I have been thinking a lot about what flexibility means these days. It was already a conversation I had with managers since we had a “flexible” PTO (paid time off) policy. But I feel like, during the pandemic, flexibility has had to take on a whole new meaning. As I think about a “flexible” remote work policy moving forward, I have been challenging myself to define what I mean by flexibility and the outcome I am trying to drive by creating a culture of flexibility.
My goal is to build a culture where people feel like they are treated like adults. We hire people who are incredibly smart, talented, and with some (if not a lot) of experience under their belts. They have a lot of different interests, live in different areas, and have different home lives. So my desire to offer flexibility is in recognition of all those individual needs and priorities. If you are getting your work done, are available for key meetings and put in the effort to be an active member of our community, I am not concerned about if you are doing it from the office or your home or a coffee shop. I am not worried if you prefer to take random days off during the year or one big trip once a year (or when that trip falls). Again, as long as you are hitting your goals or leaving your team in the lurch, I trust that you are making the right decision. If you aren’t, then that’s a different conversation.
At Ordergroove, we had already built more flexibility into our perks, for example moving to a wellness allowance versus a specific gym discount, but during the spring and summer of 2020, people needed flexibility more than ever. We have always tried to give our team the space and support needed to balance both work and home life. But that support was needed more than ever as stay at home orders were going into effect across the country. If people need time to take care of (or teach) their kids during the day, that’s fine. Just let your manager and team know about it. Block the time on your calendar and set your slack notifications accordingly so people know you are offline. This is key, flexibility only works when there is clear communication to create boundaries. On the flip side, we are having to really encourage people to take time offline. Since the idea of “vacation” is totally unclear during a stay-at-home order, people haven’t been taking the time they need. But now more than ever, burnout is real. Zoom fatigue is real. So even if you are taking the day to sit in bed and read, or as one manager said, eat ice cream and watch Netflix, take the time. We have even added some extra “holidays” this summer where OG will be offline to encourage people to take a break.
As we look to the future, we see more opportunities for flexibility. We have announced we will have a flexible work from anywhere policy. While there are still many logistics to work out, our team has shown, even in the worst of circumstances, that we are able to be productive, collaborate, and drive results even when we aren’t physically together. And some people, outside of the unique stresses of COVID, are really enjoying working from home. So moving forward, people can have the flexibility to be in the office or not, or split their time. Whatever works best for them. As long as they are with the team at key moments (for example our quarterly all hands meetings) we trust the individual to work out the right schedule that works for them, the best way they work, and to find the right balance in their life.
For me, flexibility is about empowering individuals to make the right decisions. At Ordergroove, our values are around authenticity, collaboration, driving the right outcomes, and the willingness to ride the rollercoaster. We hire professional adults to join our team and demonstrate those values each day as we work to build an amazing company. I find that if you start from a place of trust and respect, most of the time people will rise to that expectation. And at least in our culture, the ability to be flexible and to award that “perk” to our team reflects our values and the types of people we want on this journey with us.