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Workplace Flexibility Helps Businesses Compete

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President, discusses how workplaces can be both models of efficiency, and also responsive to the family lives of their workers.

Over the past several days, I had the opportunity to take part in two inspiring events that addressed the subject of workplace flexibility. Last week, I spoke to representatives of an organization called Corporate Voices for Working Families, and yesterday, I was interviewed by Niloufar Molavi, the Chief Diversity Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers, as part of summit for executives from all across the country.

Organizations and businesses such as Corporate Voices and PricewaterhouseCoopers are leading advocates for workplaces that are both models of efficiency, and also responsive to the family lives of their workers. As members of the business community have shown, these goals are not only compatible – they are inextricably linked.

Several studies show that flexible workplaces strengthen businesses, and so do stories from firms around our country.  Take the example of Ryan LLC, a tax services firm based in Dallas. Managers at Ryan noticed talented employees leaving their positions at the company to spend more time with their families, and they decided to do something about it. They created a program called myRyan, which measured employees based on results achieved instead of hours worked. Turnover decreased, and many former employees actually returned to the firm. Ryan LLC and companies like it have demonstrated that supporting a healthy work-life balance can provide a business with a key competitive edge.

This is especially true today, as more women enter the workforce, and more households are headed by a single parent. In nearly 50 percent of American households, all adults work. This means that parents must find new ways to balance their careers with the obligations of family life – from children who need to picked up from school to elderly parents who need care.

President Obama understands this challenge. As a child, he saw his mother and grandmother struggle to strike this balance in their own lives. Today, as working parents themselves, the President and First Lady know that every moment spent with one’s children is incredibly precious. That is why the Obama Administration will do everything it can to promote more flexible workplaces.

As we work to Win the Future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world, we must use every tool at our disposal, and workplace flexibility is one of those tools. At the same time, workplace flexibility will allow Americans to spend more time with their families, without jeopardizing their livelihoods. That's why the work that Corporate Voices, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and others are doing is so important.

To learn more about the Obama Administration’s work on workplace flexibility, as well as many other issues that affect working families, please visit the homepage of the Council on Women and Girls.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.