"Advocating" for Workplace Flexibility

Over the years, I have been involved in several trench advocacy campaigns on issues related to workplace flexibility.  Whether it was responding to a Department of Labor request for information on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations, garnering support for SHRM’s efforts to clarify the FMLA rules, or challenging the need for a one-size-fits-all paid sick leave mandate, I’ve engaged in my fair share of workplace flexibility lobbying battles on behalf of the HR profession.

And while another SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference kicks off today, there is no need to arm Capitol Hill-bound HR pros with fact sheets and talking points about the need to avoid additional federal mandates governing employer flexibility programs.  Thankfully, these legislative proposals are all but “dead” in the current political environment.

So instead of expending shoe leather in the Halls of Congress these days, I’m primarily working in communities across the country, engaged in a different, but related, grassroots advocacy effort known as When Work Works.

While the SHRM Advocacy Team efforts influence HR public policy, this effort is focused on influencing business strategy.  By sharing workplace flexibility research and effective practices, When Work Works seeks to transform the way employers view and adopt workplace flexibility. Quite simply, this initiative is designed to demonstrate how flexibility can positively impact productivity, employee engagement, recruitment and retention, and other key business objectives. 

By providing organizations with this important data and information on how to implement flexibility, When Work Works, in partnership with the non-advocacy research organization Families and Work Institute, aims to increase the number of employees who have access to workplace flexibility through employers voluntarily adopting flexible work arrangements.  This creates a “win-win” for both employers and employees, as organizations can improve the bottom-line and employees can better navigate their work and life demands.

It is true that SHRM has traditionally opposed workplace flexibility mandates.  Why?  Because we believe these policy proposals hinder employer flexibility in designing innovative programs and policies that help employees address their work-life needs. 

Encouraging organizations to voluntarily adopt workplace flexibility is a better approach.  It’s a different type of grassroots advocacy than what I’m used to.  But, if successful, it has the power to create 21stcentury workplaces that work for both employers and employees. 



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