I’ve been in the flexible work trenches the past month—digging into new research and “future of flex” talks to understand how we turn flexible working from an accommodation or perk to a right that improves our lives.
I was honored 1 Million for Work Flexibility invited me to discuss job sharing for The State of National Flex webinar on National Flex Day with other flexible work thought leaders. Here are the main takeaways…
- Millennials will move flexible work forward.
- We’re already working flexibly and remotely, even if it’s not official.
- Companies need to track flexible work to optimize programs.
- Flexible work attitudes change slowly, but they do change.
- It shouldn’t matter why a person wants to work flexibly.
And one more I couldn’t get out of my head: Does flexible working actually make us work more?
Millennials will move flexible work forward
Everyone wants to work flexibly; it’s among the top 3 factors for men and women searching for a job. Millennials are becoming parents, and they don’t see flexible working as a motherhood perk.
We crave flexibility because we’re work-fatigued; Americans are working 50+ hours a week and digital overtime has become the norm, leaving 28% of us always feeling overwhelmed by technology and millennials feeling the stress three times their boomer counterparts.
but Does flexible working make us work more?
To manage our workaholic lives, we need control over how and where we work more than ever, but as we look at the future of work with contract working on the rise, Brigid Schulte of Better Life Lab laments, “What’s to prevent us from working ourselves to death in the US (like this young woman in Japan), where overwork results in up to 120,000 deaths per year with healthcare costs rivaling diabetes?”
So how do we create a culture where flexible work is de-stigmatized and accessible while also ensuring that it’s not a conduit for working around the clock?
10 ways to make flexible working a right that improves our lives:
- Reduce stigma by de-parenting and de-gendering flexible working, starting with parental leave for men and women equally.
- Make flexible work practices transparent and available to all employees.
- Implement different flex options for different roles.
- Leaders at the top need to show active support for flexible work practices by openly exercising theirs and encouraging others to do so, especially middle managers.
- Train on stigma and unconscious bias, and
- Create a culture that values the whole person including the skills they bring from their personal lives.
- Track flexible work results to optimize programs.
- Train employees on how to work flexibly with boundaries for a better work-life balance.
- Self-advocacy for flexible work approval and not working more due to it — Manar Morales, CEO of Diversity & Flexibility Alliance calls it, “Nobody is going to tell you to work less, you have to claim your own autonomy.”
- Policy — pass the right to ask for flexible work with legal consequences to employers who deny it.
Why don’t more employers implement widespread flexible work practices when they’re a proven tool to improve productivity, recruitment, and retention? A future where workplace flexibility is a right that improves our lives requires education, a change in work culture, and policies to support employees who work flexibly.
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