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.

5 thoughts on “White House Push on Workplace Flexibility

  1. Or how about lowering the hours per week from 40+ to 30 or even lower… IF part-time positions are available at all, they’re usually considered “mommy track” positions. So, if everybody’s hours would be reduced, this stigma would (hopefully) go away. Plus, it would make it easier for those of us who’d rather work less even if that means earning less.

  2. This is a good beginning – now lets hope it is carried further (in the right direction).

  3. ‘… a requirement, say, that all workers be allowed maternity and paternity leave; or a certain number of family/sick days per year …’

    I want to be sympathetic, but I have trouble with this. Do we really want to say that it isn’t okay for there to exist companies that insist that if you work for them, you shouldn’t take large amounts of time off? Or seriously, *require* that companies not have us work more than 30 hours per week? I’m a bit scared of the unforseen consequences of that kind of thing.

  4. Hi America the Brave – are you telling me you don’t already have legislated parental leave and legislated sick/carers leave? But then I guess you still use feet and inches while the rest of the world has been metric (System Internationale) for decades. Look up and look out, you are not world leaders in everything! Good on you Obama and Michelle, change from the top is obviously required. I thought Australia was behind – our parental leave is only just being legislated to be paid leave. Helen the Aussie.

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