How to Encourage Flexibility, Pivots, and Changes in the Workplace

If there is one thing the last few years taught us, it is how to be flexible. Now when someone has to reschedule it isn’t a big deal – we accommodate and make the adjustments. For us introverts, sometimes it is a blessing, sometimes it is putting off the inevitable. Either way we, dare I say, Pivot? If we are this flexible now with our calendars, why are so many people still resistant to change?

I think it is fair to say, there are many different types of personalities, working styles, and generations in today’s work force. Some employees thrive in a chaotic work environment that changes daily. Others are more productive with a continuous or repetitive environment. If someone tells me they work in a “fast-paced” environment, I often assess if that “fast-pace” is because the work environment is chaotic and unorganized, or if the work itself is pressure filled. The bottom line is “fast paced” should be translated into “change is the only constant.”

To be fair, that “fast pace” is often a natural change as businesses grow and change. Business needs can (and should) change. The office and its employees need to implement changes to accommodate this business growth. It is ideal if your employees are flexible and encourage the necessary growth and change – instead of fighting it.

Changes can be as simple as a change in procedures, or changes can be a shift that has a profound impact on the structure of the business and workplace. As your business changes and evolves, how can you go about encouraging flexibility and shift a process, procedure, or guideline internally without creating havoc?

Here are some quick tips for leaders to remember when making changes in the workplace.

  1. State your vision. Be clear and articulate about what vision you have for the change. What does success look like in this (new) situation?
  2. Be willing to explain the “why.” Employees will be more receptive to changes if they understand the bigger picture and why this change needs to be implemented.
  3. Lead your employees. Lead them into the change, don’t demand it. Be flexible as they adjust to this change.
  4. Ask for collaboration. Employees are more flexible with change when they feel they have a say and helped create this pivot.
  5. Lead by example. Model the behavior you want to see. If you have changed your policy to 100% in the office, then YOU as the leader need to be 100% in the office.
  6. Proceed in small steps. It is a reality that some people have difficulty with changes. Take small steps. Give your employees time to adjust and help them through the process.

Looking to make some adjustments to your business? Have you created a management strategy for the change? Do you have a goal that you are reaching for? Creating a strong office environment during the changes can help ensure employee retention and a more team-oriented workplace.

Want to work through your change management strategies? Give me a call and let’s figure out the next steps!

During my years in Corporate America, I didn’t give it a second thought when my offices had a birthday party for a team member. As my offices grew, we changed the ritual to once a month (from everyone celebrating individually), but the balloon, cake, and card were “normal” office policy. I learned the hard way celebrating a birthday isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a company standard.

To begin with, not everyone likes to celebrate their birthday. I know the extroverts out there may be shocked by this statement, but the fact is true. Not everyone enjoys celebrations and the thought of everyone knowing their personal details are not appealing.

 Here are some tips to help your office be inclusive, fair, and celebratory.

  1. Any office environment should NEVER make celebrating birthdays mandatory. Make all celebrations optional and allow employees to choose for themselves.
  2. Not everyone has disposable income to buy gifts. Do not take office collections to buy people presents, cards, or fancy lunches. It is presumptuous to assume that everyone has income to spare or wants to participate in a gift exchange.
  3. Consider allergies and dietary restrictions. I will never forget the year that some coworkers brought me cupcakes for my birthday that had nuts in them. It left me in a super awkward predicament. If I didn’t eat them, it would hurt their feelings or if I confessed, I would make them feel awkward.
  4. If your office does choose to celebrate birthdays, I recommend doing a large cake, for the entire office. Eating the treat is optional and each team member can choose if they want a piece or not.
  5. We recommend having a group party, once a month. This way no one person is singled out. I worked in a large office that had 17 birthdays in November. The simple “Happy Birthday” on the cake we had the first Friday of the month covered anyone who wanted to participate.
  6. Ask your staff if they want to be acknowledged via email, on the cake, or with a party. There is no judgment on their decision, you are information gathering. Then, armed with this information, choose a company standard and stick to it – for everyone.
  7. Try methods of celebration that aren’t about group food. Try electronic greeting cards, gift cards to food establishments or local stores (paid for out of office funds), a lunch out with the manager, or decorating their desk space. I used to grant a  “personal holiday” and allowed them to stay home (paid) on their birthday.

Choose the celebration that works best for your employees but be consistent about the implementation to ensure that no one who wants to celebrate, gets left out.

Welcome to Spring 2023. Yes, I said Spring. While the rest of the country digs out from yet another snow storm, we are truly blessed to live in the Southwest, with its warm days and cool nights (although it has been cooler than normal for us!). It is the land of the Early Spring—those rare weeks we don’t have to turn on the heater or the air conditioner, and we get electric bills we can live with.

Early Spring in Arizona brings out the cyclists, the dog walkers, and the runners, all eager to work up a little sweat without melting into the pavement. It is also time for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, where both the rookies and the veterans eagerly renew their skills and work themselves back into playing shape.

How is your team shaping up this Spring? Though our winters are mercifully short and mild, we still have the holidays to deal with and the post-holiday lull. Has your “I’ll get to it in the New Year” morphed into “Maybe by March?” Are you happy with this Quarter’s evolution or is it time to shake things up a bit? With every team, every business and every family, change can be a scary concept.

Which brings me to the Newsletter tip of the month.  I challenge you to view change in a different light. Change means things are growing and taking a different shape. It means fresh ideas, fresh members, fresh direction, and a safe place where all are free to soar!

What changes do you want to make, to see, to be a part of in Quarter 2? Not sure? Want to talk it through with a new perspective for added clarity?

That is where we come in – give me a call and let’s hit your next three months out of the park!

It’s February, time for lacy Valentines, roses, and heart-shaped candies. It’s also time for overbooked restaurants, ditched New Year’s resolutions, and Girl Scout cookies.

I’m feeling the stress, how about you?

For businesses, February is the time to reach out to your leads and see how they’re doing, to re-visit former clients to see what they need now. Talk about stress. I can’t tell you how often this month potential clients have told me: “Yes, we want to move forward, but not right now.” REALLY? Putting off hiring or HR issues aren’t going to make them go away. Here’s my rule of thumb—if you know you need something done, you likely should have done it yesterday. But today’s good, too. Let’s get it done now.  

These delays got me thinking about my own business. Am I delaying as well? What are my current business needs, and how am I getting in my own way?

Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating love, which reminds me that one of my goals for the year is to fully love where I am and celebrate my accomplishments. I call this business love. So why don’t you do the same? Take a few moments (or more) to celebrate what you love about your business. Not only will this temper the stress, it will reignite the spark while reminding you why you got into business in the first place.

Here are three steps you can take to shift into gratitude and refocus your February frustrations into business love:

  • Set boundaries. This can mean many things, but the most important is to own your business, don’t let it own you. Set call hours on your electronic calendar, take Saturday and Sundays off, block off time to work those long-term projects you keep putting off. Whatever you decide, make it right for you – and stick to it!
  • Treat your business as a client. Speaking of long-term projects, give your business one or more hours a week to work on the big picture. Maybe that means creating a marketing strategy and calendar, working intensely on your billing, or creating processes and procedures to automate your business. Whatever you need that week is what you focus on. And no matter what, keep the appointment with your business. You would never dream of canceling on a client, so don’t cancel on yourself.
  • Embrace the scary. I have news for you. You are never going to be completely 100% ready to take that next move. There will always be a degree of fear. Is this the right decision? Did I just ruin my business? Run with the fear rather than away from it. Think of it as that “Oh my gosh, here we go” feeling you get in the pit of your stomach at the top of a roller coaster. Instead of holding your breath, closing your eyes, and hoping for the best, throw up your hands, scream at the top of your lungs, and enjoy the ride. Then give your business the love we’re talking about when you reach the end safe and sound.

This Valentine’s Day I wish nothing but love and abundance to you all. Here’s to reigniting the business spark.

As we ring in the New Year, it is a perfect time to reassess where you are, where your business is, and if everything is in alignment with your core values. Here are 5 ways to align your 1st Quarter 2023.

  1. Revisit your core values. What are 3 principles that you live your life, and run your business by? There are some great core value exercises out there and my favorite is Brene Brown’s[1]. I visit this exercise every couple of years to make sure my goals and action steps are in line with what truly matters most to me.
  2. Take an honest look at the last year. Review what worked and didn’t work for your business. Cut yourself some slack if necessary. Remember strategic plans are living documents, and at their most effective, they change, evolve, and grow with your business as the year progresses. Strategic Plans are not chains holding you down but wings to launch your business as high as you want to go.
  3. Review your company’s policies and procedures. Start with the employee manual. Do you have one? Is it updated? Every business, regardless of the number of employees, should have an employee manual. These manuals are not just a list of rules and regulations. They are an opportunity to create and record the business culture you truly desire. Updating your manual is an opportunity to revisit your mission and value statements and share them with your staff. 
  4. Re-visit your expectations and reflect on whether they are still relevant to your business. Are they in line with your core values? After you reflect on them make your expectations clear and put them in writing. And make sure your staff is brought up to speed with any changes.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek guidance. Maybe you aren’t sure if your expectations are clear and well-understood, and you need an objective outside perspective. Structure for Success is here to help! We specialize in bringing you that outside perspective. We take a look at your employees, your processes, and your culture to make sure they are in sync with your goals and expectations.

    Don’t let fear paralyze you. Change can be good. Now is the time to set the pattern of excellence for the New Year.

    Contact Wendy at Structure for Success to schedule a time to discuss your how to establish your goals and aspirations for 2023, and how to translate them into actionable business expectations for your company. 

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With the 4th Quarter in full swing, it is time to take a look at your business and figure out where you stand, where you want to be, and where you are headed.

Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of having remote employees. I know, especially here in Arizona, a lot of my clients are shifted away from having any remote employees; opting instead for having everyone front and center at the office. But, as we continue to interview for open positions, I find candidates are still searching for flexible, hybrid, and remote positions.

Here are some advantages to having remote workers. Before you discount them completely, take a moment to reflect on the questions I asked above. Where is your business headed? Do you have the resources (and space) to take you to that next level?

The ability to expand your staff, without moving to a bigger office suite.

Your business continues to grow and expand. One challenge I hear all the time is you don’t have space for that much needed employee. It may be difficult to add to your staff when there physically isn’t anywhere to put them or their desk. Enabling some employees to work from home means that you can hire additional employees and not be concerned about where you are going to put them. A compromise could be a desk-share program or hybrid work schedule. Want to work out the details? Give me a call and we can talk it though.

You can hire employees based on their experience and not their location.

We are interviewing for a position that has a very specific skill set. My client wanted someone who had their skills already established and could easy just walk into the job without much training. This can be challenging to accomplish, but my client agreed to list the job as remote. The result? People across the country flooded in to apply for the position. We were able to find several extremely qualified candidates, that lived in a different state, and were able to fill the position within a much shorter time frame. In the end it was wonderful to be able to expand our applicants to people that normally would have been excluded due to their location.

Physical challenges aren’t a problem.

There are some employees who are spectacular employees that can do their jobs well but have a physical limitation that makes coming into the office difficult. Whether the injury is temporary, or a permanent disability, the situation is the same. Does Sally really need to get to work with that cast on her foot for the next 8 weeks and struggle to keep her foot elevated or is it easier to tell Sally to work from home without having to hassle with an Uber twice every day because she can’t drive with the cast on? Let’s think outside the old school box here, does that employee really NEED to be present in the workplace. You get to keep your skilled employee and save yourself the cost of another hiring search.

As small businesses struggle to find their next, best employee, or grow to meet their current commitments or market need it is time to revisit the benefits of remote work. We proved we could work from home and be productive a couple years ago. Why discount and ignore that knowledge? Instead use it to your advantage and give your business, and employees, the flexibility and strength to move to the next level.

If I have to temporarily close my business, do I have to pay my employees during this time?

Not generally, but here are the rules:

  • Nonexempt hourly employees do not have to be paid during business closures provided they don’t perform any work at all during the closure period. If they work during that time, you must pay them for the hours they clock in.
  • Exempt employees do not have to be paid for any payroll week in which they perform NO WORK AT ALL. If they work any portion of a week, however, they must be paid for the whole week.

Employers should communicate with all their employees through written policy what their expectations and policies are and should be particularly clear about what happens when no work is performed during the closure.

Although employers are not required to pay employees during a closure, many employers are electing to do so for short-term closures. Employers hope these policies will encourage employees to be forthcoming about their symptoms should they get sick so they don’t come to work sick because they need the pay check.

If you have the capability of maintaining work hours in the coming weeks, even if it means creating special projects, I strongly suggest you set up telecommuting opportunities for your whole staff.

Do I have to pay employees who are sent home sick for that day?

For an hourly worker – No. The employees can use their accrued paid sick leave or other PTO / Vacation leave available.

For a salaried employee – Yes. If salaried employees work for part of that day and are sent home, they must be paid for the entire day.

Can I convert my salaried employees to an hourly wage?

Yes, assuming they do not have an employment contract. But it’s all or nothing. You must convert all your exempt employees, not just some of them.

The conversion from salaried to hourly work should occur at the start of the new pay period or work week, and the exempt employees must be notified in writing before the change occurs.

Once they are converted to hourly work, the newly minted nonexempt employees must make at least minimum wage and be paid for all overtime hours they clock. The state of Arizona defines overtime as any time worked over 40 hours in one work week.

Can an employer withdraw an offer of employment if the applicant has Coronavirus or symptoms of the disease?

Yes. The EEOC (based on current CDC guidance) states that the employer can withdraw an offer of employment for this reason because the new employee cannot safely enter the workplace.

Will Workers Compensation cover illness caused by the Coronavirus if the employee is exposed to the virus on the job?

There is conflicting information on this question. To date, it remains uncertain whether contracting Coronavirus at work will be considered a compensable occupational illness (health care workers or first responders are excluded). The issue is that, to be awarded Workers Comp for the disease cause by the Coronavirus, the employee must prove and document how they contracted the virus through their work environment. In other words, there would have to be no question whatsoever that the employee contracted the virus through work activities and not elsewhere.

Can I do more than the guidelines suggest?

Yes, of course. As the employer and business owner, you can amend your leave policies in favor of your employees at any time—but make sure you inform all of your employees in writing about such changes.

For example, perhaps because of the unique circumstances surrounding Coronavirus you decide to provide the full amount of leave for the year up front instead of accruing it throughout the year. Maybe you add a few extra days of leave. Whatever your adjustment, be sure to indicate in your written statement that this is a temporary change due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and include an end date for the new policy.

Where do I turn for information?

During this time, when so many of us feel like we have little control, reviewing your policies and procedures puts some control back in your hands. Do you have any questions about the letter or spirit of the new guidelines? We are here to help. Structure for Success – your HR resource.

Can employers require employees to work from home as an infection-control strategy? Should they?

               Absolutely, and it is recommended. Creating a telework policy will ensure your business keeps running and save you the expense of having the entire staff out sick.

Things to consider when creating a telecommuting policy:

  • Develop a policy for tracking and restricting work time for non-exempt employees. Working from home does not mean automatic authorized overtime. Emailed time sheets should do the trick.
  • Allow telecommuting for everyone, not just the employees with children or others claiming some kind of hardship. Create a policy that covers all your employees.
  • Document that telecommuting is a temporary accommodation for your firm (or team) due to the public health crisis. When things get back to normal, things will get back to normal.
  • Remember, your employees need to be as available to you as if they were down the hall in their office. Establish the hours you expect them to work and be available. Do you want them to respond within two hours to every email? One hour? Be reasonable but firm in your expectations.
  • Not enough work for everyone? Create a list of special projects you haven’t been able to get to in busier times. Does the F drive need to be cleaned out? New forms created? Policies and procedures updated? Now is the perfect opportunity to accomplish everything you have been putting off.
  • Schedule Zoom meetings with your entire staff to keep in touch. I recommend Mondays to set the priorities for the week and Thursday or Friday afternoons for the weekly recap.
  • Telecommuting means more accountability, not less. This does not mean you should suddenly turn into a micromanager, but this isn’t a free pass to no longer lead your team. Leading looks different than it did 10 days ago, but people need your leadership skills now more than ever. Lead by example. Be as available to your team as you expect them to be to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to use humor to keep up morale. (Appropriate humor, of course—I am the HR Lady, after all.)

You have to be truly off the grid not to know about the corona virus. Coverage of the pandemic saturates news cycles with the increasing number of cases, school closures, travel advisories, and recommended precautions. Hand sanitizer is sold out in many cities (though soap and water are just as effective), people are “elbow bumping” instead of shaking hands, and everyone with travel plans, myself included, is a quivering mass of anxiety trying to figure out whether we should cancel.

As business owners, we have a whole additional level of anxiety. Is our business going to make it through the crisis? Every time an employee sneezes, we startle, then chase them down with the Lysol can (or is that just me?). We wipe down every desk, every mouse, and every door handle even though we just did it an hour ago. I even saw a recipe on Facebook for making your own hand sanitizer ( It’s as if Steven King’s The Stand has come to life. (By the way, it’s probably not a good idea to read that book right now.)

I don’t know about you, but as a business owner myself, I am sick and tired (pun intended) of feeling out of control.

One way business owners can take back control is to review their sick leave policy, though under the circumstances, it might be more apt to call it a sick leave strategy. Providing employees paid sick leave is the law in Arizona—three days (24 hours) for small business owners with 14 or fewer employees. That isn’t much time, especially since this cold and flu season has been rough since Halloween. What if schools close, or kids get sick? These cases are covered by the AZ law, but that fact will do you or your employee little good if they have already used up their time.

What will you do if one of your employees doesn’t have the sick time? Require they use their vacation leave to make up the time? Have them to come in anyway and infect everyone else? Is telecommuting an option? It’s important to be flexible.

Let me tell you what you don’t want to do. In my previous life, I worked at a large corporation, where the only acceptable reason to take sick leave was if you were in the hospital. Otherwise you had better sit your butt at your desk. As a result, I watched a building of 500 people share the same nasty flu over and over and over again. Finally, as a leader I insisted people stay home. If they didn’t have the sick leave, we made exceptions, created flexible work schedules to make up the hours, asked healthy employees’ to gift them additional time, or even created work outside their usual scope they could do at home. Anything to keep them out of the office until they were healthy. Meanwhile, back at the office, we sanitized everything! I went through cases and cases of Lysol and Clorox wipes that winter. After a tough couple of weeks, with a lot of absences (including my own for a miserable week), we were finally back to a full working crew.

Sickness happens. You can let it derail your business, or you can be proactive and compassionate, and keep your business running and productive. Be creative. Maybe you need to allow telework or to hire a few temporary workers (while assuring your full time workers you’re not replacing them). Every business is unique, and there are many ways to address this situation, so I’m not going to give you a one-size-fits-all answer. Schedule a call so we can talk through the unique requirements of your business. Don’t wait for the coronavirus—or the seasonal flu—to close down your business. Let’s game plan your options today.

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