Better flex: How to adapt to the changes in flexible working


Flexible working is evolving as a key focus when thinking about the future of work.
Woman working from home in front of computer showing team meeting participants.
Image source: Getty Images

It’s worthwhile think more broadly than just hybrid, or just working from home, or just remote work.

According to Dom Price, Chief Work Futurist at Atlassian, “flexible work is not just about where work is done – an office, home or other location – but when work is done.”

Changes in work and workplaces continue to roll in … and they will keep rolling, giving people a rollercoaster feeling or create a ‘what next’ question in their mind.

But an alternative mindset to predicting what will happen next, is to adapt to whatever it is when it arrives.

For work to become more flexible and people to be more flexible in it, think beyond locations and how you might better flex with the changes.

The ways of working are changing

New and agile ways of working are sweeping the world. From their beginnings in the manufacturing sector (lean processes) and software development (agile methods), new and better ways of doing things are a big part of many organisational change and transformation projects.

The annual State of Agile Report now in its 15th year, continues to reveal that agile ways of working help teams and organisations manage changing priorities, improve productivity and boost morale – among other benefits and results.

Businesses are looking for ways to deliver value to clients sooner, which means finding new ways to make decisions and progress easier and in turn, get work done easier and the valuable components delivered sooner.

Instead of looking down a growing ‘to do’ list of tasks each day and being overwhelmed by them, new ways of working encourage us to adopt more flexible mindsets.

Consider these three dimensions of flexibility at work:

  • Outcomes – instead of hours and days

A lot of talk about the future of work, hybrid work and returning to the office is based on which days of the week people are attending the office and how many hours or days they’re working or commuting. More flexible ways of working encourage us to look at what outcomes we’re achieving and how well we’re doing that. The focus shifts to outcomes and results instead of time, hours and days.

  • Thinner slices – instead of bigger chunks

Working on a big piece of work, a large task or big project may be our default way of working. But more flexible work approaches suggest that working in increments – or thinner slices and smaller tasks of the bigger project – is a better way to tackle the work.

Thinner slices are easier to complete and tick off which provides a greater sense of progress as well as an opportunity to check on the quality, standard and suitability of the work. The wider environment – beyond a desk.

  • The wider environment – beyond a desk

Flexible work is evolving to include more than just a desk, chair and computer, particularly for knowledge workers. The wider environment at work matters too. Spaces that are safe, welcoming, collaborative and creative are on the rise. Think of where else you can work instead of a desk.

In lean manufacturing processes for example, leaders will frequently go to where the work is being done, where the manufacturing is happening, out on the shop floor or among the machinery, production and processing. It’s known in Japan – where lean manufacturing evolved via the successful Toyota Production System – as ‘walking the Gemba’ or doing a ‘Gemba walk’. Gemba means where the work is happening. This takes leaders away from their desks and computers, and out to where the real work and people are.

Rigidity or flexibility?

In an era where flexible work is increasingly of interest, check on your own flexibility. Or rather, rigidity. Do you only want things to work, happen or occur in a certain way? Do you expect a particular process to be followed with no variations, edits or changes?

In times of change, we might want to cling to that which is familiar but equally we can be interested in flexibility in other parts of our life. What other things are you flexible with? Social engagements, activities on the weekends or what you have for dinner? How might rigidity be holding you back from other opportunities in these times of an increasing need for flexibility?

As we adopt a more flexible mindset and willingness to try new ways of working, we get to welcome increased learning opportunities and insights. Learning is experiencing a change and rise in flexibility too. In fact, so many elements of work are evolving and changing, there is room for flexibility in more than hours, days and times.

Lynne Cazaly is a work futurist and expert in new ways of thinking, leading and working. She is a keynote speaker and 10 x author. See more at