November 2, 2008
A couple of headlines do not an end to flexible work make
Two news snippets really stuck in my craw this past week.
(1) In the UK, the secretary of state for business and enterprise, Peter Mandelson, wants to scrap plans for flexible workplace reform. According to The Guardian, "he suggested that the government may try to ease the impact of the recession by delaying plans to extend rights to flexible working and better maternity leave."
And from that same Guardian article:
"The Department for Business had been due to extend the right to ask for flexible working from parents with children under six to parents with children up to 16. It said it was right to think again at a time of economic uncertainty."
Mandelson's suggestions were criticized by a number of political figures in the UK, including Patricia Hewitt, one of his predecessors, who I agree wholeheartedly with. In her words:
"When it comes to flexible working, and people reducing their working hours, actually that can be a real help in times of economic downturn. It makes more sense for an employer to say to the employees 'would any of you like to reduce your working hours?' instead of thinking 'who am I going to make redundant?"'
(2) Back in the states, Miami Herald columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman (no relation) pronounced work/life balance programs all but dead. "Flexible working arrangements, wellness initiatives and telecommuting are becoming things of the past," she wrote.
Another excerpt from her column:
...parents are putting on the back burner the possibility of cutting back to part-time work hours, staying home with the kids, or taking a sabbatical.
''Holding on to your job right now is more important for many than getting more work/life balance,'' says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm. "This is not the right time to be negotiating those sorts of things.''
While I doubt you'll be able to convince any employer to pay for a sabbatical right now, I wouldn't write off obtaining flexible work options altogether. In past years, I've seen employees facing layoffs make a solid case for job sharing or cutting back their hours to part time -- and the manager go for it. Granted, it won't work every time and with every manager, but if the department has a history of granting flex work options and your suggestion saves your company money, it's not outside the realm of possibility.
Readers, what do you think? What, if any, changes to flex work initiatives have you seen in your workplace since September?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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