Artwork for podcast Happier At Work®
185: How to Prioritise Flexible Work to Thrive with Cali Yost
8th December 2023 • Happier At Work® • Aoife O'Brien
00:00:00 00:50:02

Share Episode

Shownotes

How can you embrace flexibility in the workplace?

In this episode we were joined by Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of the Flex Strategy Group. We delved into the world of flexible work strategies and their significance in creating a happier and more productive work environment.

Cali shared her expertise on the "now and next" of work, emphasising the importance of understanding the "why" behind adopting a flexible work strategy. We explored how organisations are struggling to attract and retain top talent, and how a well-executed flexible work strategy can address performance issues and lead to success.

One key takeaway from the episode was the need for a dialogue and collaboration between leaders and employees to find a new way of working that maximises both productivity and employee well-being. Cali discussed the importance of considering the "when" and "where" of work, and highlighted the need for real-time collaboration, independent work, designated core hours, and focus time.

Managers also play a crucial role in the success of flexible work strategies. Cali emphasised the need for ongoing support and training for managers to effectively manage remote work, monitor productivity, and focus on outcomes. We learned about the outcomes-focused approach, which can reveal areas for improvement in management and tracking of objectives.

The main points throughout this podcast include:

  • The ‘why’ behind adopting a flexible work strategy
  • The need for dialogue and collaboration between leaders and employees
  • Find a new way of working that maximises both productivity and employee well-being
  • Consider the ‘when’ and ‘where’ of work
  • The need for ongoing support and training for managers to effectively manage remote work

Connect with Cali

Website https://flexstrategygroup.com/

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/caliyost

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/caliwilliamsyost/

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@CaliWilliamsYost



Past episodes:

65: Embracing Flexibility to enhance work + life fit with Cali Yost

https://happieratwork.ie/happier-at-work-65-embracing-flexibility-to-enhance-work-life-fit-with-cali-yost/


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/ 

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

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@HappierAtWorkHQ

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HappierAtWorkHQ 

Transcripts

Aoife O'Brien [:

Cali, you're so welcome back to the Happy at Work podcast. I know we had a brilliant conversation all about flexible working. But it was over 2 years ago now at this stage. So at that time, we were sort of in the height of the pandemic still. You know, things were in very much reactive mode rather than this is a new world of work and this is a new way of working. Although I know you have some really brilliant insights as to how you saw the future of work going. Do you want to remind people who you are for for introduce yourself for anyone who hasn't listened to that episode?

Cali Williams Yost [:

I'm Callie Williams Yost. I am the CEO and founder of the Flex Strategy Group. I am located in the US right outside side of New York City. And I have been helping organizations and individuals perform at high levels working flexibly for over 2 decades. So I've been doing this a very long time, and I'm finding it fascinating to see how we continue to evolve into what will be a flexible future.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Brilliant. I love that. And I love the I love that it's centered on this idea of high performance, and it's not just a case of, we're giving flexibility for flexibility's sake. It's really understanding how organizations do things. Now we connected on LinkedIn a number of years ago, and I'm a huge fan of and you know what it was? Actually, now I remember, I heard you on another podcast, my thought. I must get Kalia to my podcast to have this brilliant conversation. Especially, I think it was, the conversation was pre pandemic.

Aoife O'Brien [:

But I love what you share in your newsletter, especially, on LinkedIn about the now and next of work and the framework that you always consistently talk about, and it's the what. I've written it down. The what, the how, the when, and the where. And I know we had a a bit of a laugh prerecording about the why. Do you wanna share with people, well, what the why is? And then we can maybe talk about the the rest of the

Cali Williams Yost [:

framework. Well, I think what I'm finding fascinating most fascinating at this moment is we're still not clear on the why. And, mostly, I'm I'm fascinated that organizations are struggling to understand Why executing in an intentional, deliberate way a flexible work strategy actually is a strategic business imperative. Without it, you will not attract and retain the best talent.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Mhmm.

Cali Williams Yost [:

But also, you will not be able to achieve all of that extra, effectiveness in communication, in coordination, in the adoption of technology, and utilization of your workspace. And All of that does not happen when you are trying to go back to the way things were, which is just being in the Office, which seems to be where we are right now. We're very much stuck in this clash of contexts is how what I call it. Yeah. It's a clash of contexts over where work and performance happens. And the the why is getting lost in that clash. And that's what we have to move beyond and all get on the same page, employers and employees, That we need to rethink work just fundamentally. And right now, you have leaders on the one side Who legitimately see some performance issues that are concerning to them.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So they're not wrong Yeah. That Maybe we've lost track of how we develop people. We're onboarding new talent. How do we communicate efficiently and effectively across these different dimensions? But their default context is we gotta get back to the office. And if we just get back into the office more, all the others will magically disappear. It'll magically will magically, Mentor people will magically, train new talent, will magically just communicate better. And the thing that they miss is in many cases, all that was not happening all that great before COVID. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

People were just showing up in the office before COVID, putting their headsets in and emailing each other, people across the way. We weren't onboarding new talent very well.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

We weren't necessarily developing and mentoring people in the most effective way. And most importantly, people were already working flexibly. There is data. We now talk about occupancy, office occupancy, See, as if it was a 100% before COVID. That is not true. Yeah.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Occupancy was already falling before COVID because as our new research and we'll Talk about this. I'm sure our new research of obviously, it's full time US workers, but I just came back from A conference in the UK where I heard many of the same things were going on across the world.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Mhmm.

Cali Williams Yost [:

People were already working flexibly, but it was not intentional. It was very random before COVID. And so while these leaders see these issues, Want to address them. To say going back to the office and the way we did things before we'll solve it is just not accurate. And on the other side, however, you have the workforce. This talent, the workforce, Has worked in a radically different way in some instances for over 3 years. To them, what they believe and why our research We think is so important. They believe they're doing all the things even pretty well that you think that leaders are saying have to now happen

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Better By being in the office. Now they're not maybe thinking about some of these other bigger performance issues That are important and true. But the answer is not to just now as a leader say, come back to the office. If they aren't compliant, oh, I'm gonna track you now. Okay. Great. Undermine any engagement, any sense of ownership. Right? People comply, but they're just showing up.

Cali Williams Yost [:

But on the other side, for employees to not then move beyond just resisting and saying why, But not engaging then in a dialogue with those leaders to listen to what they're saying and come up with A new cocreation of the way we work going forward, that's not okay either.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So ultimately, the why in all of this is that we need to rethink how, when, and where we are working in order to thrive and Profit and, you know, be successful as organizations as and as people going forward.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And that's missing. That's just missing.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Can we can we dig into this a little bit? The idea that there's employers and employees because some people in leadership positions. Well, you know, most people in leadership positions, they're employees as well. So Mhmm. Is it the case? Or I'm not sure if your research shows this. I'm not sure if you know anecdotally or from the clients that you work with. But how do you kind of separate the leaders, let's say, who buy into this

Cali Williams Yost [:

No. No.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Idea and who who want to do it, but they're not getting the support maybe from from higher ups. Or who who's actually making these decisions, I suppose, is what I'm trying to get to.

Cali Williams Yost [:

That is such a great, great question. What I am seeing is, In some cases, leaders just wanna be done with this. Okay? They they wanna move on. Okay? So too often, they're looking to their HR leadership To solve the problem. They just want a policy, send out an email, and let's be done. And the HR leadership, I find they're in a really interesting position right now. There was a new study that came out, of a 170 The HR leaders. And they said, workplace flexibility and RTO are the top Topics that will cause senior leader conflict in the coming year, and that's way ahead of AI and DEI.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I so they seem to be on the same page with that. It's the workplace flexibility and RTO that leaders are not on the same page, and this is from the HR leadership perspective.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I think what's happened is HR has gone as far as they can go.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Mhmm.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I mean, they they do not have control over how the business Rethinks the way they work.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And HR can issue a policy, but they also, on the other side, know they cannot attract and retain talent If there is not flexibility being offered. Yeah. So it really is now a matter of how does maybe the HR leader Partner with the facilities leadership and the IT leadership who are now looking at sort of how we're using space and the IT leadership that is now thinking about how we're working as we move into this AI era, and start to pull together this Court you know, sort of cohort of change Yeah. That goes to senior leadership and says, okay. We need to rethink the way we're working Because just this 1 size fits all model that we're trying to put onto a hybrid the hybrid group, the the Not majority, by the way, in most organizations of people who can maybe work on-site and remotely, we have to pull this back and say, in general, How and where do we all work best? Yeah. Begin to experiment with what that looks like and be creative. That Then I think opens the door for leaders who really are going to say, I I see what you're saying. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I will sponsor this. I will be part of this. Yeah. I will step beyond my context that probably is about coming into the office. I'm willing to step beyond that and engage in this reimagining with my workforce. Yeah. And let's come up with what works for everybody.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Until that happens, I think we're gonna stay stuck. As long as you think it's gonna be a policy, one size fits all structured hybrid where everybody comes in on the same day and everybody's out the office on the same day and now we're done. That is not going to happen. And that's where we have to evolve beyond.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. I I'd love to come back to that in a minute, and just kinda summarize what you're talking about there. So for me, it's it's speaking the language of the leadership and coordinating and collaborating with the various different departments that are gonna be facilitating this for want of a better word and saying, how are we actually gonna make this happen? How do we make this easy? How do we bring them some data that backs up what we're trying to show? Now the other question kind of building on the previous one is who are these leaders? Or why do they think that the it's the right thing to do. You know? Why do why are they so set on bringing people back to the office?

Cali Williams Yost [:

You know, Here's my here's my insight into this. I think they don't know what to do. I think they have so many things coming at them that it just feels They genuinely are concerned about things like cultural cohesiveness, developing new talent. They're not and they're not wrong. Again, they are not wrong, but they don't know how to execute addressing those issues In any other way than saying we need to be back in the office. And I'll tell a quick story. I was with a group of leaders a few months ago, An organization that was really tempted to do an RTO mandate, like, just you gotta be in the office 3 days. But the CHRO, by the way, to her credit, she said, No.

Cali Williams Yost [:

We're not doing that because it doesn't it does not solve the problem we are trying to solve for, which is how do we develop people? How do we have cultural cohesiveness? It's just gonna get butts in seats. Nobody's gonna be doing what we're asking them to be focused on. So I said to this group of leaders, I said, is it really about getting people in the office a certain number of days, or is it really having more intentional in person interactions when they are together? And to a leader around that table, they all raised their hand for the second one, the second option. So they understood what they were really trying to understand and get to is having people interact with intention When they are in person. But then as I pointed out to them, they also need to be doing that when they're not in person. So as you're executing your strategy, You need to be clear about, alright. When we're coming in together, what are we doing? What are we prioritizing for that time?

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

But then when we are not together, What are we also going to be continuing to do in terms of developing talent, cultural cohesiveness? Right? So It's when you lose that when you just go to the days. But I think the leaders that do that Don't know how to engage in that process I just

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Outlined.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And that's what's missing the The execution is Yeah. And it making it you brought it up, and I think this is really important. The execution in a Way that is doable and manageable. And one of the things I like to say to our clients is, This is part of what you're gonna do anyway. Okay? If you're looking at AI and how work is being done and you have a whole task force and you're putting all this up, You know what? Layer in. Alright. This is how we're working. So when are we working? Where are we working? Because I'm assuming you're applying AI To the priorities and the activities of your business.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So those things can be now reviewed through those other lenses as well at the same time. If you're looking at improving your process or, you know, organizations are always trying to be more efficient and effective, Just add another layer to it. Okay. What do we do? How do we do that more efficiently? When do we do it? Where do we do it? And, again, that then becomes you're looking at the way your organization is Operating across all these different dimensions. And that's how you do it. But that's what's not happening.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. And I mean, I I I just love this idea of of questioning. And you would think that businesses should be thinking about this all the time at a strategic level, at those senior levels in organizations, thinking about the the what are we doing and how are we doing it essentially? But now you're just bringing in the when and the where as well. Correct. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Exactly.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Exactly. And, you know, when can be things like, when do we work in real time with each other? Yes. When are we working independently?

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Are we having core hours when we're having meetings? Is there elements of focus time that we wanna put into the those are all That require us that are required to get this work done well.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So, you know, these are the elements that get lost. And I'm gonna say it's also the element that gets lost we keep focusing mostly on where? And that's what's still happening. If we do talk about this, it's about, okay, when are we working remotely? Okay. But then what are we doing when we're together? Or hybrid. Okay. That's great. But when you say hybrid, what does that mean? It means sometimes gonna be in person and sometimes gonna be remotely, but it's not always necessarily in the office and at home. For a lot of organizations, there are other places that you have to think about working at the client site.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So, you know, you have to broaden the lens beyond some of these Rigid boxes that we keep trying to put this into. Yeah. And you gotta start with the what, and then let the where Be determined by that, by what you're trying to do and not by a box you're trying to work within.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Can we talk about some of those practical things that people need to consider. So what like, let's say there's a I'm I'm thinking from a listener's perspective. So someone's tuned in today. They're a leader in an organization. They have a team. How do you kind of progress these types of conversations? Or or what are the things that I, as a leader, should be thinking about in order to exactly as you described it, what is required to get the work done well? I imagine it's having that conversation. But, like, how do you facilitate that? What are the things that that people should be thinking about in order to get the results that they want to get.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So I'm gonna I'm gonna start with the perfect world scenario, and then I'm gonna end with the, hey. Let's get real. Okay.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Okay. Love it. Love

Cali Williams Yost [:

it. Perfect world. And this is why our research again is, I I think, so important right now. And Just for your listeners, you can go to our website flexstrategygroup.com. Pop up comes up, and you can download the report. And it is A study of a demographically representative sample of US workers. So it is US. However, as I just said, I came I've Come back from an international conference where I've heard many of the same things, so I think there is an application to a much more broad application.

Cali Williams Yost [:

But, Perfect world. You're training people. I mean, this is a skill. This is a skill. We require Guidance on how to have these conversations in our organizations. There should be a consistent process that is being rolled out across The organization. So, basically, everybody's addressing this consistently even though the outcomes may be different. That Training and guidance needs to start at the very top.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Senior leaders senior senior leaders need to be apprised and and Basically, aligned around what is our approach to the way we are working? How and where do all of these elements fit together? How do they articulate the flexible work strategy for their business and why it matters? And then they most senior leaders also need to understand that They have to understand the technology. One of the gaps I see with senior leaders is sometimes they're not as tuned in and deep in the technology that The rest of the organization is gonna have to use in order to execute this.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So What what kind of

Aoife O'Brien [:

things tech wise, what kind of things do

Cali Williams Yost [:

you think that they're in, really? Like work management software? Oh,

Aoife O'Brien [:

okay. Yes.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Platforms where the work is being managed. I thought so what happened is

Aoife O'Brien [:

type of stuff.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Exactly. So managers can actually use that software to monitor how people are working that Can take the place of being in person. The other piece of this is just knowing how to use even Outlook really well or knowing how to use Teams really well. Or if you do have a messaging software in your organization, how are people using that? And can you be part of that conversation? Where are people meeting if they're not in the office? Because a lot of that is happening. And that's part of what leaders at least need to understand So that they can get comfortable with you know what? If we aren't all here every day, this is all still happening effectively. And I need to just understand that so then then I can be comfortable with supporting whatever evolution in the way we work we are going to now And to move forward with.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Mhmm.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Again, that's why I think sometimes they go back to the office because their sense is, this is where these important things that I think really matter. And again, they're not wrong

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Are gonna happen.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So that's the first step. Then we've got to train managers.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Here's the dirty little secret, everybody. I mean, I I I just I can't say this enough. Managers were not managing awesomely before Okay. I would go into organizations before COVID and we would execute a flexible work strategy that did include some more remote work. And Inevitably, a manager would come up to me kind of on the side and be like, hey. Quick question. How do I know they're working if I can't see them? And there was no irony in that question. Okay? It was legit.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And I would say, okay. That is actually easy. All you do is do what you do now, and they would just blank stare me. I mean, there was no, you know, There were no KPIs or no objectives that they were really tracking. It was more, oh, you came in. Now one of the funny things about once you flexibility with more of an outcomes focused. All of a sudden, it's like the water goes out in the ocean. You know how, like, the tide goes out, and you start to see all the things The bottom of the ocean you didn't know were there.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Now all of a sudden you realize, woah. I thought Tom was really killing it. But you know what? He's not because Tom was the 1st one in and the last one out. But you know what? No. Okay. And, you know, I have, Jim over here who is working remotely a couple days a week and really using that Time wisely. And when he's here, he's being really intentional about making sure he's developing his people in certain ways, and he's making sure he's connecting with people who he sees. And he's boy, he's really He's knocking it out of the park.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Okay? So managers need to be trained in the basics of good management.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Okay. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

What they also need to be trained in is How to coordinate with a group of people who they may not be in the same place with every day Or even working at the same time as they are every day. And that's where you wanna look at using the technology that's available And making sure they are more intentional about keeping in touch with all the people they work with, not make using the default of, oh, I'll just, you know, talk to the people I'm with. So managers need to be trained in that. Then we need to train teams, individuals who are part of teams because you cannot rely on your manager to be the one who's like, how does how Susan need to be developed today? I mean, they need to think about that, but so do you. And you need to think about how you're showing up When you are participating in a meeting where pop likely some people are remote and some people are maybe in the office, and how do you make sure that your, That your ideas are heard and understood. And, you know, how do you how do you facilitate the communication and coordination with the people you work with If they are not in the same place with them every day or working at the same time. And finally, the individual. And this is what we talked about earlier.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I wrote 2 books on this because Many, many, many years ago, as I executed flexible work strategies, I saw people did not know how to reach out and use it. And once an organization puts the parameters in place within which you can work flexibly, you then you then need to Prioritize what am I doing at work and in my personal life within this structure so that I can be my best on and off the job.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And that's true. You gotta train people to do that. Yeah. So I just outlined the fantasy world. I did. I outlined the pot the broad Approach to making people giving people the skills and tools at every level they need to do this really well. I believe you will ultimately get there. We are not doing that right now.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Okay. So I'm a manager in the real world who just needs to address this because we've issued our 3rd RTO mandate. And my people are mad. And I have people quitting, and nobody knows why they're here. And what do I do? Okay. Keep it simple. Just start with the what. Just look at your team and outline for them a list of things that you think, Outcomes and activities that you think could benefit from a conversation about how we get them done And what might be beneficial for being in person to do them? Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Start there. And then With your people, begin to identify okay. So based upon this list of activities and that we've all agreed probably could benefit from some in person interaction. How many days does that equate to? Like, what does that look like? Maybe it's 2 days. My experience is you go through this exercise, you will end up with the 2 to 3 days on-site that right now is trying to be, Like, dictated by Fiat. You'll get there, but people will, a, feel invested, Like, somebody asked them.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And they'll understand why they're coming in, and you will be prioritizing the things that matter. Because what we found in our survey is right now, interestingly, if people were mostly on-site before COVID, they are mostly on-site now, but they have more with what that looks like. If you were mostly remote before COVID, you are mostly remote now, but you have more flexibility in what that looks like. But we also found for the people who said they're I'm still mostly on-site. Even with some flexibility when they are there, they feel they are interacting with their colleagues as much, If not more as before COVID. The problem is that with that extra flexibility, that interaction needs to be really targeted, needs to be really purposeful. And that is probably what is missing and what senior leaders say or see needs to happen better. So by engaging in this process, you will be targeting And prioritizing that interaction towards the things that matter to the business.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Mhmm. But people still have that flexibility that matters to them and can use it To feel good about their jobs, but also manage their lives.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. No. I love that.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Start with the what. Just start with the what and start with the things that will That benefit from talking about why it matters to be in person. Yeah. And from that, start to set some parameters with your team. And from there, it'll evolve. It'll just keep evolving, but that's where you begin.

Aoife O'Brien [:

I love that you've outlined the fact that we need to think about outcomes based work and, you know, have a little chuckle about this person who said, well, how do I know whether they're working? Like, well, how do you know whether they're working when they're in the office either? They could be doing any number of things. Just because they're sitting at their desk with their laptop open doesn't mean they're necessarily working. I also, yeah. So I want you to draw attention to the fact that you were talking about outcomes and then just simplifying it down to saying, okay. What are we doing? And the fact that we're asking people what they want or we're letting them to determine where this work is best done, and they will probably end up with well, I think, actually, yeah, maybe 2 days in the office to do that collaborative piece of work that we need to do. That should be fine. And then the rest of the time is in the office. So absolutely loved that.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And having reds the kind of synopsis from the survey, from the report that you put together. I think we've one of the things I wanted to address was this idea of training and guidance. I think we've done that unless you have something else to add in relation to that, Cali.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So, again, I think it's You and I have talked about this. And the only way you invest in something like that is if you see it as a strategic imperative. And from the research you see. 50% think it's strategic and 50% think it's a perk. Of training and support to execute and work with okay. So how do I this is what I was saying to an l and d leader recently. They have this fabulous curriculum of training. And I said to them, you know what's interesting? If you were to look at that curriculum of training, the context within that All of those skills and competencies are being used.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Is that a traditional work model, Or is it being framed and contextualized for the people going through this training? As this is these are the skills you need to lead a Dynamic, flexible work team in a in a dynamic, flexible organization. And this person was like she goes, you know what? I had not thought about that. I'm like, because unless you have set up this investment as what we need to succeed In a new reality of work and perform at a high level, you're not gonna make you're not it's not gonna be A priority, and you're not gonna do it. Mhmm. So I would say either just start by Looking at the training you do offer now and see how it would support and reinforce success.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Working flexibly, and also begin to see what else you have to add in.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So make sure that

Cali Williams Yost [:

it's a bit yeah.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Making the obvious link between flexible working and the training that you're currently delivering and where the gaps are, what additionally what you need to to include what you need to add to that training. Yeah. Mhmm. Love that. And it's it doesn't sound like too much of a burden for people either. Does it like it's like, okay. What do we have and how do we frame that in the context of what what success looks like for us as a business in a new world of work where we are working more flexibly. So we have touched on this idea of it being a business strategy versus a perk.

Aoife O'Brien [:

So think of it as a strategic business move as opposed to this is something that's nice to have. It's something that we we offer people as a as a bonus. It's, I posted something not too long ago, maybe a few months ago. And I I call I refer to it, I think, myself maybe as a perk or as a a benefit, I think, is the word I used. And so it said, it's not a benefit. It's a business model. It's a way of working. King.

Aoife O'Brien [:

So I was like, oh, thank you for challenging me on that. I've learned something interesting.

Cali Williams Yost [:

It's hard for us to switch switch our language, honestly. Because before COVID, it was a perk. It was a benefit. Because if you think about it, the traditional work model was the norm, Was the central organizing way even though it was disappearing. Okay. We all have to remember that. It was disappearing. It still was the Central organizing structure of the way we worked.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So anything that was outside of that was a perk. It was a benefit. It was an arrangement. That's my favorite. When I see I hear people say, and it's an arrangement. An arrangement from what? Like, it's an like, back in the day, yeah, it was an arrangement. But now it's the way we work.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And, it's a shit it's just a shift in perspective, A shift in context. And I would add one other thing. The another helpful way to think about it is it's there are 2 levels to it. There's the Organizational, flexible work model or how, when, and where the organization the parameters the organization has set or the way you're gonna work. But then there's the individual flexibility. The the flexibility the individual uses to then get their work done and manage their lives. Yeah. They both can reinforce and support one another, but I think it's also really important to know what you're talking about.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Like, sometimes we're talking about organizational level flexible work model. And other times, we're talking about the individual and what they are using and, How they are flexibly fitting their work and life together within that structure. Yeah. So it helps to kinda know which You happen to be focusing on a particular time.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. Really, really good point. I'll I love that. And something I wanted to add to something that you had said earlier as well was this idea of individual visual flexibility and us finding ourselves in this new way of working and not really knowing how to manage it. So the research that I did as part of my master's, one aspect of that was this idea of autonomy and something that surprised me because we often think we just need to give people a whole load of autonomy, and then we've ticked the box they have autonomy. Brilliant. But actually, from the research that I did, the secondary research, this was done, by someone else.

Aoife O'Brien [:

And I as an aside, I didn't end up including it in my main, thesis, but it's something that I bring into the work that I do. It's about finding that balance. So it's not just giving people flexibility. It's giving people flexibility with enough guidance. So too little, or sorry. Not flexibility. Autonomy. Too little autonomy, and you feel like you're being micromanaged.

Aoife O'Brien [:

But when you have too much autonomy, you're lacking direction. You're not really sure of which way you should go. So I think the pandemic brought about a lot of that where people were feeling maybe little bit aimless. And now we have the opportunity to educate people to really let them know here's what the expectations are. And if you don't know how to prioritize and if you don't know how to set clear boundaries for yourself and use this flexible working opportunity to its maximum. Here are some ways that you can do that. I think it's it's important because a lot of people don't know how to do that.

Cali Williams Yost [:

No. They don't. And this, again, is where the organizational structure and the individual flexibility can really support one another is when the organization goes through that process of setting the parameters within which everybody agrees they're gonna work. That makes the individual that gives them that gives them that, okay. So these are the parameters I can work within. Right? And now how do I fit my work and life Together based on my unique job reality and my unique life reality, how do I fit that together in a way that works for me and my job? What does that look like? Yeah. And, you know, this is why both parts go together. I think that's where we're struggling right now is it does feel a little scattershot Without those parameters.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And I think this whole RTO mandate, one size fits all policy thing is as an attempt to put some Structure around something. Yeah. The problem is it's not based on the work, so it it doesn't it it it has it's not optimized. Yeah. So with both of those parameter setting and then the individual, knowing that they have the autonomy to then be intentional within In that structure is really, really powerful. It's really powerful. And, you know, it's funny that our core question comes back to what do we need to do, And what do we need to do? And how, when, and where do we do it best is the 1st pass, but then it allows the individual to say, what do I need to do? And how and where do I do it best within that structure? Coming back to this word best, people ask me, how can you be so excited about this work after doing it for more than 20 years because really, I mean, don't you get tired of it? I really don't and I'll tell you why. I live for what I call the spark Because it always happens is once the organization starts to think things through and and consider the optimal way of working and individuals then Have the flexibility within that to be their best, it unlocks such a level of commitment and engagement, good feeling That is I live for it.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Like, honestly, when it happens, it just happened in a client recently, and you would have thought I had just gotten Win the lottery. I was so happy and it's magic. So, you know, again, The the return on the the sort of payoff from paying the price of having to go through a process like this is so much greater. I just hope more people do it. Yeah. Honestly, you're gonna have to. At the end of the day, the way we're doing it now is not And and I I think I may have sent you this research. KPMG just surveyed CEOs from around the world, And 67%, I think, said we're gonna be back.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Office jobs are gonna be back in the office 5 days a week in 3 years. That is not Not only do you not I mean, I don't think that's gonna happen.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

But you don't want it to happen. Yeah. You want to engage in a process Where your, like, corporate office people are being really thoughtful and intentional about how they are working based upon what they need to get done. So, you know, it's a missed opportunity and I think we'll get there again. But it's just it's too bad. It's taking as long as it is.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. I think, you know, from what you're saying, this one size fits all and not being optimized for what needs to get done is a lazy approach. If someone says again, going back to your earlier point, we need to have a policy, and we need to say Monday Friday is working from home or working somewhere else or whatever, and 3 days in the office, and that's it. It requires zero thought. It re it requires zero input from leaders, and it takes time to do that. But as you're saying, that time investment is really, really worth it. And everything that you're kind of talking about now comes back to another one of these findings from the report, which is this idea of employees pursuing flexibility. And maybe the the fact that the CEOs are a little bit blind to that at the moment that they can't see that what employees are doing and what the best talent will be looking for are those flexible working opportunities.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Absolutely. Because one of the things that you know, I hear here and there, but I do think it's under it's an undercurrent Is well, if we could just get a good recession. Okay? That'll get everybody back. Okay?

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. Then they'll be grateful for their jobs.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And we are in a talent crunch that is not going away. It's demographic. K? It people are aging. There are not as many people coming up through the ranks. Like Yeah. And you will be behind, and you will not have put in place the the intentional the intentional flexible work model That allows for the business to perform at a high level, people to perform at a high level where everybody's on the same page. Yeah. And you're ultimately going to have to do it because and this is the other thing.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I actually had this conversation with a leader recently. He said, you know what? Quite frankly, just hire somebody else to do the job. And I'm my my very kind and, patient response was, who are you hiring? Like, who? And where are you getting that person that's dying to come into your office 5 days a week and do their job? And he kinda didn't have an answer. And I'm like, I want I'm just I'm encouraging you to think about this before you get, You know, sort of very, you know, specific and and and rigid about what you're doing. Yeah. Because what's gonna happen is people are gonna leave. They're gonna leave because smart employers are gonna be like, hey. There you are, smart trained person.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Come on over here. You do not have to come in every day.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And they'll leave, and then you're not gonna be able to find somebody who's awesome, who's gonna come in 5 days a week. Then you're gonna end up having to offer the flexibility anyway, and then you're gonna have somebody who doesn't know how to do their job. Okay. So you might wanna just go there first and keep the people you have. Mhmm. But again, it's you can't People are not going back. They're not. They are not.

Cali Williams Yost [:

They their context remember, let's go back to our classroom context. Right? Their context has a 100% changed about how, when, and where they can work. Again, doesn't mean they are focused on some of these other things that do matter that require a conversation about a new way of working that addresses not just Put my personal productivity, but the broader organizational performance aspects that could benefit from being in person. But they are not Gonna just march on back to what they were doing before if there is an alternative, and there is going to be an alternative for many, many good people. So Just make peace with that

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

And say, this is true and real. And now how do we move forward? Making all those aspects of our business that we need to put in place to succeed are being addressed Yeah. In an intentional way, working flexibly.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. I love I love that. Like, let's just replace them, like, as if it's a number.

Cali Williams Yost [:

I I was but that is happening. Yeah. Yeah. It's still, like, great. Don't work here. I'll get somebody else. Like, you really aren't. Like, you're not.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Okay? So, but that does not mean that everybody should just do whatever they want. Yeah. But you have to put start the process to put the parameters in place within which they will work flexibly.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. I love that. The other question I had on this idea of employees pursuing flexibility, does that differ from the research that you've looked at? So does that differ by generation? Does it differ by gender?

Cali Williams Yost [:

So there really isn't a significant difference, honestly.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

There is sort of a narrative out there now that women need flexibility more than men. But as I like to point out, our research consistently shows that when you Ask the question a slightly different way. Yeah. When you say work from home, the percentage of women working from home, excuse me, are is higher than men. But when you ask the question, where do you do most of your work? And one of the options is from a remote location, not on your employer site. Men consistently make up the highest percentage of remote primary workers.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Mhmm.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So why that matters is it's really about the way we all work. And, you know, Gen z's, yeah, they want flexibility, but they also wanna be in the office. They Yeah. They get it that, you know, it's important to be together. And also, it's important to recognize majority of workers have to be on-site. They really, really do. And On-site workers, whether you're a man, whether you're a woman, I mean, you wanna understand how you can have some flexibility as well. So I think there's it's important to understand that Flexibility does benefit women.

Cali Williams Yost [:

It does benefit people who have caregiving responsibilities. It does allow people who are gonna maybe retire, stay in the work a little bit longer than they would otherwise. But and I would say senior leaders, I don't know 1 senior leader who spends every day in the office. I really don't. Okay? They're traveling. They're going here and there. They have flexibility.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

So, You know, when we start making it about demographics and generations, it's interesting and important. But I think at the end of the day, we have to just see it's about how we all work yeah. And are able to do our jobs, manage our lives across the different phases of our lives and careers, and what does that look like?

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Brilliant. I love that. And the question that I ask everyone who comes on the podcast, what does being happier at work mean to you?

Cali Williams Yost [:

So being happier at work to me means just being engaged in what you're doing and passionate about it and continuing to be Curious, ask questions, be open minded, and, you know, And at the also at the same time, making sure you're you're being as intentional as you can about taking care of yourself. Mhmm. I think, This is a really challenging time. There's a lot going on. And, I think we all play a significant role In coming up with what the solutions are. But at the same time, we have to take care of ourselves because Yeah. This is this is a marathon we're in right now. Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Sprint.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yes. Look after yourselves. Brilliant. So you mentioned already about the survey. Do you wanna let people know how they can connect with you, what's the best way to get in touch, and where they can find the survey as well?

Cali Williams Yost [:

So go to our website flexstrategygroup.com. And as I said, the pop up will come up, and all you have to do is download the the, report, you can get all the information. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. I love to connect with people on LinkedIn, and I do post there quite a bit. And you can sign up for my newsletter. You know, I'm glad you like it. We do issue it every week, and we just to offer some really practical, real world advice and tips on how to actually execute this now and next of work, which

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah.

Cali Williams Yost [:

Is going to be flexible, But it is about performing at a high level in that a flexible reality.

Aoife O'Brien [:

Yeah. Yeah. No. I love that. And I think today, we have shared some really practical things. So I love to keep this podcast really practical so that if someone's listening, it's not just a case of, oh, that's aspirational or I could do that someday. Or now I know more about that thing. It's how can I take what I've heard today and apply it to my very real situation that's happening for me in work at the moment, how can I turn that into a conversation or an action or whatever it might be? So thank you so much providing those practical tips today.

Aoife O'Brien [:

We really appreciate your time. Oh, and I just love being here, so thank you for having me.

Links