Workplace Flexibility: One Step Closer to Having It All
Contributor
Written by
marguerite dorn
June 2010
Contributor
Written by
marguerite dorn
June 2010
Workplace Flexibility: One Step Closer to Having It All Work-Life Balance Report, The White House, 2010 The Obama Administration opened recently an urgently-needed national conversation with its Forum on Workplace Flexibility. The Forum was timed to correlate with the publication of a report that we want to highlight for you as this week’s reading. Created by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the report is entitled, “Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility” and can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/100331-cea-economics-workplace-flexibility.pdf. The report is designed to provide an economic perspective on flexible workplace policies and practices. The need for increased flexibility rests on several findings: that women comprise about 50 percent of the current U.S. labor force; that in nearly one-half of U.S. households, all adults are working; that a vast number of these adults are also caring for aging family members, and that the demands of the marketplace are causing more workers to supplement their education while working. The report’s findings underscore the dramatic shift that has taken place in the working landscape over the past generation. Forty years ago, when the “boomer” population was growing up in America, 50 percent of children were raised in households where the father worked full-time, the mother was not in the labor force, and the parents were married. Today, only 20 percent of children live in such households. The bottom line is that American workers increasingly need to balance employment with other responsibilities. In order to do so, two questions need to be met. First, to what extent does the workplace as currently comprised accommodate these needs? Second, to what extent is our younger population of prospective workers educated to understand how to integrate their personal and professional commitments going forward? Workplace flexibility relates to when one works, where one works and how much one works. To a large extent, questions of flexibility equate with questions of control: how much input is a worker permitted in questions like scheduling or emergency absences. Thus, examples of flex policies might include nontraditional stop and start times to the work days; working remotely; job sharing; the permissibility of leaves of absence, and “returnships” (midcareer employees returning after a hiatus out of the workforce). The report goes on to talk about the benefits to companies in instituting these types of flex policies – worker satisfaction, productivity, retention – and points to various companies where flex policies are already the norm. Nonetheless, while these particular companies may have found success in implementing flexible policies, we all have had experience with paper policies not matching practice. Flexible arrangements often appear more generous on paper than in practice, and they can be highly dependent on the generosity of immediate supervisors. What’s more, the current recessionary economy has led some employers to take away flex benefits. This brings us to our second inquiry. Are we educating our younger workers-to-be in the necessary life skills underlying work-life integration? Are we teaching our graduate students how to look ahead, clarify their goals, and understand the inevitable crossroads to come, where they will be called upon to make career and life choices? Have we given them the tools to play out how their choices will affect their objectives for work-life integration? Have we told them, these sons and daughters of ours, that they can have it all, so long as they are very clear about what they want their all to be? President Obama ended last week’s Forum, saying that workplace flexibility “is not just a ‘women’s’ issue but an issue that affects the well-being of our families, the success of our businesses and the future of our nation’s economy.” Workplace flexibility is one step on the road toward each person’s ability to integrate successfully the pieces of their lives. Personal initiative and education is yet another. In the end, we will have reached societal success when conversations no longer include the phrase “work-life balance”, but center simply on balanced lives.

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

Comments
No comments yet