Whenever I am invited by an organization to speak at a Diversity conference or event, I am often asked to address work-life balance and flexible working, presumably because tech firms ought to know a thing or two about flexible working. To which I would respond with the proverbial roll of my eyes.
Let me be clear first and say upfront that yes, Microsoft is very much into flexible working and provides employees with the opportunity to pretty much work where and when we want, within reasonable performance parameters of course. You would have seen from a few of my blog entries that to be the case. And at one of these external presentations, I once showed a slide that looked like this: However, the promise of flexible working is not the exclusive domain of technology firms. Nor does the stereotype hold that all technology firms have a flexible working culture. And the last word of that last sentence is at the crux of it – “culture”.
I know a number of technology firms for which physical presence in the office remains an explicit requirement. We all know of Marissa Mayer’s (Yahoo) position on this matter and also Michael Bloomberg’s views. And CEOs set the tone from the top that drive the culture of the company and the mindset of its employees. In a technology firm I recently spoke with (which shall remain anonymous), employees could negotiate with their managers to work from home, but it is limited explicitly to 1 day a week and they were advised to specify upfront which (regular) day of the week that would be.
My previous employer – Shell – was probably the opposite of Microsoft on the “tech scale”. I actually had to jump 3 Windows operating systems when I moved from Shell to Microsoft (which may or may not have been a good thing depending on which OS I missed and which one I landed upon). And yet, Shell had quite a flexible working culture too that was enabled by technology (granted that it was not always that latest new fangled OS or app).
So flexible working is not just about the “tech”. Technology is the enabler and culture is the foundation.
A culture of trust that empowers people to make choices about how they want to do their best work. For it is not about where work is done – at home or in the office, but about giving people the choice to do what works best for them to get the most professional and personal productivity and impact out of their lives.
And borrowing a line from a famous movie, a culture that means “never having to say you’re sorry” for when, where and how you work.