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 WorldatWork Practice Leader Rose Stanley, marking the first day of National Work and Family Month, established by WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress in 2003.
1MFWF: What sparked your commitment to/interest in flexibility in the workplace–what is your personal “aha” moment about the importance of work flex?
Rose: I think my biggest “aha” moment was realizing that flexibility is just that—flexible. It can be a program, a culture, or a mindset, and when you look closely enough, almost anyone can have some form of flexibility. Even if it’s a small amount in a non-traditional way, it can send a message to the employee about the trust an employer has in that employee and their willingness to work with them if feasible. That attitude becomes reciprocal back to the employer through the employee’s engagement, loyalty, and productivity.
1MFWF: What are the most effective ways employees have successfully requested work flex?
Rose: I have always recommended that the best way to request a flexible schedule is to make a business case for it. State the reason for the request and how it benefits the employee but also, how this flexible schedule will benefit the employer through enhanced productivity, less absenteeism, etc. Include how the schedule would work, including interactions with your supervisor, co-workers and customers if applicable. Include the opportunity for a trial run or pilot. And if the answer is no, inquire what the obstacles are and if there would be a time in the future they could revisit the request.
1MFWF: Why do we need a National Work and Family Month (and at what point might we not need it anymore)?
Rose: With so many things that everyone has to juggle these days, having a reminder, even if it’s just once a year, where we tout the virtues of organizations that achieve work-life effectiveness for their employees is important. WorldatWork wants to encourage organizations to use work-life as a business strategy.
As more and more organizations promote their culture of flexibility and work-life effectiveness, operating this way will start to become the norm not the exception. Our goal is for all organizations to meet the standard of work-life effectiveness. Programs and initiatives change and so do employees. So there will likely always be a reason to discuss current workplace issues. National Work and Family Month is a good way to keep the conversation going.
1MFWF: What are some of the biggest achievements with respect to work flexibility that you’ve seen over the past decade since National Work and Family Month was formally established in 2003?
Rose: More organizations have not only begun embracing flexibility, they’ve been creative with it and used it as a competitive advantage. The WorldatWork Workplace Flexibility survey has shown the positive effects having a flexible culture has on employee engagement, satisfaction, and turnover for businesses.
There are also studies showing that flexibility can also help reduce stress, the number one issue worldwide individuals are dealing with, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which can result in lowering of health care issues and costs. Embracing work-life effectiveness really is a win-win for all parties.
1MFWF: In addition to spreading the word about initiatives like 1 Million for Work Flexibility, what are some specific ways our readers can take action to support National Work and Family Month?
Rose: National Work and Family Month is designed to encourage conversations. Organizations are encouraged to conduct a work-life effectiveness audit. Individuals and organizations are invited to participate in the month through social media using #wawnwfm.
We’d love to hear from readers why they think flexibility and work-life effectiveness are important. Additionally, we have listed on the National Work and Family Month webpage a few ways in which organizations can create an atmosphere of celebration in their workplace.