2016: A Big Step Toward Balance and Flexibility

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The Kids Are Alright (So is the Spouse)

First it was Paul Ryan, the new Speaker of the House.  In accepting the role he said it was conditional.  He would only do it if he didn’t have to travel and be away from his family.  Then it was Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook who said he was taking an extended leave of absence to be with his newly growing family.  Then Netflix announced a year-long paid parental leave policy.  A few other tech companies followed the Netflix lead and announced similar policies.  People with both big and small jobs are getting married, having babies and making decisions based on what is best for the family – it’s a trend.

There was no decree or executive order.  There was no dramatic event that shocked the world into new perspectives.  Space aliens or the new Star Wars movie were not involved.  The trend of more balance has been developing for years but it only recently hit the tipping point where it’s now more critical to individual and organizational success.

Several factors converged to make the surge in workplace flexibility happen.  The new trend didn’t come out of new corporate policies as much as it came from people who want flexibility.  In fact, they demanded it.  Workplace flexibility is not new, it just reached a tipping point and will become more important in 2016.  Here are just some of the reasons.

  • The War for Talent: Organizations are having trouble finding the right people for the job.  Research shows we work 47 hours per week.   The 40 hour week is long gone while many yearn for the four hour work week.  Most managers today expect employees to check email and be available outside of the office even when they are “off”.  But the saw cuts both ways.  If the organization is that demanding, than employees expect flexibility; otherwise, they will switch jobs based on flexibility programs.
  • Technology: New devices and mobility allows us to work from any where at any time.  So why not take advantage of all the latest breakthroughs?  Employees are challenging the organization to let the technology be the effectiveness tool it was designed to be.
  • Leadership Is Finally Setting the Tone: Leaders are making declarations that they want to spend time with their families and mean it.  In the past the declaration was only made when the leader was fired.  Now the leader is saying it as they accept the new job.
  • Millennials Rule: The new generation of workers have a different (and healthier) perspective when it comes to work. They want flexibility more than those that came before them and see no reason why they shouldn’t have it.

Workplace flexibility has an impact on every other aspect of trends in the workplace including planning, structure and culture to name a few.  That is why it is the BIG TREND for 2016.  Those organizations that embrace it will be more successful than those who ignore it and it will affect every organization.

As a college president, I often say, “I don’t take attendance, I just want the work to be done.”  Maybe we are teaching the next generation of managers exactly that.

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