Work-Life Rigidity Partially due to Individuals, not Strictly Organizations

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pie graph Up to now, most criticism and calls for enhanced flexibility regarding the work-life balance of employees were aimed at organizations and management, but a volley of new findings from workplace and academic experts is revealing that risk-averse employees frequently contribute to the lack of flexibility in their lives. Cali Williams Yost, a leading thinker on workplace issues and founder of the Flex+Strategy Group, opines:

“We’ve spent nearly the last two decades calling out the companies and management for the need for work life flexibility. Many have responded, but now employees also need to step up and assert control by making small, subtle, practical choices that no one will notice but them.”

Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family adds, “For over 20 years, our Center has stressed the importance of organizational culture, the right types of management support, and the most effective human resource policies and programs needed to facilitate work life fit. But I have always stressed my belief that ultimately it is the individual who must solve this problem, must determine their fit, and must manage the process of achieving it.”

Research performed by Yost and ORC International, however, found that three-quarters of the population believes that work-life flexibility is only obtainable by its provision by their employer/boss. The most commonly listed obstacles to work-life flexibility in the research were lack of a sense of empowerment and stress from increased workloads and shortened deadlines. But both Yost and Harrington feel that the workplace is much more flexible and supportive than in the past.

“Major life events matter,” said Yost, “but it’s the everyday routine we crave and where employees struggle the most with managing work life fit. We can’t wait for HR or the boss to solve this conflict for us. Employees themselves need to manage work life fit as a daily practice. And while it may be counterintuitive, it starts by thinking small – by yes, sweating the ‘small stuff.'”


By Joshua Bjerke