October marks the first anniversary of the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement. Throughout the month on our blog, we are pleased to highlight a variety of perspectives from thought leaders in the field of work flexibility. Today’s post features Joan Blades, community organizer and co-founder of MoveOn.org and MomsRising.org.
1MFWF: What sparked your commitment to/interest in flexibility in the workplace–what is your personal “aha” moment about the importance of work flex?
Joan: I’ve been working flexibly and remotely for well over a decade. This has allowed me to work with some of the most wonderful creative and committed people I could ever hope to work with. And this has allowed the organizations that I co-founded to achieve some remarkable successes. Working remotely with folks around the country, I quickly learned the value of trusting people to manage their time and the value of managing my own.
1MFWF: What are the most effective ways employees have successfully requested work flex (and what were the benefits to your organization, if applicable)?
Joan: MomsRising.org, MoveOn.org, GreatWorkCultures.org and LivingRoomConversations.org are all respect-based flexible work cultures that benefit from committed creative staff that know how to maximize their work time.
1MFWF: “Open Flexible Work” is one of the core issues on MomsRising.org, the site you co-founded nearly a decade ago, and work flexibility is often touted as a moms’ issue. How can we simultaneously highlight the importance of flex for moms as well as broaden the conversation to include all women, and men?
Joan: We’ve learned that flexibility is good for everyone, including employers. I believe that creating a strong understanding that this is a win/win opportunity will make it easier for leaders to embrace flexibility and for employees to ask for it.
1MFWF: You’ve founded a successful software company as well as the nonprofits MoveOn.org and MomsRising.org, you’re the author of multiple books including The Motherhood Manifesto and The Custom-Fit Workplace, you’ve recently launched the new movement Great Work Cultures, and you’re a mom. What are some concrete things you’ve done with your own scheduling and workflow to help ensure you have the work/life fit that’s best for you?
Joan: I’ve got great partners who are generous and brilliant. Together we create work environments for each other that meet our needs.
1MFWF: 1MFWF seeks to bring together one million voices to advocate in support of work flexibility. As someone who has successfully motivated millions of people in support of specific policy changes, what are the most effective ways for us to grow this work flexibility movement?
Joan: GreatWorkCultures is working hard to explore how to grow this movement. We are raising a big tent that welcomes a glorious diversity of respectful work culture practices and leaders. The mission of the big tent is to move beyond Command and Control to Respect and Empower. Working together, we are creating a new norm for workplace cultures that optimize worker effectiveness and human happiness. There are key projects that simply won’t happen without the dynamic engagement of individuals and organizations that are leaders in creating respectful empowered work cultures.
All great work cultures we’ve seen are deeply respectful of workers, and, in doing this, unleash those workers’ potential and empower them to do excellent work. There are brilliant leaders telling their personal stories and promoting a variety of excellent workplace practices. There are inspirational speakers, thinkers, teachers and consultants that speak to the power of teams, trust, results based management and more…but deep broad change is remarkably hard to achieve and even when change succeeds it requires ongoing maintenance.
The forces of organizational gravity draw groups toward less evolved, more primal interactions, rooted in dominance and fear. Creating and maintaining optimal work culture is an ongoing practice that requires leadership at the top and throughout an organization. Catalyzing a new workplace norm with respect and dignity at its core, that makes old fashioned command and control management obsolete, is both a daunting and inspiring goal.
Most work cultures fail to adopt respect-based management forms even though these work practices are demonstrably more effective and profitable. Is there a way for us to gather together and create deep broad workplace culture change? Wouldn’t a new norm based upon respect and empowerment be a gift?
We can help create change by spreading the word through blogging and speaking at conferences and events, inviting our networks and colleagues to join us in the big tent, and initiating targeted projects to transform public perception, management practice, and workplace policy.
Joan shares take-aways from her book The Custom-Fit Workplace:
To learn more about ways work cultures can support family as well as productivity, watch our webinar What/Why Parents Need to Know About Work Flexibility featuring panelists Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother magazine, Rachael Ellison, a work-life advocate and organizational consultant, and Scott Behson, professor of management and author of the Fathers, Work & Family blog.
photo credit: Joan Blades