Employers: Embrace Workplace Flexibility

News Updates

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is urging members to get their organizations to become “Business Champions” by signing a pledge to embrace workplace flexibility policies.

The national Business Champions campaign, which was launched in March 2010 and ends in March 2011, comes from a coalition SHRM has joined that is encouraging the business community to be more competitive globally and to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce by embracing flexible workplace arrangements.

SHRM has been increasingly vocal about encouraging flex policies and discouraging government mandates to employers to implement flex arrangements. SHRM and other members of the coalition, headed by Corporate Voices for Working Families, are asking a C-suite executive, such as the chief HR officer, CEO or chief financial officer, to sign a Statement of Support for Expanding Workplace Flexibility.

The pledge commits an organization’s leadership to:

  • Communicate actively the business imperative for workplace flexibility.
  • Expand flexibility as a tool to advance business results.
  • Support managers in developing and strengthening skills for managing flexibility.
  • Build workplaces in which flexibility is implemented broadly and equitably and available to employees at every level as an integral part of the way work is organized and people are managed.


Business Champions receive a seal and logo that recognize their support for workplace flexibility, which can be used as a marketing tool for talent. Participants will be invited to   regional special events celebrating workplace flexibility and will be recognized at a high-level national meeting.

The pledge of support is not tied to any legislation, said Lisa Horn, a member of SHRM’s Government Affairs department. It’s a strategy to encourage employers to offer workplace flexibility in ways that meet the needs of their businesses as well as their employees.

“All types of flexible work arrangements don’t work for all employers,” she said, pointing out that not every job can be handled remotely, especially in certain industries or specific job positions. However, flexible work arrangements can be handled in a variety of ways; wait staff that have the freedom to add or change a shift, for example, enjoy a type of workplace flexibility.

“It’s an issue that’s straight out of the wheelhouse of HR,” Horn said of flexible work arrangements, because it falls under the umbrella of issues such as administering the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that are uppermost in the minds of HR professionals.

From January 2010 through June 2010, for example, SHRM’s HR Knowledge Center received more inquires about the FMLA implementation than for any other statute, Horn said. Among the 40,000 requests for information it received during that period, more than one-third were about FMLA implementation.

Beyond SHRM membership, “we can’t ignore the fact that the Obama administration and the Congress have placed significant emphasis on the issue of workplace flexibility,” Horn said.  July 20, 2010, the White House launched a website, the Work-Flex Event Starter Kit, to encourage discussion about workplace flexibility at the community level.

“It’s something our members deal with day in and day out” and is an issue for which SHRM can encourage greater dialogue, she said.

The voluntary nature of the coalition’s campaign is consistent with SHRM’s stance, Horn said. The global HR organization has become increasingly visible in discussions about the value of workplace flexibility.

In March 2010, it participated in a White House forum on workplace flexibility. In April 2010, SHRM leadership testified in support of proposed legislation that would recognize employers who implement innovative workplace policies. And in May 2010 the organization co-sponsored a panel discussion on the “State of the Workforce in the New Economy” and participated in a panel discussing “The Future of Work-Life Balance and Workplace Flexibility.

Workplace flexibility was one of three main topics during SHRM’s global thought leaders gathering that SHRM hosted in March 2010. In September 2010 SHRM is hosting an invitation-only symposium on the issue that will bring together experts on the work/life balance issue.

The Business Champions campaign might spur HR professionals to review their employer’s flexibility offerings to compare how competitive their organizations are to others in their industry. This might be a good time to survey employees about their awareness of any flexible work arrangements the organization offers, Horn said.

"Businesses that are thinking about the future and want to be globally competitive are embracing workplace flexibility as a core leadership tool that enables people to meet work and personal responsibilities,” said Donna Klein, executive chair and founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families.

Businesses that have signed the pledge include Accenture, AOL, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, eTrip Trader, KPMG LLP and Workplace Options.

“All the Business Champions in the campaign,” Klein said in a news release, “believe that flexibility benefits workers at every level—from hourly to professional staff."