Modern-day corporate culture has a "too much information" problem. I'm not talking about inappropriate memes and jokes—though those can certainly be cause for concern too—but instead the oversharing of why we need the flexibility we need.
As I wrote in a prior LinkedIn post, my young son recently visited the school nurse every day during his first week of school, so I used MicroAgility to pick him up early on Friday so he could get some more 1:1 time and talk to me about what’s going on. I could have told all of my colleagues at Werk where I was and why and what was going on with Asher, but I didn't. I simply told them, "I'm going to be MicroAgile for an hour starting at 3 p.m.” Enough said.
It's not that I had anything to hide—I'm writing about it here, after all—it just wasn't relevant to my team.
Consider what Toni Bowers writes for TechRepublic: "Communication can work wonders for productivity and efficiency if it's the right kind of communication. The wrong kind of communication does nothing but gum up the works."
Bowers recommends being selective in sharing details: "Is there some information you have or some action you're about to take that may impact others? Run through the dominoes of work roles in your mind and discern who will need to know, who will not, and what part of the information is relevant."
After all, we don't usually tell our coworkers everything we do during non-business hours, so why do we need to provide any more information when we use flex to tend to our personal matters during business hours? Why do we feel obligated to justify our time- and location-based modifications to the workday?
I think we over-communicate our needs for flexibility because the workforce still regards flexibility as an exception to the rule, as something that has to be justified because it isn’t the norm, as something that requires a special accommodation or favor. As it’s completely transactional.
And so, the knee-jerk reaction is to be defensive, to justify, and to share simply too much information.
It's understandable: historically, most employers have viewed flexibility as deviation from standard office hours. If you're reading this, you've probably had an experience with transactional flexibility. Your boss might have let you come into work an hour later when you had a doctor's appointment. Or maybe you were allowed to work from home when a repairman was coming. And because flexibility wasn't structured into the company culture, you probably felt like you had to over-explain yourself to your boss and your colleagues, to make sure they understand how important this exception was and to justify that you were still serious and committed, and this is just one little favor.
While I always encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work and to normalize their flex needs, I also try to remind them that too much information can sometimes be disruptive and make others uncomfortable. Trust me, no one needs to know the intimate details of how your stomach flu is progressing when a simple “I’ll be MicroAgile this morning” would suffice. You probably don’t want to share, and no one needs to know that you are having a wart removed. And you certainly don’t need to go into a whole story of how you didn’t want to invest in fixing the dishwasher last year because you had to fix the fridge and now the dishwasher is leaking. Am I right?
When employers implement structured flexibility, it helps remove the need to over-communicate the "why" along with the "what,” and allows the six flexibility types to become intrinsic to a company’s culture. Structured flexibility is strategic, clearly defined, and broadly communicated. There's no mystery about flexibility, no bias toward workers accessing flex, and no perception of favoritism. The work gets done, and it often gets done better and faster. Plus, it’s much easier and better to say “I’m DeskPlus today” than “I have this weird stomach thing… etc, etc.”
Here at Werk, all employees have been through our flexibility assessment process and are able to access the flex types they need. We offer MicroAgility to everyone, no questions asked. Employees are expected to meet their daily objectives and to communicate their schedules with their team, but that's it. Same goes with employees who utilize DeskPlus, the flex type granting workers location variety. The only thing we really need to know is that the Werk gets done. And maybe how your weekend was :)