Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday, and tomorrow Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States of America. Amazing.
This momentous occasion offers hope for change in so many different areas; however, for me, I’m optimistic that finally the realities of work and life will be addressed in 21st Century terms.
My hope is not blind. My faith is reaffirmed by a consistent approach to work+life issues within the campaign and now in the administration’s policy agenda. Here are highlights from blog posts I wrote starting in August, 2008. Do you see a pattern? Know hope:
August 27, 2008: Obama/McCain—First Time Work Life Flex in Econ Platforms of Both Candidates!
“They both have recognized that flexibility in where, when and how work is done is a business issue, not just a “nice thing you do.” This is important because it positions work life flexibility where it should be, which is within the debate about economic competitiveness and effectiveness.” (more)
September 24, 2008: Sarah, Michelle and the Post-Balance Era
“…ultimately, the most important aspect of both Sarah Palin’s and Michelle Obama’s impact will be a subtle yet powerful shift away from the “balance” mindset and the “all or nothing” work life dichotomy that drew the battle lines of the unwinnable mommy wars. They have the power to usher in the post-balance era of countless work life fit choices based upon our unique work and personal realities, and finally begin a productive discussion about the way work is done, life is managed, and business operates.” (more)
October 22, 2008: Next President and Your Work+Life Fit—Highlights…and Concerns “Obama Work+Life Strategy—What I like:
- Sees work+life as mainstream economic and social policy issue
- Flexibility is a partnership between government and business through a combination of incentives and education to support the benefits. The government would be a model employer and Obama endorses the Kennedy legislation allowing employees to present a plan for flexibility, but still give the employer the right to determine whether or not to approve.
- Power of the “bully pulpit:” Leveraging the power of the President to move the conversation and change understanding and perception about work life issues.
- Expanding FMLA coverage to more people, and more issues including eldercare, parental participation in academic activities, and situations of domestic violence.
- Making FMLA a paid leave.
- Employers would have to provide seven paid sick days.
- Comprehensive approach to care for children: Taking a comprehensive approach to children ages 0-5, as well as after-school care for school age children.
• Increase minimum wage.
- Seeing role of government as supporter and facilitator of solutions for business: “We are in a tough time economically so we don’t want to do anything that is ineffective or inefficient or that would actually hurt employers. Government bureaucracy needs to be changed, but in some cases it will be a conversation (about) cultural norms. People don’t want a hand out, but do want a government that is on their side.
Obama Work+Life Strategy—Concerns:
In a nutshell, my concern is cost, especially given the recent economic downturn. And from a pure cost perspective, yes, these proposals will be expensive. But in the context of the work+life reality outlined earlier, the benefits from the overall investment will offset a sizeable portion of the costs through increased productivity, goodwill, workforce preparedness, and enhanced global competitiveness in terms of a flexible workplace and workforce. In other words, from a pure “cost” perspective I am concerned. From a cost/benefit perspective, I am less concerned given the positive results I’ve observed over the past 13 years in the work+life field.” (more)
December 4, 2008: Michelle Obama as Post-Balance Rorschach Test
“Like all of us, she is a complex individual whose choices aren’t going to “fit” neatly into any simple category. I believe she’s going to be a ground-breaking pioneer, who will help us all envision unique possibilities of working and having a life…Whether she realizes it or not, Michelle Obama through her words and actions is busting a number of our longest-held biases about the way we manage work and life. She is showing us that there are no right answers, that change is an opportunity, that just because one partner “wins” doesn’t mean the other has to lose, and that shifting focus onto the personal areas of your life doesn’t mean completely eliminating your professional identity. It’s not “all or nothing,” it’s work+life fit. And it’s going to look different for all of us.” (more)
January 8, 2009: “Work and Family Balance,” Second Bullet in the White House VP Task Force Agenda
“The prominent placement of “work and family” within the economic goals of the White House Task Force on Working Families is important and noteworthy. It may finally move us beyond the outdated “all or nothing” mindset and inflexible approaches to work and life that keep individuals overwhelmed and organizations underperforming. It’s a change that’s long overdue.” (more)
In January, 2010, I will check back to see if the progress continued, but in the meantime what do you think? Do you see a consistency in an approach and commitment that gives you hope that real work+life change is finally coming?