Let 'Em Go!

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At the Bright Horizons Regional Client Conference in New York a few weeks ago, there was a lot of talk about the coming together of technology at the workplace and the continuing requests for more flexibility. The former has made the latter a greater possibility. Laptops, cell phones, video conferencing are all part of the ability to set up an office just about anywhere. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'm writing this piece in the lovely atrium of a hospital while my husband has a check-up.) So the question of 'can my direct reports work effectively away from the office' has now become 'should I let them?'

In a round-table conversation on flexibility, I heard HR managers voice a wide range of opinions and experiences from 'we can't seem to get upper management to fully support it' to 'we're taking baby steps' to 'we've done it and it's been a great success.' All acknowledged that the work place is changing, that requests for flexibility increase every year, especially from younger employees who have grown up in a high tech world.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this conversation was the dichotomy between the fear of letting go and the rewards of doing so. What if we let folks work from home? Will we ever see them? Will they get their work done? And then, we let them go?

They love it! They are our most loyal employees. Strangely enough, there are aspects of the workplace that mirror family life. The first eighteen years of life 'and perhaps beyond' is an exercise of letting go. Letting an infant hold the spoon, knowing that the results might not be pretty; letting the toddler take those few steps without a hand to hold, knowing that some bruises will follow; handing over the car keys, oh, let's not even go there. But when that letting go occurs at just the right moments, the results are new found independence and motivation. And at the heart of this letting go and being let go is trust. Trust that the child will continue to develop and mature, but will always come back to the family in new and more meaningful ways. What happens when that kind of trust exists in the workplace? What happens when a boss gives a worker the freedom to work away from the traditional office? When the work is evaluated on its own merits rather than where it was done?

Flexibility can mean many things in the workplace, but there's a good chance that letting go may be just the ticket for keeping your employees close.
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