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Laureen Miles Brunelli

White House Workplace Flexibility Forum and Working Where You Are

By April 5, 2010

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"Work is what you do, not where you are."

Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty

President Obama concluded his remarks at the Forum on Workplace Flexibility with this quote of Martha Johnson, General Services Administrator. She was one of the many decision-makers at last week's forum who discussed the ways corporations, government, non-profits and academia can ease the work-life conflicts experienced by so many.

My colleague Katherine Lewis, About.com Guide to Working Moms, overcame her own work-life conflicts to attend in person. (See her coverage.)† As I watched the live streaming from home and listened to a lot of smart people with a lot of smart ideas about how to balance work and life, I wondered whether any of these ideas will get implemented on a large scale. And, well, I'm pretty optimistic they will but for rather pessimistic reasons.

I don't believe companies are going to suddenly start acquiescing to the employee demands for flexibility for all the feel-good reasons of promoting work-life balance.

But companies eventually will start offering more flexibility because it will boost their bottom line. In the future, there will not simply be the same need to have large numbers of employees congregate under the same roof, as technology connects us in ways we never dreamed before. Large offices will seem like an extravagance for companies in industries where it's not necessary to do business face to face.

Specifically working at home can benefit companies by

  • Reduced infrastructure costs (both in real estate and technology),
  • Larger talent pool for hiring,
  • Resilience in a disaster,
  • And greater employee productivity.

In fact, in the coming years our work-life balance issue won't be about being chained to an office but being constantly on call. In fact, for many that work at home that's already the case. One upside to when work is "where you are"† is that you can always go home!

<div style="margin: 5px 0pt 5px 5px; width: 185px; float: left; font-size: 0.8em;"><img style="border: medium none; width: 180px; height: 125px;" title="Photo: Plush Studios/Getty" src="http://z.about.com/d/workathomemoms/1/9/L/2/-/-/GettySaraDDavisObama200x155.jpg" alt="Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty" /></div>
Comments
April 7, 2010 at 10:46 am
(1) Jennifer says:

I have to admit that since I decided to stay home with my son, we’ve been faced with a series of challenges. I now work as the Guide to Beadwork here on About.com, but trying to juggle a 2-year-old with my daily beading and writing sessions is quite tricky. On the other hand, I love the fact that I can enjoy a beautiful spring day like today with my son and then let my husband take over at dinnertime so that I can get my work done.

I’ve long felt that the current U.S. work system is terribly flawed when it comes to allowing for a healthy work/life balance, especially if you have children. I know so many people who had one or both parents absent for most of their childhoods because of their jobs. Even now, among my female friends who have children and work, I hear them complain very often about how they hate the feeling that they are paying someone else to raise their child(ren).

I love the fact that part of the new health care bill requires certain employers to provide breaks and a private room for nursing mothers to either breastfeed their babies or pump their milk. I just wish we could make more advances when it comes to things like maternity/family leave and flexibility in the workplace for those of us who want to spend as much time with our families as possible but also need to work to bring in income!

April 8, 2010 at 5:04 am
(2) namrata ranjan says:

The option of work from home comes with various advantages like flexibility, saving on time to reach workplace and being your own boss!

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