The End of Rigidity…or the Advent of Flexibility

I had to cancel a doctor’s appointment on short notice—an appointment that had been on the books for a year. I dreaded making the call, since typically cancellations bring repercussions.

But times have changed. The global pandemic has made old patterns obsolete, and given rise to new expectations. And business, as we know, is often about managing expectations.

The office considered my last-minute cancellation “no big deal,” adding, “it’s what happens these days.” This is the same type of office that, a year ago at this time, would have said, “It will take a year to reschedule,” and, at the very least, would have implied I was unorganized.

It’s part of the “pandemic effect,” and it’s one that the hippies in the 70s tried to achieve: Go With the Flow. Working from home? Adjust. Teaching your kids math? Figure it out or get help from a friend. Need a meeting? Get used to the cameras.

And if you are running a business, relax.

American businesses spent years, pre-COVID, competing in some way with the stories surrounding tech firms. For a while, they thought they needed game rooms at work to attract younger workers. Then it moved to allowing dogs at work. Free lunches. Free coffee. Nap rooms. Free time to “just think,” and flexible office hours.

Millennials were seen as the leaders in this movement, although Gen Xers actually started it. It worked for some (e.g. advertising agencies) and didn’t for others. Still, there were rules about what belonged at the office (you, on time and at your desk) and what did not (children, pajamas, interruptions).

There were rules, people, and following the rules meant business was getting done.

And now the rules have changed. Turns out, maybe the best way of doing business is to “go with the flow,” trust your employees, and trust your customers.

In a way, it’s funny how quickly all business was able to implement flexibility. Turns out that some of those rules just may have gotten in the way of good customer service.