One step forward, one back, two sort of sideways…on Workplace Flex

Last week was a weird week…many of us were focused on the holiday weekend and on our own workplace flexibility and may have missed some of the articles/news that came out. Here’s my take on the odd week that was while many of us were distracted:

Flex needs gender neutrality – According to an article in the Wall Street Journal companies like Ernst & Young are recognizing that making workplace flexibility a “concession” to working women is just not going to fly. It needs to be embraced by both genders. Thank you…I feel like I’ve been saying this forever – or at least for the last 9 months on this blog. That’s the step forward, now will someone please get the point across that it’s not just about parents!

The White House isn’t a very flexible workplace – I’m shocked…okay not really but some view this as a step back for flex…I don’t. Yes, the Obamas are talking early and often about allowing workers more flexibility…so I get why this is news. But a career is about choices and it doesn’t take a genius to know that choosing to work for the President of the United States is one that makes for a very hectic work schedule. I came across two responses to the NYT article…one I liked and the other I really, really liked. I think a mix of these two articles can be incorporated at the White House. For lower level staffters/admins – why not do some job sharing? In one TV station I worked at we had 2 receptionists that both worked 6-hour days. It worked great and could work at the White House as well. For some of the more Sr. positions…sorry, that is what you signed on for. I’m all for workplace flexibility but there are positions it doesn’t work for. Earlier in my career I worked on the TV broadcast for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics…more specifically on Opening and Closing Ceremonies. To say there was very little flexibility in my work schedule at that time would be an understatement. It was what I signed on for, it was a decision my husband and I made together understanding the consequences and we adjusted our lives to accommodate that choice. It is…

Sen. Chris Dodd & company want input on workplace flexibility – And they got some. As you can see in the comments I applaud the response’s enthusiasm, I’m just not sure how they will work in practice and the community has also discussed the merits of legislating workplace flexibility on this blog before. I still believe it will be better if it comes from employers and they are given incentives by the government. I do like the response to EWendt’s comment, though and perhaps I am just entrenched in my thinking and need a shift. So I’m classifying this as a sort of sideways step on workplace flex. Because I like having the discussion…but the content and audience are still concerning to me.

Sarah Palin leaves office – this one is sideways because I’m not sure it even fits into the discussion. Apparently she explained that her kids helped make the decision on this one and now there is debate about 1) whether you should let your kids be part of that process and 2) whether you are teaching your kids to be quitters. I know Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of “Womenomics” have weighed in – so I guess they consider it to be relevant, but I’m still not sure. I think family life definitely factors in to career decisions, I think at some point “listening” to your kids and hearing what they’ve learned from you is not a bad thing. This interview with Christine Heenan who went back to work in a VP role at Harvard after running her own business that was well known for being extremely flexible is much better on this subject, I think. The way she had her kids weigh in and then even had one of her children shore her up about her decision is really what you hope for as a parent. But we don’t know the end to Sarah Palin’s story yet and we may never know it. And it may be completely unrelated to the discussion of work/life…I’m just not sure yet.

(I also find it ironic that Christine Heenan worked in the Clinton administration…I would love to read her take on the NYT story on the White House!)

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