How Flexibility Can Foster Trust In The Workplace

January 12, 2021

As an anxious and highly overachieving person, going with the flow has never really been in my vocabulary. I like everything to be neat and tidy, with set-in-stone agendas, color-coded planners and meticulously detailed calendars. I don’t like the grey area, or unknowns, and get frustrated when plans fall through and shit hits the fan. 

But if there’s anything I learned from the unpredictable circumstances that 2020 threw onto our laps, it’s that flexibility is actually a strength, not a weakness like I’d always assumed. It can help us look at situations with a more open and empathetic mind and allow us to bring our whole selves to our relationships both inside and outside of the workplace. 

People are dealing with more struggles now than ever before. Parents are balancing working from home while also supporting their children through remote school. Those who live alone are dealing with social isolation. People of color continue to deal with the trauma of racial inequality and injustice. And many of our colleagues, friends and family are dealing with grief and mental health struggles as a result of the pandemic. 

So the next time a colleague has to reschedule a meeting, push back a deadline or take a personal day, here are some benefits of handling the situation from a flexible approach: 

1. Flexibility and empathy build trust 

Being empathetic of your colleagues and the struggles they may be facing will build trust and encourage them to bring more of their whole selves to work. It also creates a two-way street where you can both feel comfortable admitting you’re having a difficult time and need to reschedule (because we ALL have those moments).  

2. Being flexible allows for the best end product

Oftentimes when working with clients a deadline is – well, a deadline. But when working on internal or creative projects, being in the right headspace to work productively can help to produce your best possible work. This is the beauty of remote work, if you need to take a break, TAKE A BREAK and come back to it.

3. The grey area is where we grow

While the unknown can be scary and intimidating, being flexible with change and acknowledging that we don’t have control over everything can be very humbling. The grey area posed by the pandemic has caused companies to rethink the way they work and create big changes that are here to stay. Overall we have learned to be more productive by rolling with the punches and allowing flexibility into our work days. 

DISCLAIMER: When working on flexibility, it is important to find the balance between being flakey and being flexible. If you have an important meeting with a client or an anniversary dinner that your significant other has been planning for weeks, it’s important to follow through at the risk of losing trust (and hurting feelings) if you don’t show. 

By bringing more flexibility into how we interact with colleagues and make plans during these uncertain and chaotic times, we will be better equipped to deal with uncertainties in the most productive way possible. 

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