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Having It All!

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If you think you've heard what Anne-Marie Slaughter of Princeton University has to say on "not having it all" because you were among the 1.7 million people who downloaded her article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," from The Atlantic, you are only half right.

At a recent session that the Families and Work Institute (FWI) conducted on the hottest workplace issues, Slaughter went further, including responding to the praise and criticism levied at the article. But even more importantly, she made clear what she believes we need to "have it all.".

More flexible workplaces is her clarion call. And what could be more appropriate for National Work and Family Month.

As Slaughter wrote in the article, she had always assumed that she could make her work and family life work together--that she COULD have it all. But when she took a demanding job at the State Department in Washington, DC, she realized that things weren't working. Her children would only be home for five more years and she wanted to work in a way that allowed her to have time with them because, as she puts it in her FWI speech, "I will never get it back."

Among the criticisms she's heard is that she is discouraging young women. People have told her that younger women don't need to hear that it's hard--they need to hear that they can do it! She responds:

For the record I believe that you can do it but I don't just think it is a matter of individual commitment. Unless you change the work environment, the values environment, the arc of a successful career environment, SOME women can absolutely make it--but for everybody else we actually need to change deeper things.

Changing the environment, she acknowledges is a women's and a men's issue, and it's an issue of empowering employees.

Slaughter says:

I knew that flexibility was incredibly important, but it is not JUST important--it is INDISPENSIBLE!! I've had to stop saying, "You can have it all" and I've had to start saying, "You can have it all IF you can control your own time much more."

Her clarion call to all of us is that it's time to finally make life and work fit with each other much better and as Slaughter strongly states, what we call "workflex" (flexibility that works for employees and employers) is the answer.

Going from a clarion call to business change takes time and research. That's why FWI and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) decided to compile we know from years of working on this issue and create a new Guide that some are already calling the "workflex bible."

"Workflex: The Essential Guide to Effective and Flexible Workplaces, the Employee's Workplace Flexibility Toolkit," will be released at the FWI-SHRM "2012 Workflex Conference: Reimagining the Workplace," later this month and it includes a detailed and comprehensive blueprint for employers on how, why and where to implement flexible options.

In the last decade, two broad trends in the provision of flexible work options have emerged, based on our research we include in the Guide:

• Since 2005 employers have increased their provision of options that allow employees to better manage the times and places in which they work. Today about 77% offer flex time; 63% offer flex place; 93% give workers choices in managing their time, and 87% provide daily time off when there's an important need.

• On the flip side, however, employers have reduced their provision of options that involve employees spending significant amounts of time away from full-time work. These include moving from part-time to full-time and back again (from 54% to 41%); and flex career options such as career breaks for personal or family responsibilities (from 73% to 52%).

The data show how some employers are pulling back when it comes to workflex programs that take workers away from their jobs more. But it's time for a flexibility reboot and a reminder that even significant time away doesn't mean a financial hit. In the guide, we encourage employers to take a serious workflex look in the mirror and ask themselves:

• Who are their people, and what drives them?
• What distinguishes their best people from the rest? What differentiates their most productive supervisors?
• How can they better align their people with their business goals? How can they create a workplace that works for their people and their organization?

Implementing workflex doesn't require wholesale change, and this is the case even for companies that may have nothing in place right now. One executive vice president quoted in the Guide suggested employers "try just changing one or two things every year." This Guide shows employers how to do this with case studies, tools, how-to information, and a legal overview. For those who respond to Slaughter's call, the evidence is clear that we can make change and we can make it now.