It’s no secret that I became a bit of an Admiral Mike Mullen groupie after he spoke at the Families and Work Institute’s Work Life Legacy Awards Dinner back in July 2010. OK, maybe a lot of a groupie. Then there’s my crush on Ted Childs. (still can’t do justice to the two hour interview I have on tape with him, but just you wait when it comes out – I’ll fight you for him). The Obama administration power trio of Senior Presidential Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Executive Director of the Whitehouse Council on Women and Girls Tina Tchen and Department of Labor Chief Economist Betsey Stevenson sealed the deal. I was in the room with a few of the people who can actually, in tangible ways, shift national culture in their respective areas. I mean, really shift it.
I was thrilled to be included in the Sloan Foundation’s Focus on Workplace Flexibility in Washington DC earlier this week. An intimate group of approximately 200 academics, work life thinkers, business, government and labor leaders, as well as commentators, gathered to share new research, celebrate some wins, and outline in depth what’s next for workplace flexibility in America.
It has long been my goal to remind ordinary people searching for some flexibility in their lives that there is an abundance of data showing repeatedly the financial and social benefits of workplace flexibility. Especially when it is done with consultation, training, vision and measurement. Hours of discussion with work life researchers earlier this week cemented what we know. What we’ve known for 15+ years. What Ellen Galinsky, Kathleen Christensen, Donna Klein, Kathie Lingle and other work life pioneers never tire of reminding us.
These initiatives work: they not only save money but they make money – all roads lead back to recruit and retain. The added bonus of saving families might be harder to measure, but a cause worth fighting for. We were viscerally reminded of the many faces of flexibility including working learners – those who are trying to simultaneously pursue education and full time work; the disabled – who have long been leading voices in reasonable work practices; and the ill – as scientist and fighter of cancer Susan Niebur reminded us in her tweet stream.
With every speech and conversation, I was also reminded that we function in systems. We come from family systems, we live in household systems, we work/volunteer in organizational systems and live in regional systems. We have a choice – to let the culture happen to us. Or stop, re-imagine, refocus and re-frame; to consciously create the culture in which we want to live and thrive.
I am more excited and committed than ever to connect my readers to the data, to bridge the gap between talk/policy/ivory tower, and factory floor/kitchen table/cubicle nation.
Said desire was waiting for me when I got home after the five hour drive to Connecticut. Seven (yes, seven) loads of laundry, long conference calls, backed up email and to-do lists for every facet of my life. The clincher – three consecutive half days for my school age children to accommodate parent-teacher conferences. Sigh. We have a long way to go. Back to reality.
I will be writing about some of the research that was released in the coming weeks. In the meantime download the Research Papers. One of my favorite segments was the employer case studies and success stories of some truly innovative approaches. I’ll be sharing more on those very soon.
Here’s my question today. What would help you take the big ideas, the high level chatter, and implement new approaches in our homes, communities and workplaces?
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Photo: L to R, Ted Childs, Valerie Jarrett, Admiral Mike Mullen, Clair Shipman.
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Augustino ©2010