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What does it mean to be flexible?
It can look like an intrinsic personality trait from the outside, but in truth, being flexible is all about preparation and accepting that things will change. It is impossible to expect the unexpected. You can still anticipate new developments before they happen and have a plan of action ready to meet the occasion. Some personal developments can be seen coming over the horizon. The impact of these events can be thought about long before they happen.
But over a long stretch of time, surprises become inevitable; a project might suddenly fall to pieces after months of hard work. But by accepting that unpredictable things will happen; you will at least find yourself in the correct mindset to react to them.
A sudden change can be stressful, but that stress is exacerbated by the service that you have lost control. By bracing yourself for unanticipated outcomes, you can better retain control over the situation and better position yourself to deal with the fallout.
Flexibility is a measure of how well we deal with the unexpected. Flexibility in the workplace means being able to quickly adapt to new circumstances as they arise. An employee who is flexible can change their plans to navigate or overcome unanticipated obstacles. An employer can encourage this way of thinking, by giving employees the freedom to choose how they work including their own schedules and work locations.
This is especially important in fast moving and dynamic industries. The ability to respond to unpredictable events and changing expectations is a valuable asset for employers and employees alike. If the events of the past year, have taught us anything, about how and where we work, it is that fostering an ability, to deal with unexpected situations, has benefits in all facets of our lives.
Flexibility is an important tool in problem solving. Projects with many moving parts are more manageable, when working with flexible team members. Being adaptable to sudden changes mean you can react to new conditions without slowing down or becoming stressed. An ability to reshape your role within a team so that you can more easily meet your objectives.It means you can evolve and grow alongside your company, no matter your job description.
Flexibility in business is an asset to most employees and workers. They readily demonstrate their ability to intelligently respond to a changing environment are highly valued. More importantly, being flexible in the workplace has the added side effect of making you happier in other areas of your life. When you are less anxious at the office, you are more able to achieve a healthy work life balance. An openness to change exposes you to new ideas and could set you off on career paths you had not previously considered.
Flexibility is a skill that can be learned. Practice the skills required to help you become more flexible in the workplace.
When you encounter an obstacle at work, you will have the tools you need to deal with it, calmly and effectively. The skills required to achieve flexibility, will differ depending on the type of work you do, but here are some general tips to bear in mind.
Make time in your schedule to stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry. It is easy to fall into a routine and close yourself off to fresh ideas, especially when you are a veteran in your field. Pay attention to trends and follow the work of those who are just entering the industry. Study the competition and stay curious about new research and ways of working, especially if these ideas contrast with your way of doing things.
Practice optimism. When faced with a problem you had not accounted for, it is natural to focus on the setback, rather than the solution. Instead, try to see the potential benefits of a change of plans and aim to respond with positivity. Recognize the impact an unexpected event might have on a task but prioritize the search for an answer to the problem. This is especially important, when working in teams, where inflexible attitude can have a disastrous effect on morale.
Communicate your expectations. Flexibility cuts both ways and you become way less effective at overcoming problems, when you are not striking a decent work life balance. If your daily commute is causing anxiety or maybe you are finding it difficult to deal with the distractions of working from home, communicate your need for a better solution. This could mean arriving later or working at a dedicated co-working space nearby.
When you are a part of a team that is willing to help one another, out in a tight situation, you are better equipped to demonstrate flexibility when challenging conditions arise. Create a supportive working environment by offering to assist colleagues, when you have got the bandwidth to do so. Some examples include, taking on some of their tasks, covering a shift, or training them on a system they are unfamiliar with. This fosters a sense of unity and mutual support within the team, which in turn, will encourage your colleagues to help you out, when an unanticipated problem lands in your inbox.
During meetings and over email, offer solutions rather than complaints. We have a natural tendency to respond emotionally when circumstances suddenly change for the worse, but this can be destructive. Take a moment to collect your thoughts and then present a few different ideas for overcoming the obstacle. Not voicing your feelings, as soon as they arise, does not mean your concerns are not legitimate, but it is always best to rise in a more productive context.
A flexible mindset is an attitude that responds well to change. A flexible work place is an environment that encourages that kind of mindset. The working patterns of flexible employees can fall outside traditional office hours, locations, or job responsibilities. The most basic form of flexible working can be as straight forward as choosing your own start and finish times. But a flexible workplace can also involve novel employment arrangements such as job sharing, remote working and condensed workweeks.
For employees, the freedom to choose how, where and when they work, has a measurable impact on job satisfaction and productivity. Being able to shape their workday around personal obligations like dropping the kids off at school or waiting for an important delivery.
This allows them to strike a healthier work-life balance and to direct their energy toward where it is needed most.
Historically, some bosses have feared that a move away from usual 9 to 5 would harm business. But studies into flexibility in the workplace show the opposite. When telecom giant Vodafone shifted to an agile working strategy, it saw an increase in productivity and employee management. A study found that those who were able to work remotely, reported higher job satisfaction and took fewer sick days then their office-based colleagues.
Offering flexibility in the workplace also helps to attract and retain talent. There is growing demand among younger workers for less rigid work schedule. Research found that 92% of millennia identify flexibility as their top priority when looking for a job. The same is true at the other end of the workforce, where more than half of over-50s want to ease into their retirement by working flexibility with fewer hours.
Give workers the latitude to approach objectives in their creativity. Any creative person can tell you that inspiration strikes at the strangest times. Some people do their best work before breakfast, others in the middle of the night. By giving employees the freedom to manage their own schedules, rather than compelling them to be at their desk by a certain time, they can more effectively harness their creative energy.
Introducing a flexible working policy can help with overhead too. With fewer employees required to be in the office at any given time, you can cut down on empty office space you no longer need, reducing the cost of your lease.
Ways to increase flexibility in the workplace.
There are many ways to incorporate more flexibility into your company culture. It might not be realistic to transition to a totally flexible schedule or to get rid of everyone’s assigned desks. However, you can take these small steps toward a less rigid happier and more productive workplace.
Start a discussion about flexible working. Figure out what kind of flexible arrangements, your employees actually want and be realistic about what you can offer. Large offices with interdependent departments, might not be able to accommodate huge changes in working hours. They may be able to allow remote working, more paid time off or a four-day workweek.
Be clear in your business objectives. A flexible workplace is built around trusting terms, to approach objectives in their own way and on their own schedule. Hence, it is important that goals and deadlines are communicated clearly and understood by all.
Encourage creativity: Create a supportive environment in which workers are not afraid to share new ideas. A workplace that promotes creativity and lateral thinking, is better equipped to navigate complicated problems when they arise.
Reconfigure the office layout. Flexibility is not just an attitude; it extends to the physical layout of the workspace. Provide teams with different areas of the office to work. Such as standing desks in quiet corners and common areas where people can come together to collaborate.
Whether you realize it or not, the design of your office space reinforces certain ideas about how your company is run. The way we work is changing, but the places we work often still reflect ideas of the past. A truly flexible workplace requires, trust between employers and employees and the autonomy to choose, where and when we do our best work. That means, reshaping the physical office to meet these new criteria. A more flexible office leads to a more agile business;one that promotes collaboration and creativity and is better able to navigate the unexpected.
Rapid technology advances, along with fast paced changes, in global markets and the political landscape.Means that today’s workplaces are often unpredictable. Your organization has probably undergone a major change of one kind or another recently, most have. Perhaps, as a result you have found yourself taking on new responsibilities or working with a variety of different team or across different functions.
Maybe your industry is in a state of upheaval, with no two day the same or you have had to adapt to working under a succession of different mangers. All of this means, that it is more important than ever that you are flexible and responsive to sudden change.
Flexibility is the capacity to adjust to short term change, quickly and calmly, so that you can deal with unexpected problems or tasks effectively.
Flexibility is similar to adaptability, but the two are not the same. In relation to your attitude and behaviors at work they can be defined. Flexible in the way you work. Willingness to accommodate others needs and not be preoccupied with your own objectives.
Adaptable to the prevailing circumstances, that is having the ability to adapt to the way other people work and cope with differences in conditions or environment.
Most of us have experienced change in the workplace at some point. We cannot always predict when changes like these are going to happen. That is why flexibility is so important. When you are flexible you are versatile, resilient and responsive to change. You can adapt to unexpected demands in the workplace. Sudden surges in work, urgent problems or an unpredictable event such, as a cyber security breach or financial crash for instance.
Flexible people are highly prized by managers and businessmen. They help to stabilize situations when crises strike. They keep objectives achievable and within reach, and they often go the extra mile to support colleagues who are in need of advice or help.
Flexibility involves having an open, team centered attitude and retaining a strong sense of identity and purpose. Here are few ways that you can achieve this.
Focus on your core values: Having key attributes that do not shift can keep you grounded during periods of change. Using your core values and your organizations culture as anchor points, will help you to decide what you can and cannot agree to, when you receive an unexpected request.
Taking on responsibility for a project, that will get your team nearer to meeting its annual target is one thing. In case, if this involves doing something that is legally or ethically dubious, you should steer clear.
Be open-minded: You will likely find it easier to understand and manage a situation if you look at it from different perspective.
For example, if you are looking to launch a new product, you might first like to analyze it from different viewpoints.
How will it fit into the market place for instance?
What will be the impact on your production process and your sides marketing teams?
How do you think your customers will react to it?
Make it a priority to listen to and understand the views of the other people involved.
Develop your skill set: If you do not make an effort to learn new skills, you will likely find that when an unexpected event does occur, you will not be equipped to deal with it. Tackle this by staying curious about what is going on around you. Keep up to date with new industry trends by reading up on the latest innovations, research and broaden your knowledge by cross-skilling.
Make an effort to work with people or on tasks that you would normally avoid. There really might be better ways of doing things. Stretch yourself and get into the habit of trying new things, instead of being stuck in a routine.
Be optimistic: It can be difficult to stay positive when you know a large, urgent project is on the horizon. But looking on the bright side and focusing on the positive, will help you to stay resilient and focused. A break or change in your routine could be an opportunity to learn new skills or to work with different colleagues, new clients or new suppliers.
Stay calm: When expectations shift suddenly, it can be disconcerting and you might find that you start to feel anxious. Counter the effects of stress by taking steps to restore calm. You can explore tips and techniques for doing these online or reading books.
Plan ahead: Even if you cannot predict the future, you can still plan for the unexpected. Anticipating the next new development, measuring risks and preparing for them are key skills. If you are pitching a product or service to a potential client, it is a good idea to think about the questions that they might ask and to prepare your answers ahead of time.
Have a strong support network: Having a strong and stable team around you is essential in times of flux. It means, that no matter the difficulties you are facing, you have people you can rely on to support you. Strengthen the relationships that you have with your co-workers by building trust. You could start by offering to take on additional tasks, when a colleague is busy or by helping them, with a system or process that they are finding difficult to use.
Not only will this boost collaboration and positivity across your team, but it will likely encourage your colleagues to return the favor, when you are the one in need of help. Do not allow a commitment to flexible working, it becomes an opportunity for others to take advantage of you. Make your boundaries clear and assert, your right not to become a dumpster, for all the jobs that nobody else wants.
How to encourage team flexibility.
As a manager, you are responsible for developing a team culture that values and encourages flexibility.
Overcome resistance to change: Expecting your team members to adapt to changing circumstances automatically can be a big risk. So, the next time a big change is on the horizon, encourage your people to be more flexible, by clearly explaining why the change is necessary. Spell out its benefits to them and to the organization and take care not to gloss over any details.
Foster a sense of security: To be flexible, people need to be able to think on their feet and act boldly in ways that are new and unfamiliar. Give your people the self-confidence to do this, by creating an environment in which they feel supported and trusted and where they cantest out new ideas, without fear of failure or punishment. Also encourage them to share their findings with the rest of the team.
Lead with purpose: When people are clear on the goals that they need to reach and what they need to do to achieve them, short term challenges will have a less disruptive impact. So, be sure to clearly communicate your team’s purpose and its shared objectives and revisit them regularly, so that everyone stays on track.
Encourage creativity: When people are given the freedom to be creative, they will likely find it easier to adapt to new ways of working. Find solutions to problems and to make better decisions when unexpected issues crop up.
Encourage creativity in your team leading them by example. Suggest new ideas yourself and invite other people to offer feedback and suggestions. Not only will this encourage a sense of adventure but will also drive team collaboration and engagement.
Empathize: Flexibility is not just about responding to events quickly. It also involves responding to the different needs of your team members. When there is an urgent problem, you will likely find that some people jump at the challenges, while others appear to cave under the pressure.
Do not write off these people. Remember, just how much you are asking of them. Tap into your emotional intelligence by showing them that you understand and empathize with them, about the challenges that they face. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them. You could provide additional training or pair them with a more confident colleague. Finally, remember to give praise and reward your team members, when they show initiative or have reacted well to a situation that demands flexibility.
Flexibility has become an increasingly valuable skill in modern workplaces, where unpredictability and changes are often constant. When you are flexible, you are able to deal with unexpected challenges quickly, calmly and efficiently. But flexibility is not just about reacting to situations as and when they arise. It also involves making substantial changes to the way we think, work and behave.
Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices not talents and all of them are available to you.
Flexibility is the key to stability. Be firm on principle but flexible on method. Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.
Remember, if you are truly flexible, there is really very little you cannot accomplish in your lifetime!!!