The groundswell growing for a “flexible workplace” seems to me to be based upon three core assumptions:
- Technology has advanced to a sufficient degree of functionality and affordability that much of the office work performed today in fixed locations can be performed remotely.
- The vast majority of college educated knowledge workers (whom the policies would most benefit) are self-disciplined and accountable enough to leverage such discretion wisely and achieve productivity levels equal to, or even in excess of, that achieved in the traditional office setting.
- Better “work-life balance” will be achieved by workers who deploy the time and cost savings of commuting to the betterment of their lives and those of family members.
I am confident that such arrangements could prosper in the right cultures and business models but remain unconvinced the concepts will be widely adopted because, bluntly put, the arrangements do not greatly benefit men or females with children; two very powerful groups in the workplace. Joan Williams, writing for the Harvard Business Review, does an excellent job articulating the inherent challenges facing flexible work arrangements. It not, she notes, an issue of doubting that such arrangements can be successful and deliver results as attested by the documentation of the ROWE program at Best Buy.
Her article helped solidify my perception that most men are hard-wired to work long and focused hours and that part of the reinforcement of this behavior comes from observation; there is little psychic credit for toiling in obscurity. I think the current value propositions of most flexible work arrangements have a long way to go to gain acceptance and support from most men, especially those in positions of authority in business.