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When Work Works Toolkit
A national initiative led by the partnership of Families and Work Institute(FWI) and SHRM

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When Work Works Toolkit - Download the full toolkit in PDF

Learn more about the initiative and toolkit in this 45-minute webinar with sound.

This tool kit provides state and local volunteer leaders with the tools they need to build support for workplace flexibility in their communities and organizations. It includes discussions about why workplace flexibility is important to HR professionals and how they can promote flexibility. It also describes the When Work Works program and the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility and explains how promoting participation in this awards program can help employers, employees, and their communities be more successful.

Defining Workplace Flexibility

Workplace flexibility is a dynamic relationship defining how, when and where work gets done as well as how careers are organized—that works for both the employer and employee.


Workplace flexibility is an important business strategy that helps organizations respond to demographic, economic and technological changes in the workplace and to community needs.

Workplace Flexibility includes:[i]

·         Choices in Managing Time includes control over one’s schedule and agreeing that the schedule or shift meets his or her needs.

·         Flex Time and Flex Place includes traditional flexibility, daily flexibility (short-notice schedule changes), compressed workweeks, and working at home.

·         Reduced Time includes full-timers who could arrange to work part time in their current position and part-timers who could arrange to work full time in their current position as well as part-year work.

·         Time Off includes a lack of difficulty in taking time for personal or family matters, paid days off for personal illness, paid days off to care for sick children, time off for elder care without fear of losing one’s job, paid vacation time, paid holidays, time off for volunteering without the loss of pay, and caregiving leaves for birth, adoption, and seriously ill family members.

·         Flex Careers enable employees to dial up or dial down their careers by taking extended time off for caregiving or sabbaticals. They also enable employees to phase into retirement.

·         Dealing with Overwork includes efforts to create reasonable work demands, to reduce unnecessary work and to create boundaries between life on and off the job.

·         Culture of Flexibility includes not having to choose between advancement and devoting attention to family life, not having advancement jeopardized by asking for flexibility, and overall supervisor support when work-life issues arise.

Why is workplace flexibility important to HR professionals?

The workforce has changed.  Increasingly, employees are experiencing a time famine.[2] There are now four generations in the workforce and four in five of all employees who are married are in dual earner couples. One of every five employees currently provides elder care and this number will increase dramatically to almost half of the workforce over the next several years.  It is no surprise that employed men are experiencing more work-life conflict than in the past.[3] It is important for organizations to acknowledge and respond to these changes in the workforce.

The workplace is also undergoing important transformations. Jobs have become more demanding and less secure in the current economic climate.[4]  The average middle class family works 500 hours more than they would have in the 1970s.[5]  The global marketplace runs on a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week economy.  These factors contribute to greater intensity in the workplace today.

Human resource (HR) professionals can help their organizations respond to these transformations by building support for policies and practices that create effective workplaces.  Increasingly, workplaces are recognizing that employees are an organization’s greatest resource and make a critical difference in an organization’s ability to not merely survive, but to thrive.  To be truly flexible and effective, a workplace – its design, practices and policies – must benefit the organization and its employees.[6] 

Organizations that provide more effective and flexible work environments have been shown to have more engaged, satisfied, and healthier employees with fewer intentions of looking for new employment.[7]  These effects can be seen in a variety of industries and across a range of employee groups. As workplaces become more intense, organizations find that they must become more flexible to support employees in effectively managing their demands at work and at home and to attract, develop, and retain the employees they need to succeed.

The History of When Work Works

Families and Work Institute launched When Work Works in 2003 in collaboration with the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and the Twiga Foundation, with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The centerpiece of the initiative has been the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility, a nationally recognized award for organizations that are using workplace flexibility as part of their business practice.

SHRM-FWI Partnership

In February 2011, When Work Works became a joint project of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Families and Work Institute (FWI). Its goal is to translate research into action—to create more effective and flexible workplaces for the 21st Century.

This partnership combines the research and expertise of a widely respected think tank specializing in workplace effectiveness with the influence and reach of the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. By highlighting strategies that enable people to do their best work, the partnership promotes practical, research-based knowledge that helps employers voluntarily create effective and flexible workplaces that fit the 21st century workforce and ensure a new competitive advantage for businesses.

When Work Works —A National Initiative

When Work Works ( partners with communities and states around the country to:

  • Share rigorous research and employer best practices on workplace effectiveness and flexibility;
  • Recognize exemplary employers through the Sloan Award based on surveys of employers and employees; and
  • Inspire positive change so that increasing numbers of employers understand how effective and flexible workplaces can benefit both employers and employees, and use this information to makr work "work."

·    While several SHRM affiliates currently serve as When Work Works community partners, the SHRM-FWI partnership is focused on increasing the number of SHRM State Councils and/or Chapters in this role.  This toolkit provides SHRM members with information and resources on how to adopt this initiative in your state or community.  In addition, if a community partner already exists in your community, this toolkit outlines opportunities for collaboration.

Community Partner Benefits and Responsibilities

SHRM’s nationwide network of State Councils and Chapters provides an ideal structure for disseminating information and educating HR professionals and employers at the local level about workplace flexibility.

Serving as a When Work Works community partner offers several benefits to SHRM State Councils and Chapters, including:

1.      Leading a community effort on a key business issue that generates significant media interest;

2.      Offering strategic educational programming to HR professionals on a critical people issue;

3.      Supporting a SHRM strategic priority while increasing State Council/Chapter visibility on a timely HR issue; and

4.      Meeting SHRM Affiliate Program for Excellence (SHAPE) initiatives.

State Councils/Chapters that implement When Work Works satisfy one focus area requirement under Section 2 of SHAPE – State Focused Council Initiatives or Community Based Chapter Initiatives – that supports the Core Leadership Areas of: 

  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Workforce Readiness
  • A self-defined area other than the two listed above

When Work Works community partners have three primary responsibilities:

1.      Engage community leaders in workplace flexibility efforts

2.      Educate employers about workplace effectiveness and flexibility

3.      Promote the Sloan Award and recognize award recipients

State Councils or Chapters interested in leading the When Work Works initiative in your state or community should complete the Commitment to Partner form.  If a When Work Works community partner already exists in your state or community, SHRM-FWI encourage State Councils/Chapters to explore opportunities to collaborate with the community partner on education or recognition events and help raise awareness of the Sloan Award.  For example, SHRM affiliates can:

ü  Include a link to on your affiliate website;

ü  Notify members when the Sloan application process is open via electronic newsletter or email communication;

ü  Encourage members to apply for a Sloan Award via a podium announcement at monthly meetings;

ü  Host a joint educational program with the community partner to attract potential new members; and

ü  Host a joint recognition event for Sloan Award recipients with the community partner or explore incorporating a recognition celebration in your state conference or monthly chapter meeting.

Overview of the Sloan Award

The Sloan Award program is national in scope, and recognizes model employers of all types and sizes across the U.S. for their innovative and effective workplace practices.  It is a worksite-based award honoring organizations that are using workplace flexibility as a strategy to make work work better—for both the employer and the employee.

The application process takes place in two rounds.  In Round I, employers apply by completing an online questionnaire about the flexibility programs and practices at their worksites.  Employers that rank among the top 20 percent of employers in the U.S., when compared with national data based on the Families and Work Institute’s National Study of Employers, are selected as finalists and move to Round II. 

In Round II, employers are invited to have their employees complete a questionnaire that asks about their individual use of and experiences with flexibility and other aspects of an effective workplace, including the supportiveness of their workplace culture and whether they perceive any negative consequences for using flexibility at their workplace.  The scoring used to select Sloan Award winners weights the employee experience most heavily.  There is no minimum or maximum number of award recipients.  More information about the Sloan Award can be found in this Fact Sheet:  The Sloan Award Process.

HR and the Sloan Awards

HR professionals help promote workplace flexibility policies and programs that increase productivity, lower turnover, and strengthen employee engagement. The Sloan Award provides HR professionals with a unique opportunity to showcase their organization’s flexibility strategies and better understand how their programs compare to others.  While there are lots of benefits to applying for this prestigious award, here are the “Top 10 Reasons to Apply for a Sloan Award:”

10.    Provides a great opportunity to strengthen your organization's brand. 

9.      Lets your customers know that you are an employer of choice in responding to the needs of employees and their families. 

8.      Gives you a tool to use to recruit, develop and retain top talent. 

7.      Involves you in a vibrant and engaging network of organizations that are using workplace flexibility as an effective business strategy. 

6.      Increases your organization’s visibility by being an expert source on issues of effective and flexible workplaces for the  media. 

5.      Shows your employees that an effective and flexible workplace is a priority for your organization. 

4.      Offers you the opportunity to be a winner and get national and local recognition.  

3.      Enables you to be featured in the Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work “Work, the go-to source on best practices. 

2.      Provides an opportunity for you to learn what your organization is already doing well and how these efforts can be enhanced through the benchmarking report provided to all applicants. 

1.       Allows you to stand out from your competition as an organization whose leadership values its employees.


The Community Business Case

Not only do organizations and their employees benefit from implementing workplace flexibility policies and practices, communities benefit as well, and can be recognized as best places to work and live.  Communities across the nation support workplace flexibility to address issues such as:

  •  promoting regional economic development
  • recruiting and retaining a multi-generational workforce 
  •  recruiting and retaining women in leadership positions
  •  establishing the community as a great place to work and live
  •  responding to changing community economic conditions such as structural unemployment, a changing industry base, or reducing poverty
  •  focusing on civic engagement and the positive community impact that encourages volunteerism
  •  addressing environmental and energy concerns such as reducing traffic congestion and commute times
  •  increasing caregiving availability, thus addressing family time-famine challenges


Strategies and Objectives for Community Partners

Community partners should strive to get as many local organizations to apply for the award as possible.  To achieve this goal, consider what might motivate an organization to apply for the award.  Here are some reported benefits of receiving the Sloan Award from previous award recipients:

·         Recognized at both local and national events;

·         Profiled in the annual Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work distributed nationwide;

·         Included in an acknowledgement to elected officials at local, state and federal level;

·         Recognized and included  in a statement in the Congressional Record;

·         Eligible to receive a frame-able, gold lined copy of the Congressional Record statement;

·         Featured in publications by FWI, SHRM, and other publications that are disseminated across the country;

·         Able to use the Sloan Award logo for promotional purposes;

·         Very likely to receive positive media coverage;

·         Better able to attract, develop and retain a talented workforce; and

·         Involved in a network of winning organizations at the forefront of thought-leadership surrounding workplace flexibility.

Launching When Work Works

While educational/recognition programs along with efforts to promote the Sloan Award are unique across communities, here is a recommended set of steps to undertake to fulfill the three partner responsibilities:

·         Complete the Commitment to Partner form and return it to SHRM-FWI.

·         Host a State Council/Chapter program on workplace flexibility.

·         Consider utilizing SHRM Speaker’s Bureau presentation on workplace flexibility, which is eligible for strategic credit from the HR Certification Institute.

·         Promote the Sloan Award. Engage previous winners in the community as champions of the awards program and mentors for new applicants.

·         Host an event to introduce members and local employers to the awards program and help them to apply (boot camps for the application process, panels with previous winners, one-on-one phone calls or meetings to walk applicants through the process).

·         Gather local SHRM members to discuss forming a community coalition.  Consider who else to include in your efforts to promote workplace flexibility in your area. 

·         Identify community champions or workplaces where workplace flexibility is already a strategy but not well known in the community. 

·         Host a coalition meeting with a wide variety of members from your community.  This provides a place for talking about workplace flexibility from a number of viewpoints. Find out how you can collaborate and about workplace flexibility events you can co-sponsor.

·         Include workplace flexibility programming in your state conference.

·         Host a recognition event for Sloan Award winners in your community.

·         Distribute press release announcing Sloan Award winners and details of your recognition event.  Be sure to leverage social media.

·         Share information about your recognition event with SHRM-FWI to generate additional attendance at your event.

·         Promote the annual Guide to Bold New Ideas which highlights Sloan Award winners and their innovative workplace strategies.

·         Publicize local workplace flexibility success stories in local media.

·         Encourage Sloan Award recipients to distribute a press release announcing their accomplishment.

·         Celebrate Work and Family Month in October. Ask your governor and/or mayor to declare October as Work and Family Month in your area.

·         Provide an online forum for providing workplace flexibility information, resources and an exchange of ideas.  Consider forming a local LinkedIn discussion group.


Identifying Champions and Potential Coalition Members/Collaborators

To help ensure the sustainability of the When Work Works initiative in your community, it is important to involve key stakeholders and champions in the effort.  These individuals and/or groups can increase the reach of the initiative and help influence how employers and others in the community think about workforce and workplace issues.  Consider including:

Business Groups and Professional Associations

  •  Local chambers of commerce
  • Local leadership groups
  • Local business magazine
  • Rotary/Kiwanis
  • Existing business roundtables or task forces
  • Workforce Development Councils
  • Economic Development Committees 


  • Large employers
  • Midsized and small employers
  • Employers that have won the Sloan Award
  • Non-profit, academic, and health organizations

 Employee Groups

  • Unions
  • Women's organizations
  • Diversity advocacy
  • Generational differences
  • Temp Agencies

Media Groups

  • Print, television media
  • Business media
  • Editorial writers
  • Social media

Government Groups

  • Elected officials or designees
  • Government employers
  • Department of Economic Development
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Council on Aging

 Community Service Groups

  • United Way
  • Parenting Groups
  • Family Advocates
  • Caregiving Associations 

Educational Groups

  • Education from early childhood to higher education
  • Parent educators
  • Professors
  • School Nurses
  • Counselors
  • Additional Resources


Additional Resources

The following Fact Sheets, Tip Sheets, and important website links provide additional tools and information to help SHRM State Councils and Chapters build support for workplace flexibility and implement When Work Works in their state or community.  SHRM and FWI, along with When Work Works project partner, the Twiga Foundation are also available to answer questions and provide additional guidance to SHRM affiliates interested in advancing workplace flexibility.

Society for Human Resource Management (

SHRM is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India.

Contact:          Lisa Horn

Families and Work Institute (

FWI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce, family and community. As a preeminent think tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom and provides insight and knowledge.  As an action tank, FWI conducts numerous studies that put its research into action and then evaluates the results.  Its purpose is to create research to live by. 

Contact:          Kelly Sakai 

Twiga Foundation (

The Twiga Foundation is the voice for promoting family consciousness in our families, workplaces and communities.  As a When Work Works partner, the Twiga Foundation enables community leaders to connect nationwide to share and develop the best practices for building community support for workplace flexibility. 

Contact:          Patricia Kempthorne

Important Links

Fact Sheets

Tip Sheets


[i]Families and Work Institute (2011). 2012 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work. New York: Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management, 3-6.

[2]Galinsky, E., Sakai, K., & Wigton, T. (2011). Workplace Flexibility: From Research to Action, Future of Children 21(2), 141-161.

[3]Aumann, K., Galinsky, E., & Matos, K. (2011). The New Male Mystique. New York: Families and Work Institute.

[4]Bond, J., Galinsky, E. (1997). National Study of the Changing Workforce Executive Summary

[5]Boushey, H. in The Shriver Report:  How a Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (Boushey, H. & O’Leary, A.eds), The new breadwinners (Center for American Progress, Washington, DC, October 2009)

[6]Aumann, K. & Galinsky, E. (2008). The State of Health in the American Workforce: Does Having an Effective Workplace Matter? New York, Families and Work Institute.

[7]Bond, J., Galinsky, E. (2011). Workplace Flexibility in Manufacturing Companies.  New York, Familites and Work Institute.

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