Fast Company: Post-White House Forum: Where Does Flexibility Go From Here…

There’s no doubt in my mind that the universe has a sense of humor.  A couple of months ago, I solemnly swore that I would 100% disconnect from work when we went on vacation during my children’s Spring Break.  No email (if at all possible), no twitter, no blogging—nothing but focused time with my family.

Then, as if to test the limits of my resolve, The White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility was scheduled smack dab in the middle of my vacation last week!   Let’s just say that last Wednesday, it was all I could do not to sneak a glimpse at the live feed on The White House website.  But I resisted and am now catching up on all that transpired at this remarkable event.

I’ve read the Council of Economic Advisers “Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility” report as well as a number of blog posts about the forum written by participants, many of whom are colleagues I greatly admire.  Here are links to some of my favorites:

My takeaways are as follows…

Thank you to the First Family and The White House for an important symbolic boost for flexibility. I agree with Wharton’s Stew Friedman when he says this is a, “Symbolic moment that signified, at last, a new era in which we are really talking and thinking differently about work and the relationship with the rest of our lives.”  Symbolism is a powerful driver of any broad change initiative.  And it spoke volumes to have the leader of the free world stand up, with his professional wife, in The White House and say, “this is important.”

Job well done, my esteemed work+life industry colleagues.  Job well done. Unless you’ve been in the work+life field from more than a decade, and had an opportunity to meet and talk with some of the pioneers who started this movement from scratch, you might not appreciate what a full circle moment this event was for many of the participants in the Forum.  Trust me, none of them would have imagined that someday they would be at The White House.  But everyday, day-in-and-day-out they forged ahead.  Let me take this opportunity to applaud them all and to acknowledge how very much they all deserve this victory.

Now, where do we go from here with flexibility? No doubt the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility was a mountain top moment that deserves one more, “Hooray!” and a little victory dance.  But everyone will agree that there’s still a great deal of work to do before flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed is an integral part of every business’ operating model, and every employee’s day-to-day reality. Here are some next steps that I’d like to see: (Click here for more)

One thought on “Fast Company: Post-White House Forum: Where Does Flexibility Go From Here…

  1. Cali – this is absolutely the right question and challenge to all of us participating in the worklife conversation.

    It is exciting that the White House thinks worklife is an important issue, but without significant follow-up from the business community, it’s all just lip service. There is plenty of research that makes the business case for worklife, but somehow it’s not trickling down to us working in the trenches of corporate culture.

    Beyond getting the word out about the business case for flexibility (we certainly need to continue putting energy toward that goal), we also need to start making a case for flexibility as a way of life at companies — not just a one-off strategy for particular individuals. Currently most worklife arrangements are ad hoc accommodations made for particular employees, not business strategies to improve performance and productivity of the entire company.

    This needs to change so that there are no career penalties for flexible scheduling, and no resentments from colleagues forced to work rigid schedules. Everyone needs to be playing with the same deck of cards for flexibility and other worklife strategies to make sense.

    Loving your work as always,

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