Obama Administration Gives Two Thumps Up to Flexible Workplaces

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are advocating for flexible workplaces by holding a Forum on Workplace Flexibility at the White House.  The forum was organized by the Council on Women and Girls, according to senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.

“Millions of women and men across the country struggle to balance the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families,” the President said.  Participants included numerous small businesses, as well as large companies like Sara Lee Corporation, Abbott Laboratories, Accenture, American Express, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline and Intel.

Sara Lee – which has 41,000 employees globally – is leading by example and offers flexible work arrangements such as non-traditional start and stop times; the option to work remotely; job sharing; leaves of absence; and what is known as returnships for mid-career employees who took several years off work, primarily as stay-at- home mothers, said Mark Demich, Sara Lee’s vice president of organization development.  According to Demich, his firm tries to “look at the whole person, not just a Sara Lee employee” and take into account commitments for child care, elder care or to schools, churches or community groups.

“If and when the economy starts to pick up and turn, I think our employees will feel well-treated, that we took into account their work-life balance and outside commitments,” Demich said.  The bottom line for Demich:  employees will be more likely “to stay and deliver more.”