Pay it forward and create more than just a flexible workplace


Managers and organisations have a choice: support a flexible workplace that builds trust, retains talent and encourages diversity or stay stuck in the past. I choose to embrace flexibility and for me, this is ‘paying it forward’ – creating the workplace I want to work in and one I want the next generation to expect.

Three Essential Elements

1. Trust

For flexible working arrangements to prosper, you need to trust your team and feel comfortable that the right agreements are in place so people will continue to deliver no matter where or when they work.

My first experience in flexible working arrangements was someone returning to work after children. She had lots of experience but, with a family to support, she wanted to work part-time, from home, at the hours she chose. We negotiated 10 hours a week, and she created a highly successful customer reference programme. Twelve years later, she was still working for the company and had quadrupled her contribution.

2. Technology

Flexible working only becomes a reality with technology that enables communication anywhere, anytime. Email, instant messaging, phone and web are all helpful, but the biggest epiphany for me was joining a company where video conferencing is ubiquitous. It helps the team to feel supported and makes every member be present – no matter where they are located. As a leader, your ability to read them is also much better when you can see their body language, not just hear their words.

3. Performance Frameworks

Flexibility only works when everyone is accountable with clear deliverables and performance metrics. One of my staff members, based in Korea, temporarily relocated his family to the Philippines so his children could learn English. He worked from there while still completing one of the best conferences I have ever seen, and these results meant I would support any future remote requests he had. I also hoped this was making a small difference to family responsibilities being gender neutral – creating the workplace of the future I want, globally.


The rewards

Flexible working arrangements require you to consciously build and maintain networks to prevent isolation and get visibility, but the rewards are worth the effort.


My staff retention rates are high, and the key factor for this is my willingness to enable flexible working. In South East Asia, I had a phenomenal marketing leader, known for innovation, flawless results and a highly motivated team. She poured so much energy into work however, to get balance she would go on a six week vacation every two years – extremely rare in Asia. She always ensured the team knew what was required while she was away and having time to refresh made her even better at her job. She stayed with us for eight years, when the industry average for the role was two.


It’s hard to find great staff. There is a war for talent, especially in high tech marketing. The best way is references from your existing team. Those who value the culture of flexibility with accountability will refer people who also fit that philosophy.


The golden rule in my home and with staff: ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’. Offering a flexible workplace means my team are also flex to my benefit. From the last minute conference scramble to an unexpected customer request, people go the extra mile to pay it back.

It is not possible to be flexible with every role in every company. However, whatever your leadership role, I encourage you to create the workplace you want, not just now but in the future. You’ll be delighted with the results.

About Gabrielle Cichero

Gabrielle Cichero, Senior Director of Marketing at Polycom for Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), has over 15 years of experience in marketing technology solutions and building brands across Asia Pacific. Based in Sydney, she is responsible for leading the company’s marketing strategy for APJ as well as driving demand generation and lead management.

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