It was wonderful to return to the NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference (SDC) a few weeks ago. It is always a high-energy filled conference that I characterize as an amazing balance of professionalism and warmth. It made me think back to my last time at the SDC.
Ironically, it was Friday, March 13, 2020, and I admit being superstitious of Friday the 13th as a “bad luck day.” I was all set to moderate a panel on work/life balance. As it happened that fateful day, the pandemic was upon us and NBAA closed the conference a day early, sending everyone home.
Susan McCloskey, the sole scheduler with Jackson Family Wines, was one of the people I selected for the panel that never took place. She was going to share with SDC attendees how she managed to work remotely—from anywhere in the world—and how it played out successfully for her organization.
At the time—pre-Covid—we were aware that this topic would be controversial for many. In fact, some of our other panelists were thinking “no way!” and “how can you be successful as a remote scheduler?”
Then, sure enough, Covid hit a week later, and everybody was working remotely—whether we wanted to or not.
WFH Options Offer Greater Flexibility
With remote work forced upon us, we quickly learned how to adapt. As a result, we’ve developed and put in place new systems, equipment, and technology that have enabled us to do our job from anywhere we choose.
And this new work-from-home paradigm offers our flight departments a lot more flexibility. It also gives our aviation employees more resilience and much-needed job satisfaction. Perhaps most importantly, it allows operators to be more responsive to their clients.
Pre-Covid, most schedulers and dispatchers worked a typical eight-hour day in the office. Most were also always on call, having to react wherever they were. I was told by one scheduler about often having to pull over on the side of the road to log into her scheduling system on her laptop. Another shared with me, “I would have to drop everything to take a call, sometimes even abandoning my grocery cart in the middle of shopping to rush back to my car.”
Now that we’re more “work flexible,” are these type of last-minute, hair-on-fire cases gone for good? Not likely. But it's certain that your schedulers and dispatchers are more capable of handling them if they’re not all commuting when a frantic call comes in.
Now, these business aviation pros are available to work and to flex because they're in their home environment. They’re also well equipped with the kind of systems that make handling trip planning a very fluid, successful experience.
I think that, in our industry, one of Covid’s “silver linings” is how we’ve improved the lives of our schedulers and dispatchers. And how we’re now able to give this group in the flight department a less stressful and much better quality of life.
The New Workplace
At the most recent SDC, I finally was able to host my canceled Friday the 13th panel. We appropriately named it “Juggling It All: Finding Your Work/Life Balance.” And McCloskey was able to finally share how she has incorporated life balance into her career.
McCloskey continues to be the sole scheduler responsible for four aircraft. Not only is she working remotely in any time zone she chooses, but she no longer has a dedicated workspace at the hangar.
What she does have, however, is a disciplined work schedule and a very well-trained group of contract schedulers who can back her up. She flexes when needed, and they, likewise, never miss a beat.
She says she enjoys traveling and living in various states—in much the same way a traveling nurse might. Her team doesn’t necessarily know where she might be physically, and it doesn’t matter because she is able to meet their needs. Again, as we’ve shown in response to the pandemic, this welcome work-from-home option is due to the remarkable ability of professionals to adapt.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t applaud the flight departments that have equally embraced this practice. After all, they are having to flex, too. We should all be so grateful for the open-minded leaders who provide a work-from-home opportunity or a hybrid schedule that includes time in both the hangar, as well as remotely. It is certainly proving to be a win-win for all!
Sheryl Barden, CAM, is the president and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, the longest-running recruiting and HR consulting firm exclusively serving business aviation. A thought leader on all things related to business aviation professionals, Barden is a former member of NBAA’s board of directors and currently serves on the NBAA advisory council.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily endorsed by AIN Media Group.