Flexiblity is a superpower

Every company calls itself flexible. It’s one of those meaningless buzzwords used to attract talent. Most businesses are extremely rigid in their mindset.

I regularly hear from companies that think starting between 8h and 10h equals flexibility. They don’t get that it’s just regular old-fashioned office hours.

It’s not uncommon for them to have a daily kick-off meeting that indicates the time when everyone should be on-site. Or they have “core hours” between 10h and 16h.

It’s part of the infantilisation of office workers. You hire professionals who are the best in their field and then treat them like children who can’t be trusted to wake up on time.

Flexibility means trusting people to do their best work and not caring about micromanaging their whereabouts. Or whenabouts.

Flexibility is people walking in and out when they see fit. It’s people writing a report at home in the morning, dropping by the office for a demo and still avoiding the evening rush.

It’s educated grown-ups managing their own agendas and communicating directly with their colleagues.

It’s caring about results and not about punch clocks.

“But, without core hours it’s more difficult to organise all-hands meetings!”

Yes! That’s a plus. Organising a meeting with a large group takes some logistics and planning. That’s fine: they should be rare anyway. If you feel like you should be able to call an all-hands meeting at any time, you value meeting culture over productivity. Flexibility forces the organizer to be more mindful. It results in fewer meetings with fewer attendees. That’s what we want right?

People are great at self-organisation if you let them. They’ll find a modus operandi that works for their team. One developer might prefer to code isolated in his home office in the morning. His colleagues might pair on a tough redesign in the late afternoon. A tester runs a regression batch after her kids are in bed. A manager might want to take the empty 11h train so she can get some work done on the road.

People are great at self-organisation if you let them. But most of the time, we don’t let them. We force them to waste their most productive hours in a commute. We drag them in too many meetings. We interrupt them all the time. We obsess over when they should be where instead of giving them the tools to shine.

Flexibility equals productivity. It allows us to get the best work out of the best people.

Let’s make it more than a buzzword.