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Flexibility and Flexibility – A quick view from Cheryl Liew-Chng

What’s one of the proven way to make room for your family, yourself, and your career?



–Full Transcript —

I had a very interesting conversation with a young lady the other day and she told me with joy in her face “Cheryl, I’m three months pregnant and my husband and I are so happy.”  I shared the joy with her, until she told me in the same breath “but you know, I have not told my supervisor or my team members.”  I asked her why.  She said “can you imagine telling my boss I’m three months pregnant and my boss responds with “what’s going to happen to all the work and projects on hand that you are handling?”  She said “I just don’t know how to broach the subject.”

Then it dawned on me that not just her but many of us still in the corporate setting want more freedom and more flexibility in the way we do our work.  There are other things happening in our lives, whether caring for another individual or pursuing a passion of ours.  I realized that there is a need for us to learn, I say learn because you can learn to take this awkward conversation with your supervisor and team members.  Let me share with you how it can be done because I’ve worked with many individuals around the globe about asking for flexibility and they have asked for it successfully.

#1. The very first thing you need to do is to really sit down and write down why should your boss be supporting you going on to flexibility?  Why should your boss say yes to you looking at a different way of work?  The key message you need to consistently send across is that you want to continue to be a contributor to the team and to the department’s goals.  You write down what is essentially a business plan, right?  An alternative way of work.  What’s your business case for saying yes to you going for a different way of work?  Write down, what are my deliverables, what are my goals right now?  How can I continue to contribute on them even when I have a different way of work.  That is most important to your supervisor and to your team members.  Then think through…are there any other costs involved?  Are there any benefits?  If there are benefits, make sure you write them down, whether it’s for better customer service, quicker turnaround time…those are things you can write down and build your business case for yes.  Then write down the various ways of communication.  How can you be reached?  What is the difference in the way of work in terms of your work processes?  You are enjoying the flexibility and freedom but you are also looking at someone else having to adjust to a different way of work because you are not in the work place.  Document all of that down.  Simple enough?


#2 Let’s move on now to the second thing you need to consider.  The second thing of course is you need to convey this to your stakeholders.  Who are your stakeholders?  Obviously your supervisor, your boss, but remember also to think about your team members and your customers.  Sit your boss down, walk him or her through your business case, your plan.  Because with that you demonstrate two key things, one, that you are committed to your job and that you are committed to continuing to be a contributor.  The second is that you thought through the issue and you are coming to him or her with a win-win solution, that you want to find a collaborative and mutually beneficial solution instead of going to your supervisor and saying “boss, I have a problem.” Demonstrate you have already thought it through about how you can best still be contributing to the results and the bottom line of the team.  If he or she were to say no at first, go find out why.  There could be some reason you didn’t know of and then go and find solutions for that.  Basically it is an opportunity to have a conversation, to work towards something that we would call a pilot.  We will talk a little bit more about that in point number three.

What about the other two stakeholders?  What do you say?  How do you convey this to them?  Well, speak to your team members, reassure them that you are still reachable.  The last thing they need is an issue where they don’t know how to get to you or they are wondering who’s going to take over the workload.  Reassure them there is no change in workload, just the way work gets done might have some adjustments.  Let them know who they can contact you, when they can contact you, and what the workflow is like.  When are you going to be online, when not, and how work will still get done.  They will not be compromised in terms of their own deliverables.  What about your customers?  Let them know how they can reach you if they need to or how they can find solutions.  One of my favorite ways is you do a FAQ, a frequently asked question list that you can distribute to your team members or leave it on a site people can access so you will minimize the need for your customer to have a direct conversation with you and they can’t find you.  Always be able to return your calls when you say you will be returning calls.  Part of it is about managing the expectation so that you can have the freedom and flexibility.


#3 Point number three is always offer a point of evaluation.  Start with a pilot.  In that pilot we can identify what’s working and what’s not working and then make that switch, tweak that around.  As you pilot it, some things may not work out the way you planned and you are able to adjust.  The second thing is that life happens, right?  What you think of right now may work for now but as you move on it might need some adjustment.  That’s where you evaluate, meeting your goals of freedom and flexibility and your team’s goals in terms of contribution.

So what are you waiting for?  If you want more freedom and flexibility at work, go ahead and get your business case done, find a chance to speak with your supervisor and stakeholders and implement a pilot.  Go and do it right now so that you can enjoy the freedom and flexibility.

I would love to hear your insights and your approach to freedom and flexibility at work. Share with me your comments below.

My best, Cheryl

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