Making Workplaces More Flexible

As a working mother myself, I know how important workplace flexibility is to families across the United States. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak to a group who is leading the charge on workplace flexibility issues: the Society for Human Resource Management. This group is making a targeted effort to ensure that our nation’s largest organizations and companies have the most effective, sustainable, and beneficial human resource policies for their employees.

We know that having a flexible workplace and strengthening the economy are not mutually exclusive. A recent Administration Report estimates that wholesale adoption of flexible workplace schedules could save a rough estimate of up to $15 billion a year through greater productivity, lower turnover, and reduced absenteeism. Those savings could be reinvested to help drive growth and improve our nation’s economy. Understanding this incentive, many private sector leaders have also spoken out about their own cost-savings from flexible work arrangements.

To help foster flexible workplaces within his own Administration, the President signed the Telework Enhancement Act in December of 2010. The law requires federal agencies to take a number of steps to promote the use of telework, which has become an integral part of achieving workplace flexibility, by allowing individuals to spend part of their week working from home. So now, if a government employee needs to stay home to care for a sick child, or an aging parent, they don’t have to stop working.

Initiatives such as these are part of an Administration-wide effort to continually improve upon workplace practices, an effort that we hope businesses across the country will emulate. By ensuring that employees are focused on producing results at work while also having the ability to take care of their families and personal responsibilities, we can help them compete in a continually evolving global market place.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls

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