Instead of “Hybrid” or “Remote” Let’s Call it Strategic Flexibility
Jessica DeGroot and ThirdPath Institute were recently featured in the Society for Human Resource Management’s newsletter.
Read on for an excerpt that helps illustrate how we as change agents can make the most of this moment in time.
Or listen to our Thursday webinar featuring Scott Behson and Delta Emerson talking about this important subject.
As we hopefully move toward a pandemic-under-control world, there may be better words to use. Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of the ThirdPath Institute, prefers the term “strategic flexibility.” She views the issue holistically: Strategic flexibility is workplace flexibility for men and women, from entry-level to executive leadership positions, that takes into account whether they work better onsite or offsite. She also includes life stages, recognizing that employees’ needs change.
DeGroot has seen the power of strategic flexibility in the community of leaders her nonprofit supports. Long before the pandemic, these leaders were experimenting with remote work as one of the options offered to employees to develop an integrated approach to work and life—one that allowed them to be successful at work while having time and energy for life responsibilities. This paid off during the pandemic. At ThirdPath’s recent Leadership Summit, DeGroot discovered that, unlike many businesses today, none of the participants had lost a disproportionate number of female employees during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, she has also heard a number of less-progressive stories, including those that illustrate outdated thinking by HR. “Too often, HR sees itself as rule enforcers for the way things have always been done,” she said.
DeGroot shares the story of an engineer who had successfully worked remotely a few days a week his entire career. During the pandemic, he and other team members were laid off, but his confidence in his ability to work remotely inspired him to apply for a position that was physically located a four-hour drive from his home. It was a company he had been following due to its groundbreaking work, and since its employees had been working remotely for a year, he saw it as an opportunity to join the organization.
When interviewed by one of the company vice presidents, the engineer was told, “HR’s policy is that you cannot work remotely. There’s nothing I can do about it.” But then the vice president confided that he had two team members who worked remotely long before the pandemic, one living even farther away than a four-hour drive.
DeGroot believes HR can be instrumental in creating strategically flexible workplaces. “This includes messaging to current employees and potential new hires, partnerships with managers to help them develop the skills to manage remote work teams and revising job descriptions,” she said. In this way, and with the support of senior leaders, “HR can make a major contribution to their organizations’ success,” she added.
The article then goes on to share the story of how Delta Emerson, featured in the above YouTube recording, and one of our amazing ThirdPath community members, used strategic flexibility to transform her workplace.
As Delta explained, “We had some old-school leaders who couldn’t imagine the kind of workplace we were envisioning,” she said. “Over time, however, as positive results became evident, resistance dissipated.”
The article concludes with this powerful truth: “Because of the pandemic, numerous organizations that had never contemplated strategic flexibility before have had to adjust. Now, rather than returning to the old ways, let’s take advantage of this otherwise disastrous event to rethink how work is done.”