The New York Times Magazine has an article this week about flexibility at work. Since I am a person with a chronic illness and disability and have been a boss to many teams, it seems like a no brainer to support flexibility at work. In fact, life requires flexibility at work. If you give care to yourself or anyone of any age you need flexibility at work. This can range from a haircut to periodic hospital admissions. I used to think that there couldn’t be flexibility if you worked on a shift, say in an ICU, when your absence would make it short-staffed and less safe. But then my teams realized that if we expected to need flexibility then we could design the work and schedules to accommodate the unexpected. Rather, the need for flexibility became the expected. In my first management job as a manager of an ICU I noticed that nurses didn’t stop for lunch, let alone take breaks or go to the bathroom. Crazy. We can design this work so we can take breaks!! This morphed into no one needs to be on call all the time and then, sure, you can go to your daughter’s recital. We can figure this out. I found that when flexibility was expected and given, people stepped up to allow it to happen for each other. No work was planned that required just one person, we always built-in redundancy and clear written descriptions so someone else could step in at a moment’s notice. Certainly, hiring the right people is critical. Flexibility doesn’t work if you don’t trust that everyone gives their all. Do you avoid hiring people with disabilities, chronic conditions, or full of life because you’re worried about getting the job done? I hope not.
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