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Workflex: A Solution for the 21st Century Workplace

Done well, workflex helps companies attract and retain talent while contributing to employees' well-being.

A man in a suit and tie posing for a photo.
​Henry G. Jackson

​Where did you work today? You may have put time in at the office, but you also may have tackled tasks on a plane, in a coffee shop, at home and even on vacation. 

Advances in technology have made what was once unimaginable now routine. Collaboration can happen around a conference table or in virtual rooms, and employees can solve problems in real time from thousands of miles away. For employers, the “anytime, anywhere” workplace has been a productivity boon. 

The borderless workplace has also empowered many employees. The ability to operate from home, to shift or compress schedules, and to make other flexible work arrangements has been a lifesaver for increasingly busy workers as they navigate the responsibilities of caregiving and personal obligations. 

It is no surprise that this kind of workplace flexibility, or “workflex” for short, is climbing to the top of the most-wanted list of workplace wellness benefits, a trend we explore in this month’s HR Magazine feature “Employers Take Wellness to a Higher Level.” 

Workflex works best when applied supportively, fairly and consistently across the workforce. Done well, it meets the needs of both employers and employees. Company leaders can attract and retain the talent to power their enterprises, and employees—from new parents to caregivers for aging parents, and from Millennials to Baby Boomers—can achieve work/life well-being. Everyone wins. 

Unfortunately, it does not always turn out that way.

Recently, we’ve seen some companies pull back telework and other flexible work options in the name of collaboration. However, it takes more than putting people in a room together to get the magic that can happen through teamwork. Other companies fail to offer workflex options at all—or at least fail to offer them to every employee. 

Moreover, a complex patchwork of state and local laws dictating how flexible work and paid leave are defined and enforced for various positions limit the options employers can offer. Not surprisingly, policymakers have responded with proposals for one-size-fits-all government mandates, which do not consider diverse work environments and the wide variety of industries and organization sizes. 

These complications aside, today’s workplace and workforce demand flexibility.

That’s why the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been working with members of Congress to carefully develop a workflex legislative solution that does three things: supports employees in meeting their work/life needs; provides paid leave to employees; and gives certainty, predictability and stability to employers. 

Watch for details from SHRM about the Workplace in the 21st Century Act and next steps toward enacting this important legislation. The effort is one more way your professional Society is shaping the modern workplace to be more innovative, competitive and fair. 

Workflex can work for all. I dare say that, in today’s world of work, it must.

Henry G. Jackson is the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. 

Photograph by Cade Martin for HR Magazine.

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