I’m an advocate for flexible and remote working, and always have been. The future arrived a long time ago for me, even before I became a full-time business owner and an Ambassador for Flex Work Day. When I was asked to become an Ambassador, I submitted this quote to capture my philosophy about working flexibly:
“My flex work philosophy is to be able to work anywhere in the world, at any time, in any way. I work at the times when I’m at my most productive and in ways that play to my strengths and that use the myriad of technology solutions available. This is the future of the workplace. Getting the job done without a one size fits all mindset.”
What I am fervently hoping for is that we all take some time to think about what we learned from this period of enforced remote work, because the future is upon us.
The Future is Now
The global Covid19 pandemic has forced the hand for many organizations and leaders that have resisted flexible and remote working. For those of us already in the remote and flex work advocate category, we already know that a workplace that embraces and actively encourages flexible and remote working helps to remove barriers for many people. These are people who would like to participate more fully in the paid workforce but cannot for a range of reasons. Recently, #BetterAllies published a tip from Carolina Milanesi who identified three demographics who can benefit from remote, flexible work:
- Caregivers (who are mostly women),
- People with disabilities that make it hard to commute or do their best work in an office, and
- Members of underrepresented groups who don’t live in your region.
“But when the crisis eventually passes, I hope the companies that rushed to get their employees working from home will not be too quick to fall back into their work-happens-at-work mindsets, but rather incorporate remote work practices into their businesses for the long run. They should purposefully use remote work to foster a more diverse workforce, because remote work is good for diversity, and diversity is great for business.”
My job is to help people and organizations be better. When I came across the graphic below, I let out a big “Yessss!” Because the covid19 global pandemic is highlighting the fact that many of our systems are broken. Our workplaces (largely) have not evolved quickly enough. This crisis is forcing all of us to rethink the ways of working, ways of engaging and ways of communicating. I want to learn from this experience so that I can be better, and that the people, leaders, and organizations I advise can be better. For everyone. Not in the future, but now.
The New Normal
I know that many people are yearning for a return to ‘normal’, but I need to break it to you gently folks. The new normal has arrived. Now I know that not everyone thrives in a remote working environment. However, as I stated in my philosophy about flex working, “one size does not fit all” and I’d argue that not enough thought and preparation has been put into the flex and remote working processes to date. I want us all to learn from this experience and evolve our workplaces (wherever they are) to meet the needs of many people, not just a few. AS the meme says, nothing should go back to normal, normal wasn’t working.
So I for one, am looking on the bright side of this current environment where a great many workers are now doing their work remotely and flexibly. In a new normal environment, maybe, just maybe, the organizations I work with will be the beneficiaries of tapping into a much larger talent pool. And maybe, just maybe, more women, people with a disability and those who live in regional and remote areas will have the opportunity to reach their full potential now that the future has arrived so quickly.