Alison Michalk (pictured below) is the CEO of community management agency
In the week of national Flexible Working Day, I want to discuss radical flexibility. It’s a topic I am very passionate about and something I have adopted as an integral part of my business since I founded it over nine years ago.
Flexibility isn’t black and white or binary; parents versus non-parents, men versus women. It’s about complete individuals who happen, for a moment in time, to be sharing a purpose with others.
If it’s going to be transformative, flexibility needs to be radically inclusive. That means all kinds of flexibility, for all kinds of people, worked out in collaboration with those people – not imposed on them. Don’t be a Trojan horse workplaces that use ‘culture fit’ as code for ‘someone like me who won’t challenge my modus operandi’. It’s no wonder we’re losing the ability to fit with those unlike us; getting rusty at discussion and debate.
Be brave enough to ask tough questions. How would someone with social anxiety or borderline personality disorder manage in your business? Could they create a way of working that allows them to do their best work without causing harm or distress? How about the many Australians who care for others, both formally and informally? If they need to travel for care requirements, or catch up on sleep for a few days, can you adapt? What about non-neurotypical individuals? Do you only cater for an ideal worker?
True flexibility is a social contract with your people to help them be their best, to realise your shared purpose. It means shelving the black and white, and the contrived adversaries. It means thinking about roles themselves differently, and challenging how they’re composed.
Who says they need to look and behave a certain way? Get inventive.
I dislike the term human resources, and it seems particularly relevant as automation and AI rise to shoulder more of our working load. Your people are not commodities to be exploited. Don’t buy into the anti-human agenda.
There are still too many businesses that think flexibility is a remix of hot desks, late starts, early finishes and a day at home here and there. The future is far more radical, don’t get left behind.