As a recent 4-day work week trial shows, flexibility in the workplace is often limited to the utopia of an extra day off.
I have a lot of conversations with leaders regarding workforce engagement, especially with Millennials, and a common frustration concerns flexibility. Which usually means Friday off. Or at least half of Friday.
We must reframe flexibility.
Flexibility is the question of “How much will it bend before it breaks?” Aircraft wings are flexible: Stress loads, maneuvering, flight angles, and turbulence all test the flexibility of the wing.
In the same way, workplace flexibility revolves around “bending but not broken.” Essentially, how much can we bend our work hours before we break? Whether it’s broken productivity or broken team cohesion, our flexibility is often defined by a break-point.
What if we reframe Flexibility to Possibility?
Instead of asking, “what might break?” – Start asking “What might be possible?”
What’s possible in our workplace? What might be possible if we give a few more options? A few more options around remuneration? A few more options around scheduling?
What new ways of engagement might we come up with?
What new value can we create from exploring what might be possible?
Look at coffee shops. Cafes don’t just offer Black Coffee and White Coffee. They offer possibility. They offer options.
Coffee shops give the possibility of connecting your drink with how you feel. The possibility of a better day (once you wake up!). The possibility of choosing for yourself.
There are many aspects of many jobs where uniformity has replaced possibility.
Sometimes, we cant engage in possibility: Let’s not experiment with possibility while doing open heart surgery.
Yet if you look a little at the world around you, within your workplace, I bet you’ll find some possibility.
The possibility of a vacation trip instead of a pay raise.
The possibility of student debt reduction.
The possibility of advanced resources for specific roles.
To Millennials: If you’re out to find a new job, stop asking what companies offer in terms of flexibility. Start asking about possibility. Help companies dream of what’s possible.
Next time the word flexibility comes up in conversation, mentally reframe it to possibility, and see what happens.