Friday, April 02, 2010

Obama promotes flexible working

This week the White House hosted a Forum on Workplace Flexibility. Michele Obama started it off giving some of her personal experiences in trying to balance family pressures and a career. There was then a panel discussion and the event ended with a great speech from the President pointing out the benefits of flexible working, not just for individuals but for employers as well.

It can all be found on YouTube ( see )and there is a report from the Council of Economic Advisers called "The Economics of Workplace Flexibility" ( The text of Barak Obama's speech can be found at

What we need now is a similar lead from the Prime Minister in the UK and fom the EU for Europe. Promotion of new ways of working as a BUSINESS BENFIT not just a social policy.

Here are some quotes from his speech...

".. we as a society still see workplace flexibility policies as a special perk for women rather than a critical part of a workplace that can help all of us."

"And as for how this issue affects companies’ bottom lines, a report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers that we’re releasing today found that companies with flexible work arrangements can actually have lower turnover and absenteeism, and higher productivity, and healthier workers.

So let’s be clear: Workplace flexibility isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s an issue that affects the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses. It affects the strength of our economy -- whether we’ll create the workplaces and jobs of the future we need to compete in today’s global economy.

And ultimately, it reflects our priorities as a society -- our belief that no matter what each of us does for a living, caring for our loved ones and raising the next generation is the single most important job that we have. I think it’s time we started making that job a little easier for folks."

"Many of you here represent companies and workplaces that are already doing just that -- embracing telecommuting, flextime, compressed work weeks, job sharing, flexible start and end times, and helping your employees generally find quality childcare and eldercare. And if you’re doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because you’ve found that what’s good for your workers and is good for your families can be good for your bottom lines and your shareholders as well, then you need to spread the word."

"And that’s why John is working ... to provide opportunities for federal employees telework on a regular basis. Where regulations are in the way, we’ll see what we can do to change them. Where new technology can help, we’ll find a secure, cost-effective way to install it. Where training is needed to help managers and workers embrace this approach, we’ll adopt the best practices from the private sector."

"It’s about attracting and retaining top talent in the federal workforce and empowering them to do their jobs, and judging their success by the results that they get -- not by how many meetings they attend, or how much face-time they log, or how many hours are spent on airplanes. It’s about creating a culture where, as Martha Johnson puts it, “Work is what you do, not where you are.”"

Let's hope some of these messages get through to the Public Sector in the UK. Given the current emphasis on improving efficiency this seems like a good place to start.


Chris Ridgewell said...

Peter, Interestingly the White Housse Report contains some good case studies but they are getting quite old by now. No mention is made of Jack Nilles who claims to have invented "telecommuting" in 1984. Neither is telecommuting wizard Gil Gordon's work mentioned. And, what of the State of California Transport Dept's use of home working during the earth
quake a few years ago ?

Nonetheless, this is a good start that our Parliamentary leaders would be best advised to take notice of.

Chris Ridgewell said...

The UK Government needs to realise that flexible working and work-life balance are NOT just about women in work. Nor is it just about Paternal Leave. The Right to Request is, in itself, discriminating against all those in the workforce who do not qualify.

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