From the Blog

What to do about an inflexible schedule

We’ve partnered with TED speaker Tracy Brower, Ph.D., MM, MCR, for a Summer Reading Club – using her book Bring Work to Life as a guide. To dig in deeper, we’re answering your most pressing questions weekly on our blog. Here’s Tracy’s fourth response. See last week’s answer and sign up for our reading club.

I work in a job where’s it’s harder to implement work-life integration (think manufacturing, energy, retail, food and beverage industries). What types of supports do you suggest I explore?


Remember that work-life integration isn’t just about flexibility of where and when we work. It’s about the broader culture. The concepts of demand and capacity are helpful here – when we feel a greater sense of capacity, we’re more likely to feel the work-life abundance we yearn for.

You need to create a greater sense of capacity and a reasonable sense of demand. Here’s how:

We feel a greater sense of capacity when we feel good about what we do and like we matter.

  • If you’re a leader… launch recognition and development programs, so you can provide vision and direction, share feedback and hold the rest of your team accountable. Be sure to build strong teams with constructive relationships.
  • If you’re an team member… communicate openly and constructively with your leaders and other team members. Be accountable for results, and ask questions about the business. Look at the bigger picture of how your job connects to the end customer. Get to know your teammates.

We feel a greater sense of capacity when we feel healthy and capable.

  • If you’re a leader… educate employees about holistic wellness option and offer all kinds of development opportunities, from job cross training to tuition assistance programs.
  • If you’re an team member… take advantage of these available programs, while focusing on the basics, like good sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise.

We feel a greater sense of capacity when we feel a support network.

  • If you’re a leader… provide supportive benefits, such as employee assistance, emergency child care, onsite child care, appropriate options for leaves in case of emergencies and purchase of extra vacation.
  • If you’re an team member… nurture relationships inside and outside of work. Make friends with your neighbors, deepen relationships with parents of the children you see at school and prioritize the time you spend with your extended family.

We feel a greater sense of capacity when we feel like we have enough time.

  • If you’re a leader… provide as much choice as possible in terms of shift choices, off-time choices or purchase of extra vacation weeks. One smart move is assigning people to fill in when employees are on vacation, so they don’t have to put in extra work before and after a vacation.
  • If you’re an team member… build time management and prioritization skills, so you learn to spend time on the vital few tasks versus things that aren’t urgent.

Leaders are key – people typically join companies but leave because of a leader.

Ultimately, companies need to develop leaders and hold them accountable for leading well. And team members must choose new paths if current situations aren’t working. Companies, leaders AND team members are responsible for creating and sustaining work-life abundance.


About Tracy Brower:

Tracy Brower Photo1 - What to do about an inflexible scheduleTracy is a work environment sociologist, author, mother of two and Global Vice President of Workplace Vitality at Mars Drinks. She studies how humans affect their work-life and how it affects them back. Over her career, Tracy has had the opportunity to engage with many of the Fortune 500 companies.