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Featured Post: Work-Life Flexibility — The Mother of All Battles

  • September 10, 2009

by Andrés Tapia —

The flexibility revolution began by working moms a generation ago has metamorphised into the hue and cry of workers everywhere. Dads who have taken on more child care as Mom has her own client deadlines to meet now clamor for it. Many of those around the classic retirement age who want to keep on working, but at reduced hours, seek it. Xers and Millennials, well, they simply expect it.

The convergence of the digital revolution with 21st Century lifestyle demands — from nursing baby to nursing ma, from training for a marathon to trekking to Machu Picchu, from feeding the homeless to caring for one’s own health and retirement savings needs — creates a voracious appetite for flexibility that is catching employers off-guard.

Current embedded workforce and workplace policies are so 20th Century, and today we are seeing the accelerated deconstruction of the workforce, the workday, and the workspace.

The deconstructed workforce includes temps, contractors, outsourcers, retirees, interns, alumni, off-ramp and on- ramp professionals. It also includes project teams that span seven continents.

The deconstructed workday means that 9-to-5 could soon be the alternative work pattern. Parents are off at 2 pm to tend to doctors’ appointments and after-school activities only to log back in after the dinner dishes are cleared. Then there’s the midnight conference call with Delhi, the 6 a.m. with Krakow.

The deconstructed workplace means that dedicated offices are going unused 30 percent of the time (ref. Gensler). And where is the workplace after all? At the corporate campus? Or can it also be at a Starbucks patio table where a worker is firing away on her Blackberry?

It is at this point that the Mother of All Battles materializes. The reasons for flexibility all seem to make sense to this emerging workforce with its changing needs and desires. But organizations and their managers are not ready and the resistance is fierce.

Of course there are plenty of managers who feel quite comfortable with providing flexibility, but for many others it goes against long-standing managerial principles like the need for workers to be under the constant watchful gaze of the supervisor in order to be productive.

For progressive companies, these trends create opportunities for strategies and policies that can lead to being more attractive, leaner, and productive employers.

These top business priorities — attracting the best talent, managing costs, and increasing productivity — can be better achieved, I believe, if corporate leaders look more strategically at the intersection of people, space, and technology. Talent decisions, for example, in order to be spot on, now really can’t be made independent of the implications of technology and changing space needs. Space and technology together, for example, can now be attraction strategies. They are also approaches that could lead to new, more synergistic conversations between heads of HR, real estate, and IT — those who are managing corporations’ most expensive assets.

Deconstruction means that something new must be constructed. A new interpretation is needed for work. Is it what managers see their workers doing or is it the results?

It will be those companies that tackle these challenges creatively and realistically that will reap the rewards of a better managed and empowered human resource and the costs required to propel it forward.

For more, check out this excerpt from The Inclusion Paradox where I devote a whole chapter to this topic.

    • Daniel Schidlow
    • September 14, 2009

    Is Andres Tapia from Chile?

    • Reply

      I am from Lima, Peru.

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