087 – The flexible work revolution with Sally Rayner
This episode is interesting for a couple of reasons. We’re talking about workplace flexibility which has became an obsession for many of us. Our lives our full and we live in a time when expectations are very different from when the 9-5 was invented. If rigid workplace expectations were ever relevant those days are long past. The other reason this podcast is interesting is that for the first time ever I’m interviewing with my wife.
Sally Rayner is a general manager in a large resource company and has a global role spread over multiple time zones. She is also the mother to three children and it’s that reason that has inspired her quest to build a different kind of working life. We were invited to speak at an event sponsored by Women in Resources and Mining Queensland. The WINMARQ audience was really receptive to the discussion and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Most people think a flexible workplace means being able to work from home a few days a week. But it’s not just that. It’s about providing an opportunity for workers to be their true self. Giving people the space to do things other than work will make them better workers in the long run.
Flexible work requires empathy
There are so many things that people are expected to do that there is a real need for a different kind of schedule. Working passionately and building a family life is really hard. That’s why the idea of flexible work is so in demand. But employers are still reluctant to offer a different kind of schedule to their workers. It requires a certain kind of empathy to understand the needs of your colleagues and to offer them choices.
It’s hard to change opinions
There is a certain generation of employers who are very reticent to accepting the concept of flexible work. What those employers need to do is educate themselves – especially if their workers are asking for a different kind of schedule. You have to ask questions. It’s not a new concept and employers have to trust that their workers aren’t being lazy. If the leader doesn’t have the ability to be interested in their workers you’re going to be fighting uphill. Having specific examples of other workers in similar roles working flexibly is a good tool to use in your negotiations.
Start the conversation
The most important way to change the idea of what is “good” work is to start talking about it. It doesn’t have to be in your face. It can just be as simple as mentioning it in the lift or over a coffee. It’s about stories. If people have good or bad stories about flexible workplaces that’s a great place to start. For employers start with trust. Assume that it will work. There are really clear links between diversity and inclusion, health and safety and flexible work. A diverse workforce needs diverse ways of working which will produce healthy, happy employees who will work more safely and take fewer sick days.