My husband is a social studies teacher, which tends to mean that when we watch TV together we’re usually watching something historic or educational. On the nights that we don’t head straight to sleep after getting four kids to bed, we might sit down and watch a documentary on PBS, and we always end up having good conversation.
The other night we watched a program celebrating the events, leaders, and collaborations that ultimately led to the signing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. What an incredible movement. But, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated as I asked my husband, “Isn’t it crazy we actually had to create A LAW to recognize that people are EQUAL?”
He noted that sometimes policy is necessary to get people moving in the right direction–even when it may seem to us so obviously the right thing to do. And he added, “Don’t you deal with that all the time in your efforts to change the workplace?” While we both recognize that the work-life movement is very different than Civil Rights, there are some parallels and lessons to be applied.
Supporting our workforce—men, women, young, old, parents, military spouses, students, people with disabilities, and anyone who works—because it makes society better isn’t a hard concept to grasp, yet many people are limited in their thinking. Flexible work policies are seen as an impediment to business success. Something that they “should” do but would prefer not to because workplace flexibility is perceived, wrongly, as inconvenient and costly. Or, for some, resistance isn’t the issue. The simple idea of offering more support to the people who work for them isn’t even on their radar.
As my husband said, sometimes it takes formalizing something to get people to move in a certain direction. For so many reasons, people today feel like they can’t “have it all” and organizations resist giving people the support and flexibility to lead healthy, meaningful lives. While it is important to know where we came from in order to know where we are going, what’s most important, as Martin Luther King so eloquently made clear, is that we have a dream about the future that we can collectively work toward.
Here are my dreams for workplace flexibility: That one day people are trusted to work where, when, and how it makes sense for them. That employees aren’t forced to choose between their work and personal lives. That people don’t have to overlook their health and well-being because they spend all of their time working. I dream that employees are treated with respect and encouraged to be “whole people” with lives beyond the workplace. And that our society will be better off because of all of it.
1 Million for Work Flexibility is a chance for us all to get one step closer to making that dream of a flexible world a reality. By getting together to shout from the rooftops that work flexibility is not only important but necessary, perhaps we can push for new policies formalizing its role in the workplace. Or, perhaps just by knowing we are not alone and that we have the support of such a large group, we will all feel empowered to make change in our own workplaces.
My hope is that one day one of my children will be sitting on the couch watching PBS with their partner and they will say, “Isn’t it crazy that people used to have to fight for workplace flexibility?!?”
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