Fast Company: It’s Not Just the Market…Other Roadblocks to Flexible Downsizing

Last week I discussed the ways in which market pressures reward layoffs, discouraging more creative approaches to corporate downsizing.  I believe that market pressure is a main motivation behind the immediate jump to “layoffs,” which ignores options like reduced schedules, job sharing and sabbaticals.  But there are other less obvious influences that have been brought to my attention this past week.

“It’s too late.  We’ve already laid people off, and we may need to do more layoffs in the future.” 

It’s never too late to incorporate work life flexibility into your downsizing strategy.  I’m always fascinated by the “all or nothing” mentality individuals bring to their personal work+life choices.  But I’m beginning to see this same thinking in organizations as they consider downsizing.  Remember, there’s historical precedence from the early 80’s for using flexibility to manage labor costs.  It’s not a choice between flexible downsizing OR layoffs.  There’s room in your downsizing strategy for both options—they’re not mutually-exclusive.  And an organization gets work+life bonus points for including all the options at their disposal.

“Our systems are incompatible with multiple employment scenarios.” 

In other words, “It’s too difficult and too expensive for our systems to account for and track some people working a reduced schedule, while other people share jobs, take sabbaticals, or become project-based employees.  So, because our systems can’t handle it, it’s easier to lay people off.”  I know this makes sense to the people who have to deal with the system, but there’s a pretty clear cost/benefit rationale (as described here) for trying to figure it out.

“But we have to do something!  And figuring out all of those different scenarios takes too long.”   (Click here for more)