I have more than 40 amazing, talented colleagues working with my company. And even though I talk with them all the time, I see each of them maybe only a dozen times a year.
I’ve always worked in settings that required face time — from City Hall to political campaigns, universities and a large communications agency. And while I had the flexibility to make it home every night to eat dinner with my kids or work from home on occasion, I know that’s often not the norm for many working professionals, particularly in client services fields like public relations, advertising, law, finance and politics.
I believe there are places that need face time, but when I started my communications firm, providing workplace flexibility was crucial. I’ve always felt that you don’t have to spend all hours of the day sitting in an office, logging hours or putting in face time to be terrific or prove your worth as a professional. I have built my business on trust.
I have met so many exceptional people over the years, particularly women, with amazing resumes and work experiences, but they wanted something more. They wanted to be empowered to do the work that they loved while having the freedom to run their own lives.
Creating a workplace that thrives on trust is the key — having trust in yourself that you’ve put the right team in place to make it work, and trusting your team to do the right thing, to communicate, be accountable, be collaborative and get the work done.
Stripping down the typical workplace structure, hours, demands and hierarchy, and putting exceptionally skilled people in charge of their own teams have proven to be better ways to build teams and get better results. In fact, studies show that worker productivity increases when given greater control over their own working hours. A 2014 study by Bentley University found that 77% of millennials say that flexible work hours would make them more productive at work. Combined with the proclivity of digital and mobile technology, the truth is that many jobs can be done anytime and anywhere.
A few of the key principles I’ve woven into the fabric of my business include:
• Remote Work: With the exception of our support staff, who use our open-office co-working space, the rest of our team works remotely while making themselves available to travel in for meetings and events. We don’t have a strict set of rules. This business relies on important team member qualities, like accountability, trust and frequent communication, to be successful.
• Flexible Schedules: A strict 9-to-5 schedule is not a requirement. Our team is free to set unique working hours and modes of communication. It works because the expectations in regard to serving our clients are clear. We hold each other accountable and will back each other up if needed.
• Team Support: Having a rough week or a heavy workload? We work in teams made up of several senior-level professionals with very different skill sets, who work with our support staff to fill in the gaps when other team members are bogged down or out of pocket. We are always creating and delivering something new and innovative for our clients, and our teams are stacked so that nothing important falls through the cracks.
• Good Team Dynamics: We don’t compete with each other, we complement one another. I never want anyone to come to work with a sick feeling in their stomach. I chose this work-flex structure because it allowed me to access extraordinary talent and give them the workplace flexibility that so many professionals desire. We are challenged, learn from each other and ultimately have fun every day.
• Childcare: No childcare, no problem. I’m always upfront with potential clients that, while we always put our clients first, we work around our families and personal lives, and most of us work from home. If the chatter from a child or a dog barking bothers you, then we aren’t the firm for you. Need to come in for a client meeting? No need to stress, as the firm will cover the costs of childcare.
• Weekly Team Calls: Staying connected is important. Our weekly team call allows us to share best practices, talk through challenges and recognize successes. That meeting has become our anchor and helps us to connect and grow.
The work-flex model is the bedrock of my business, and we’ve taken this model to new heights. While there are opportunities and responsibilities involved when it comes to flexible work arrangements, it’s clear that this environment of trust has empowered our team to do their best work in an innovative and forward-thinking work arrangement. Because, let’s face it, working full-time and succeeding while dealing with life is hard. Adding trust to the mix and letting go of traditional workplace norms can be the magic ingredient needed to make it happen.