And she was like,

Speaker:

and then I went and looked at search on Flexa And found out that, actually,

Speaker:

they want me in 2 to 3 days a week in, I think, Leeds, and

Speaker:

she lives in London. Mhmm. And she's like, well, I obviously

Speaker:

can't do Do that. She's like, I'll never trust LinkedIn again. And she's like, well,

Speaker:

why are they saying that on LinkedIn when they're also telling the truth on Flexa?

Speaker:

And she's like, what's the endgame there?

Speaker:

Yeah. It goes back to your point, I think, that they want as many. They

Speaker:

think that that it's a better idea to get as many through the door rather

Speaker:

than thinking, like, we need to filter the funnel talk, so that we only get

Speaker:

people who are really good, fit a really good match for the

Speaker:

organization. Yeah. And that's the benefit of

Speaker:

Treating hiring like marketing. I always use the analogy of a hiring

Speaker:

like, the funnel. Totally. Yeah. And marketing

Speaker:

funnels generally have You have top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel.

Speaker:

Hiring funnels tend to only have middle of funnel and bottom of funnel, really, because

Speaker:

you're just trying to Encourage people to cold apply. They have never heard

Speaker:

of you before, have no awareness of you at all and you're just trying to

Speaker:

get somebody to apply without having any knowledge of what your business

Speaker:

Is all what your ways of working are and then push them down. But if

Speaker:

you told a marketer to approach marketing like that, they would look at you like

Speaker:

you've lost your mind. Yeah. They were like, it's incredibly inefficient and incredibly expensive and

Speaker:

recruitment is expensive because you're relying then on

Speaker:

reactive hiring of job Every time you're trying to hire a role, agency

Speaker:

recruiters who are expensive and a lot of those roles, like obviously

Speaker:

there is a need for recruiters as well, But not for every role that

Speaker:

people go out to recruiters with. And by

Speaker:

creating that top of funnel and that employer brand and

Speaker:

Getting tens of thousands of people or hundreds of thousands of people to

Speaker:

know your culture, your mission, your working environment, your benefits.

Speaker:

You are creating a hiring machine

Speaker:

because you're proactively hiring, not just reactively hiring.

Speaker:

Yeah. Brilliant. Love that. Molly, the question I ask everyone who comes on

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the podcast, what does being happier at work mean to you?

Speaker:

To me personally. Well, I like to think of it as, philosophically,

Speaker:

what do you think being happier at work means?

Speaker:

It's a very good question. I personally

Speaker:

think being happier at work

Speaker:

Comes back to the idea of thriving in

Speaker:

your own way. Mhmm. So I think, you know, we've touched on lots of these

Speaker:

areas. Like, not everybody wants to be a manager. Not everybody wants to

Speaker:

rapidly progress through their career and keep earning lots and lots of money. Some

Speaker:

people want really great life balance and to be told they're doing a good

Speaker:

job at work but also being able to go and switch off at home. Everyone

Speaker:

is very individual and I think being happier at work

Speaker:

Has to be facilitated by giving people freedom to work out

Speaker:

exactly what works for them and gives them an environment in which to thrive and

Speaker:

thriving Will be totally different from person to person.

Speaker:

Mhmm. And if people want to connect with you, if they wanna find out more

Speaker:

about Flexa, what's the best way they can do that? I probably

Speaker:

follow follow Internet with me on LinkedIn. I post a

Speaker:

lot about pretty much everything we discuss. So, yeah,

Speaker:

please do follow and kinda connect connect with me there or if you're interested,

Speaker:

in finding more out about Flexin, please Visit our website,

Speaker:

we've got lots of kind of interesting free tools,

Speaker:

like benchmarking your environment against the market and lots of different ways that you

Speaker:

can Understand how to leverage your your flexibility to your kind of best

Speaker:

possible advantage. Brilliant. Love that. And I can second

Speaker:

I absolutely love Molly's posts on LinkedIn straight down the line. You

Speaker:

know? There's brilliant, really insightful, and

Speaker:

just Sometimes controversial. Controversial at times, but that's

Speaker:

good, I think, just to to raise people's awareness of these things that are happening.

Speaker:

So, appreciate that. Thank you. And thank you so much for your time today. I

Speaker:

loved this chat on the podcast. Thank you so much for having me. I really

Speaker:

enjoyed it.

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