Periodically, I contextualize my opinions with “Maybe it’s my background as a banker and an MBA but…” because as much as I’m open-minded to and appreciate different perspectives, I’m still a businessperson at heart. It’s important for me to acknowledge that fact, because it’s from this perspective that I’ve historically maintained a wary, arm’s length relationship with public policy solutions to work+life challenges.
My wariness stems from the 15 years I’ve worked with real companies, managers and employees developing and implementing work+life strategies. I’ve learned that flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed is the flagship solution that everyone needs. It’s part of and enabled by a package of other direct supports such as paid time off, leaves, dependent care, etc . This experience has shown me, time and again, that the best work+life strategies have the following characteristics:
- They are NOT one-size-fits-all. They are tailored to the unique realities of the business and the people who work there. Those (sometimes tough) business realities must be acknowledged for the solutions proposed to have credibility and staying power.
- They are process, not policy-based which makes them flexible enough to adapt and evolve with the changing realities of the business and the people who work there.
- They are built on a strong employee-employer partnership, not from the top-down. The employer/manager creates the space within which innovative work+life solutions are crafted as part of the day-to-day operating model. And employees are prepared and know what they need to do to meet the company halfway.
- They achieve both business and personal work+life fit objectives. The employer understands how to apply the same flexibility that helps individual employees manage their work+life fit to achieve other business objectives such as resource cost management (eg. labor, real estate, technology, and health care), global client service, sustainability, disaster preparedness, working better and smarter, etc.
For quite some time, these characteristics of success struck me as antithetical to mandate-based approach of public policy. Therefore, I tended not to look to the public sector for the leadership to promote and advance truly effective work+life strategies. That is until the Obama candidacy and then presidency.
Listening to the administration’s statements and watching its actions, I began to think maybe the public sector could provide that extra “oomph” of support to move the work+life agenda forward. They seemed interested in building upon the success within the private sector, while creating a legislative environment that reflects the reality of a 21st Century global economy.
To date, my new found faith has been consistently rewarded…(Click here for more)