Years ago we learned that saying “flexibility” to employers in a sales pitch made it less likely for them to convert, and tried many different ways to say it without saying it (!). 

Today it’s more accepted, and the pandemic has done wonders to move this concept forward, but I’m always on the lookout for new ways to describe what flexibility really is — it doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone

So I was delighted to see it pop up in my feed this week that General Motors announced a new approach to the future of work, called Work Appropriately. 

GM CEO Mary Barra explains on LinkedIn: “This means that where the work permits, employees have the flexibility to work where they can have the greatest impact on achieving our goals.”

She goes on to note that “our employees are capable of making smart decisions without overly prescriptive guidance.” Hear, hear!

Translated, GM realizes that doing our best work doesn’t mean staying glued to a desk from 9-5 p.m. or adhering to the traditional constructs around face time or even office space. 

What I love most about work appropriately is it recognizes that not all jobs are the same, and allows for various work styles to co-exist. For example, I may want to be left alone between 5 and 8 p.m., but someone else on my team might need to start her day a little later. That’s fine — we set our meetings for the times in between and get the work done.

Barra puts it well: “We know the future of work is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and our values and behaviors will help guide us.”

Even better, GM (NYSE: GM) is exploring ways to bring this approach to the factory floor, where innovation in how we work is long overdue.

With companies readying to return to the workplace, it’s critical for employers to reflect what has worked well while having everyone at home — still working — and recognizing that the way we work again should never be the same. Kuddos to General Motors and Mary Barra for doing the thought work, and for showing us what leadership looks like. 


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