Almost 8 years ago in search of a more flexible work opportunity I founded my company, Delegate Solutions. My son was on the way, I was commuting to Philly and dreading the thought of working a 9-5 with a child. So, I took my skills and translated them into something that would not only flexibly generate income, but meet my professional needs as well. While I recognize not everyone is so opportunistic, the desire for flexible, fulfilling work is universal across socioeconomic levels.
In her brilliant NYT article "A Toxic Work World" Anne-Marie Slaughter shares that our workplaces no longer fit the realities of our lives. She argues that this is not a narrative of a "women's problem" or a "family problem." Rather, it stems from a culture of overwork in America where only the most competitive workers putting in the longest hours can survive; thus deteriorating the infrastructure of our families and communities.
This is an opportunity for us as entrepreneurs to re-imagine and design a more flexible, happier workforce, which in turn creates the foundation for a strong, successful society. Our inherent spirit of problem-solving combined with our non-conformist attitudes provide a unique advantage to reinvent the workplace and establish new work cultures built on trust and accountability. Simply fighting for "increased virtual work" or "better employee benefits" is not enough. What we need to put our collective energy behind is creating a new type of work environment that exists to benefit everyone's success.
This first step in the fight for flexible work is likely the hardest because it requires a major shift in perspective by the traditional workplace in America. Both employers and employees will need to evolve their value mindset from that of time = worth to one of results = worth. This equates to a "Results-based Work Environment" that values effort and accomplishment above all else. Employees will need to be setup for success with clear expectations around work, in conjunction with outcome-based goal setting plans. Employers will need to find new and creative ways to track employee engagement and productivity as a component of their bottom line.
This shift changes perceptions on both sides and in order for it to work, it must address both sets of needs, carefully balancing flexibility with accountability. Efforts on this issue are well underway, but there's much left to do. Workflexibility.org is working to rally an audience of 1 million bring awareness and generate actionable ideas and leadership on this issue. On the Government side, Obama has been working since 2010 to increase flexible work environments in the US Government. The value is clear that work-life balance initiatives not only have a positive impact on corporate success, but contribute to the overall progress and happiness of our communities at large.
I believe that we as entrepreneurs can lead to reshape the culture of the traditional American workforce into one that values quality, flexibility, contribution and effectiveness. This can be done profitably and successfully, with work that complements our employees' lives in meaningful ways. There's endless ROI in cultivating a nation's workforce, and as employers we are called to action.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.