What Flexibility Looks Like for HR

Recently, we held an HR Exchange call with several of the HR leaders we work with to discuss the issues at hand.  It was the final exchange of the summer and we spent a fair bit of time digging into the back to school dilemma and what it might mean for employers.

While typically “back-to-school” is a celebration for parents  — ah, sweet freedom! — this year many parents are filled with a sense looming dread, angst and uncertainty for what’s to come. Many of our HR Exchange members are promoting ‘flexibility’ as the solution. This notion of flexibility supports not only parents but also those who are caregivers of aging family members and for those who are leery of being in an office full of those potentially germy parents!

Get Clear on What “Flexibility” Means

It’s important to dig into what we mean by “flexibility”. Often, it’s just “time flexibility” (e.g. “sure you can start work at 6am”) rather than true flexibility. This is the real dilemma.

True flexibility is both time flexibility and a reasonable allocation of work based on the employer needs, the employee ability and the current reality. It means that leaders are equipped with the ability to have good conversations about what to do, defer or let die, regularly (it could be weekly). Leaders not only need to be skilled with that ability to regularly retrench on priorities but also empowered to make those changes.

Preventing Burnout

So now step back, does your organization have time flexibility or true flexibility? If it’s the former, then you may need to prepare yourself with additional mental health supports. Time for pursuits outside of caregiving that would feed resilience will be nonexistent. The marathon of employees burning the candle at both ends with caregiving and working will continue.

The Overwhelm of Over-Communication

We also spoke about cross functional teaming and a wave of overwhelm with over-communication that many are feeling. Over-communication can be symptomatic of micromanaging. We’ve definitely seen a spike in over the course of the pandemic with the shift to virtual, as managers and leaders grapple with how to lead in a virtual office setting. In the resource section below, there’s a great article about how to spot signs of micromanaging.

Reads and Resources

How To Fix The Back To School Disaster for Working Parents

12 Signs of a Virtual Micromanager