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Work+Life Fit, not Balance

Cali yost
Una forza della natura, che spazia tra Europa e Stati Uniti. Non è stato facile intervistare Cali Yost ma, tra mille impegni ed una fitta agenda, si è ricordata anche di me e dopo due settimane ecco un'intervista-fiume nella mia casella di posta. E' difficile spiegare esattamente cosa faccia questa vulcanica donna, si potrebbe dire che è "la paladina della flessibilità". Una super-consulente che con numeri e piani di business alla mano spiega ai manager come utilizzare meglio le proprie risorse, con una determinazione ed una convinzione che l'hanno portata a creare una società  molto dinamica e redditizia,  Work+Life fit.  Ci tende a precisare quel "fit" e non "balance" perché per lei lavoro e vita privata possono integrarsi al meglio – e nel modo più conveniente anche per il datore di lavoro – sena bisogno di strani equilibrismi o sacrifici. Questo è il sito della sua società e qui di seguito l'intervista (in inglese)

D: While do you think flexibility is still not perceived as an authentic opportunity (at least in Europe where we have a structural rigidity of labour market)?

 R: Workplace flexibility, or work+life flexibility as I call it, is still perceived by many to be a policy/perk, benefit or “nice thing to do” primarily for women and moms, and not as a core strategy for operating the business day-to-day especially in a difficult economic environment.  Perhaps this is even more the case in Europe where strict work rules limit the amount of flexibility and innovation in how, when and where work can be done.  I would argue that while the US may have less institutionalized rigidity in work practices at the government level, we have perceptions of the way work is done and a culture in many workplaces that can be equally as inflexible and resistant to change.  


D: If you had to speak to an employer and convince him to apply flexible working arrangement, what evidence and statistics would you produce him?

R: Where do I begin.  First, I would ask him or her to list the top five business challenges or opportunities they were facing.  Then, I would ask them to consider how flexibility in where, when and how work is done would help.  In other words, I would lead with the business needs in terms of establishing the business case for flexibility, because too often we lead with the personal work+life fit need which, while very important, obscures the power of flexibility as a strategic lever for the business.  For example, let’s say the top five business challenges and opportunities at the moment are:

1)     Reducing labor costs while trying to retain good people

2)     Expanding global client coverage without burning teams out

3)     Increasing environmental sustainability

4)     Increasing productivity

5)     Retaining older employees who want to retire but don’t want to work full-time and attracting younger employees who expect to be able to work flexibly

 In all five of those cases, all types of flexibility in how, when and where work is done will have a direct impact.  There is evidence and statistics for each of these impacts individually but the trick is to tie all of these individual outcomes together to show just how powerful work+life flexibility can be in terms of bottom line results.  The problem is we tend to focus on each one of these individual tactical applications of flexibility and fail to see the potential impact of the collective strategy.


D: Is there a "definitive" text all employers should reed before say "no" to flexibility?

 R: I can’t think of a definitive text but I did attach three new pieces of research that lay out the business case for work+life flexibility.  Again, the problem is that research tends to look at each one of the individual tactical applications of flexibility that are in and of themselves important, but the real benefit comes when all of those business impacts are organized under one coordinated operating strategy.  

D: Could the crisis be a great opportunity to re-think the classic (archaic?) working arrangements path?

R: Yes, especially when you go back to the fact that work+life flexibility or flexibility in how, when and where work is done is a core strategic lever for addressing a broad range of the most pressing business opportunities and challenges we are going to continue to face whether we are in an up or down cycle—here’s a graphic. I truly believe companies either flex or perish:

One strategy

D: In your blog you illustrate the fair that the actual crisis could be a pretence to stop all forms of arrangements made to meet employees' need: is a concrete risk?

 R: Actually, since I wrote that blog post we’ve conducted our 2009 Work+Life Fit Reality Check. The good news is the a large majority, at least in the US, have seen their access to and use of work+life flexibility either increase or stay the same.  Now, that doesn’t everyone has the exact type of work+life flexibility that they want given the fact that 6 out of 10 said they didn’t improve or use flexibility due to a variety of challenges or fears; however, it means that for the most part flexibility is here to stay.  Now, the question becomes how do we REALLY make it work for individuals and the business.  Unfortunately an unenlightened few will see the recession as an excuse to pull back, but they will find themselves even further behind the eight ball in a recovery.  Again, flex or perish.


D: Which one is in your opinion the mast weak point that should be reviewed to improve working arrangements?

 R: The weakest point is that, at the end of the day, it comes down to each and every individual employee sitting down with themselves, their manager, and their team and figuring out which type of day-to-day work+life flexibility or formal flexibility meets their needs as well as the needs of the business.  And right now most employees have absolutely no idea how to do that.  Neither companies nor the government can’t come up with the answer for each person—everyone’s work and personal realities are completely different; therefore the type of flexibility that will work will be different.  All the government and employers can do is create an environment that supports creative, innovative problem-solving.  But they also need to make sure all employees have the skill set to do their part.  They don’t and that is the weak point.  It’s why I wrote my book Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’ Right for You (Riverhead/Penguin Group, 2005) to give people a step by step process to follow.