White House Push on Workplace Flexibility

I’m glad to see these issues being discussed at a high level:

Two out of three American families are so-called “juggler families,” in which parents are forever trying to balance the needs of their job with the needs of their children.

But many workplaces — and government policies — are still stuck in the distant past, operating as if most families still had a single breadwinner, and someone else to mind the kids when they’re out of school, or the grandparents when they need care.

Once you realize that, there are a bunch of employer practices and policy proposals that suddenly make a lot of sense: Encouraging telecommuting, giving people time off for family emergencies, enabling flexible schedules, allowing employees to swap shifts, and so on.

At the White House on Wednesday, Michelle and Barack Obama held a summit meeting to discuss, as the president put it, “what we can do — as business leaders and advocates, as employees and as government officials — to modernize our workplaces to meet the needs of our workforce and our families.”

There’s also a White House report out, which I haven’t had time to read thoroughly. My impression, though, is that it all takes the form of arguing for the practicality and moral rightness of workplace flexibility. These arguments need to be made, and I’m glad they are being made by the White House. But (dreaming now, I know) wouldn’t it be nice to actually have something with teeth in it– a requirement, say, that all workers be allowed maternity and paternity leave; or a certain number of family/sick days per year; or… Yeah, fantasy. Still, it is better to have a White House discussing this than a White House ignoring it.