Building Collaborative Flexibility for the Superior Workplace


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Collaborative Flexibility:  Working Better Together
A long history of unilateral scheduling
For most of the 1900s, people worked in factories and offices on schedules that were fixed, rigid and unilateral. In 1972 Hewlett-Packard cracked the corporate mold by introducing a flextime program in the United States. Aimed at long employee commutes, flextime let participants adjust their start and quit time around standard hours.

Such a modest program served like corporate training wheels. They launched the four-decade era of Flexible Work Arrangements. Companies tried a menu of part-time, job sharing, compressed schedules – and of course “telecommuting.” Slowly the training wheels have come off as businesses saw gains ranging from recruitment and retention to real estate savings and business continuity. Millions of employees have insisted on a scheduling process that was less “fixed, rigid and unilateral” and more fluid, flexible and collaborative.

The possibility of customized scheduling drifts into limited programs
But as these new, and potentially transformative ways of working took hold, they have become encased in narrow and rigid flexibility programs. That approach is running into its inevitable constraints. Compared to an assembly-line shift or a 9-to-5 cubicle farm, flextime or compressed schedules seem “flexible.” But workplace flexibility can’t deliver its full potential when it is creating new scheduling boxes, limited eligibility  or the same old unilateral approach by managers more concerned with control than results..

Flexibility is about control over where, when and how work gets done and better results are delivered. To be most creative and effective, the focus should be on the process of sharing that control. The greatest gains come when managers and their employees or teams collaborate and innovate on value-adding schedules. The unique power of collaboration emerges as they become fully engaged in developing and constantly redesigning ways of working that benefit companies and satisfy employees. The result:  outcomes that could not be achieved in any other way.

Collaborative flexibility is the next evolutionary step
The approach of Collaborative or Co Flexibility doesn’t focus on  creating “telecommuters” or “part-timers,” Co Flexibility helps build a climate, culture and habits that encourage deep collaboration and lasting innovation. It is skill-based rather than programmatic, inventive rather than constraining and value-creating instead of zero-sum in character.

The standard for Flexible Work Arrangements is in the name: these are often open-ended, tenure- or position-based arrangements: if you meet the terms, you keep the schedule. The standard for Co Flexibility is proposing a common, unique or hybrid schedule that optimizes employee delight and blends talent, time and task to deliver innovation, engagement and measurable value. FWAs are menu-driven, while Co Flexibility offers negotiated innovation.

Collaboration requires deep and shared standards and habits

Collaboration does not occur in the exchange of forms or in a passing conversation. As employee needs and business pressures or opportunities vary, there is continuing collaboration to adjust the nature of truly flexible schedules. Such fluidity cannot occur without the enhancement of what we call the Mutual Respect Skills described on this site. They go beyond simple communication to a principle-based toolkit that enhances true collaboration.

One of the limitations of Flexible Work Arrangement initiatives over the years has been the challenge posed by the majority of managers who lacked the core skills required to “negotiate” even programmatic flexibility. Recently, a similar skill deficit has shown up as a lack of so-called interactive skills by many millennial employees. The time has come for companies to master these enabling skillsets for their workforces. At a time when more and more companies are calling for greater collaboration within their workforces, training in general collaboration and specific Collaborative Flexibility skills are becoming a higher priority.

Just as the industrial stopwatch, HP’s flextime and an abundance of FWAs have marked progress in how we schedule, the era of Collaborative Flexibility is now upon us. It is the next transformative stage of flexibility in the workplace. It promises greater personal freedom and organizational successes that cannot be achieved in any other way.

The Path to Collaborative Flexibility

If FWAs are your goal...



Our Mission

Rupert & Company enables Collaborative Flexibility. We fully integrate employee need for greater control of where, when and how work is done with employer need for greater contribution.

We enhance engagement, productivity, cost reduction and talent attraction and retention. We design the future of flexibility.

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