The Changing Work Environment Part 1: Providing Flexibility

“To make flexibility work, it is not only necessary to change our attitude about who is a good worker and who is not, but we have to train managers at all levels to recognize the difference between the number of hours worked and the quality of work produced.” – Madeleine M. Kunin

Recent findings in the Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index ( reveal exciting and challenging trends in the modern workplace. The changing work environment sees fewer employees working standardized hours. Technology now allows employees to work from any location. The global economy requires the ability to conduct business on a non-standardized schedule.

That the workplace is changing comes as no surprise to those paying attention. Preparing for it can be a challenge. It is in this context we begin a three part series that explores this topic in hopes of raising awareness and starting a conversation about solutions.

What does it look like?

While this is not a new concept for many organizations it is nonetheless an approach whose time has come and it deserves a second look. In the changing work environment employees are encouraged to work, within reason, a schedule that works for them. The emphasis is more on task accomplishment than on hours in the office.

The shift toward this approach, like any new idea or concept, begins with the leadership of the organization. New attitudes must be embraced if new ways of competing in the global economy is going to work for you. In short- flexibility must give way to adaptability, which in turn gives way to greater productivity.

Why is it important?

A good workforce is the foundation of every successful business. It’s no longer about work-life balance. Employees want work to fit seamlessly into their personal lives. If you want to attract and keep high performing employees, you are going to have to provide the flexibility they desire.

The Staples Index revealed that burnout and employee engagement is a major concern among employees. When asked what would help turn that around the number one response was workplace flexibility. While we embrace a strong work ethic and productivity, perhaps organizations would be better served not by employees who are burned out but by employees who are empowered and inspired by greater flexibility and control over their schedules.

How do we do it?

What if we change the way we look at employees, from working for us as an employee, to working with us more like an independent contractor?

In many organizations righting the course can take time. Old ways and mindsets can be hard to overcome. Here are six ACTION steps to help you think through your current operations and to embrace flexibility.

Acknowledge – It’s time to bring your team together and acknowledge attitudes and mindsets that are holding you back. It’s time to take an honest look at what is and is not working. It’s time to quit clinging to traditions and think about the future.

Create – The flexibility you desire and production goals you set are the ones you create with intentionality. What will your future look like? What will employee engagement in your workplace culture look like? It looks like what you create!

Trust– Show your employees that you know that you have hired the right people for the right positions. Let them see through your actions that you trust them to operate in the best interest of the organization without the need for micromanagement. Give them the resources they need and then let them do their job.

Identify- Identify one or two small changes that you can implement right away to signal that the desire for flexibility is being recognized. Regardless of how big or small, just do it. Baby steps are acceptable. Now, identify one or two “old ways” of doing things and let them go. Identifying change and creating change can be done, and is best done incrementally.

Observe – How are employees responding to the incremental changes you are implementing? How is your culture being impacted? What should your next step be? Ask employees for their input; involve them in the development of the plan going forward.

Next Step – Offering flexibility is a great starting point for attracting the best talent and staying agile in the changing work environment. But, you can’t stop here. Once you have acknowledged the attitudes that are holding you back; have intentionally created a workplace culture; shown employees that you trust them; have identified incremental changes you can make; and observed the impact of those changes, it’s time to take the next step.

Be on the lookout next week for part II of The Changing Work Environment Series: Providing Autonomy.

© 2016 Doug Dickerson and Liz Stincelli

Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership speaker, columnist, and author. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your civic, business, or church group. To learn more visit or email him at

Liz Stincelli is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. She holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Liz by visiting her website:

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