Over the past 3 decades I’ve been fortunate to have pretty good flexibility in where, when and how I work.
It’s allowed me the space I need to reflect and think so I could see how to optimise my productivity and get stuff done to achieve goals. In the early days, even as a management consultant, I often worked from home when proposal or report deadlines were pressing as this gave me the flexibility, freedom and creative room to hit deadlines with the maximum level of success.
Flexible Work in the Digital Age
Fast forward to 2018. The internet has revolutionised the way work CAN be performed. Through providers such as Air Tasker and Upwork, we can access teams in far flung places, which enables 24/7 availability to complete projects, provide customer service, reduce costs and maximise productivity. We work on our phones, tablets and PC’s in cafes, trains….and if we’re lucky enough, from the beach!
Case Study – Us!
Switch Education is a classic example of how technology has enabled work to be done differently.
We don’t have a formal office, we work in opposite hemispheres (Australia and the UK) from home offices and our teams work from all different parts of the globe. The way we manage our business today simply wouldn’t have been possible in the past. But it’s not just the technology and connectivity that’s enabled us to run a global, digital education business; we respond well to having the freedom and flexibility to manage our work days with the minimum level of disruption and maximum creative and problem-solving outputs – for us it’s the perfect life balance (and mindset).
The ‘Operational Demands’ Dilemma
But, what happens when we have the responsibility to manage lots of direct reports, have endless meetings to attend, customer calls to make and emails to write/reply to? How do we manage to have time to reflect and think? How can we work remotely and still maintain our focus?
The conclusion I’ve reached over the years to avoid falling prey to this ‘operational demands dilemma’ is twofold. First, we need to have the right mindset and give ourselves the space we need to be reflective and creative. Second, we need to be better at managing our personalities when it comes to managing our teams. By not creating the space we need – even in small chunks – to do our jobs better – and by not giving our teams more freedom to do what they need to do, we self-limit both our potential – and theirs.
So, it comes down to us as leaders and managers shifting from a primarily operational focus to a less fixed one – in the (paraphrased) words of Bill Clinton – it’s our mindsets, silly!