Workplace Flexibility Means One Thing in the Private Sector, Another in Academia

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Workplace flexibility is simple to grasp in principle, but not always as easy to define so that it’s clearly understood by managers in all sectors. In the fall of 2007, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded a working retreat on workplace flexibility that was proposed and organized by Alliance for Work-Life Progress at WorldatWork. For the first time, 30 leading practitioners from both higher education and private industry met with the sole purpose of defining workplace flexibility and sharing best practices, triumphs and challenges. While there were many similarities between the private sector and academia, there is one striking difference. Workplace flexibility in private industry still focuses primarily on scheduling flexibility (e.g., flex time, compressed workweeks, job sharing, part-time work or teleworking). By contrast, higher education institutions are working hard to provide career flexibility.

Workplace flexibility is a large, complex notion

Workplace flexibility is simple to grasp in principle, but not always as easy to define so that it’s clearly understood by managers in all sectors. In the fall of 2007, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded a working retreat on workplace flexibility that was proposed and organized by Alliance for Work-Life Progress at WorldatWork. For the first time, 30 leading practitioners from both higher education and private industry met with the sole purpose of defining workplace flexibility and sharing best practices, triumphs and challenges.

While there were many similarities between the private sector and academia, there was one striking difference. Workplace flexibility in private industry still focuses primarily on scheduling flexibility (e.g., flex time, compressed workweeks, job sharing, part-time work or teleworking). By contrast, higher education institutions are working hard to provide career flexibility and the need to offer:
-- Opportunities to stop the “tenure clock”
-- Longer-term leaves of absence
-- Temporary reductions in workload with no loss of professional status when child birth or family responsibilities arise
-- Transitional part-time work after major life events
-- Part-time assignments that allow for continued affiliation throughout child-bearing and child-rearing years.

“Workplace flexibility is a large, complex notion,” said Kathie Lingle, executive director of Alliance for Work-Life Progress. “It is the one work-life initiative that doesn’t require a specific investment in dollars, yet may require an organization to completely reinvent its culture. It is a remarkably inexpensive power tool for creating higher levels of attraction, retention, engagement, productivity … and even wellness.”

Workplace Flexibility: Innovation in Action compiles resources and best practices contributed by retreat participants from the following organizations:

Accenture
Alliance for Work-Life Progress
American Council on Education
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Cornell University
Corporate Voices for Working Families
Duke University
Ernst & Young LLP
Families & Work Institute
FlexPaths
IBM
Iowa State University
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co
KPMG LLP
Lehigh University
Marriott International, Inc.
Penn State University
Prudential Financial, Inc.
Roundtree Consulting
RSM McGladrey Inc.
University of California - Davis
University of Florida
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Kentucky
University of Pennsylvania
University of Washington
WFD Consulting
Work + Life Fit, Inc.
WorldatWork

Workplace Flexibility: Innovation in Action. WorldatWork Press. 2008.
Softcover. ISBN: 9781579631918
e-book: Complimentary to the public

Media may request a complimentary copy of the book by sending an e-mail to marcia.rhodes@worldatwork.org.

About WorldatWork®
The Total Rewards Association:
WorldatWork (http://www.worldatwork.org) is a global human resources association focused on compensation, benefits, work-life and integrated total rewards to attract, motivate and retain a talented workforce. Founded in 1955, WorldatWork provides a network of more than 30,000 members and professionals in 75 countries with training, certification, research, conferences and community. It has offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Washington, D.C.

About Alliance for Work-Life Progress®:
Alliance for Work-Life Progress (http://www.awlp.org) is dedicated to advancing work-life as a business strategy integrating work, family and community. An entity of WorldatWork, AWLP defines and recognizes innovation and best practices, facilitates dialogue among various sectors and promotes work-life thought leadership.

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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