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