The White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility

On March 31, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the White House Council on Women and Girls hosted a Forum on Workplace Flexibility.

The Forum sent a clear signal that expanding access to workplace flexibility has become a national priority – essential to supporting working families and strengthening our nation’s economy.

From the White House

From Workplace Flexibility 2010

Press Statements by Workplace Flexibility 2010

News Coverage and Commentary

"Yesterday, President Obama and the First Lady convened the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility. The meeting was both exciting and timely. Hopefully, it was also a harbinger of positive changes that will continue to emerge at American workplaces, both large and small.  The push for workplace flexibility is particularly important for today’s world of work. A number of factors contribute to a sense of urgency."

"Thank you to the First Family and The White House for an important symbolic boost for flexibility.  I agree with Wharton’s Stew Friedman when he says this is a, ‘Symbolic moment that signified, at last, a new era in which we are really talking and thinking differently about work and the relationship with the rest of our lives.’  Symbolism is a powerful driver of any broad change initiative.  And it spoke volumes to have the leader of the free world stand up, with his professional wife, in The White House and say, ‘this is important.’“

"Lawyers, like the Obamas, journalists and others who can work from a home computer have an advantage when seeking flexible work arrangements. But for someone on the assembly line, no part of the job can be done at home. The Obamas talked about the challenges they faced as a couple, with demanding careers and two young children. The president made it personal."

"While most of the participants were women, many took pains to note that this isn't just an issue women should advocate for to avoid the 'mommy trap' criticism. A primary driver of increased need noted in the report is the increase of women in the workplace."

"More than any particular policy initiative or new program announcement, yesterday's session at the White House was a symbolic moment that signified, at last, a new era in which we are really talking and thinking differently about work and its relationship with the rest of our lives."

"Likening the balancing act between work and family life to a 'high-wire act' President Obama said that his administration stands committed to helping with workplace flexibility – as many more families struggle to make ends meet in households with two working parents."

"The president said his administration is working on a grant competition program for states that develop the best programs for such challenges as paid family leave and child care. Obama said he also wants to see his own government develop better programs for things like tele-working from home."

"I'm over at the White House complex right now for a forum on workplace flexibility, lead by First Lady Michelle Obama. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and the President are scheduled to wrap things up in a couple of hours. But it's been very interesting to hear Mrs. Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer talk about workplace flexibility as specifically a women's issue."

"Addressing the Forum on Workplace Flexibility held by the White House Council on Women and Girls, Obama said helping American workers meet the demands of their jobs without sacrificing the needs of their families should be a priority of businesses and the government."

"The Forum on Workplace Flexibility — a gathering of what the administration describes as 'C.E.O.’s, small-business owners, labor leaders and workplace policy experts' — is expected to cover many of the issues I hoped Michelle Obama had in mind when she first announced that her portfolio as first lady would include improving the lives of working families."

"He probably has the most flexible and least flexible job in the world. [. . .] So it may have seemed a little paradoxical to have President Obama talking about the need for more workplace flexibility on Wednesday, but there he was wrapping up a forum sponsored by Michelle Obama, who reminded him that they didn’t always have the work arrangements they do now."

"The President has his work cut out for him in seeking common ground on this issue. Work-family advocates and business groups have been deeply divided over a proposed federal mandate to provide paid sick days for workers, for which work-family advocates have campaigned hard. On the other hand, business groups have been pushing for more than a decade to win flexibility of their own, by loosening federal labor-law limits on how workers’ weeks and work hours must be scheduled and paid."

"Armstrong told that story Wednesday at the White House at a conference on workplace flexibility. More than a dozen other business leaders or government officials at the table agreed with Armstrong, that one of the bigger blockades for employees seeking work that allows flexibility to care for young children or aging parents is the ability to keep their health care plans."

"The federal government could avoid shutting down if more workers had the option to telecommute, President Barack Obama said Wednesday. Obama made the remark during a forum on Workplace Flexibility today at the White House, where CEOs, small business owners and other labor experts will discuss ways to help working parents. Much of the discussion centered around helping working women with families."

"As part of his push, Obama cited a new White House report which concludes that flexible workplace rules could increase productivity. But he also cast the need for more humane workplaces in moral terms."

"Sheridan's participation in the event came after Menlo won the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility for the fourth straight year. Sheridan told AnnArbor.com that he expected that he might meet President Barack Obama at the event. Menlo regularly receives accolades for its innovative work environment. Two programmers share one computer, nobody has an office or permanent desk, and employees get new work partners on a weekly basis."

"The discussions among over 100 business leaders, labor activists, academics and policy wonks touched on so many important and worthwhile issues, but the ones that stood out to me were [...]"

"Feel restricted by that nine-to-five job? Or feel like your job is preventing you from enjoying your family or other things you find important in your life? President Obama and the first lady are trying to help. Today, the White House is holding a forum with CEO's, labor leaders and small business owners to look for 'strategies for making the workplace more flexible.' But how easy is it to set your own hours at the office?"

"As our economy pulls out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, every effort must be made to implement innovative practices to attract and retain the skilled workforce needed to help business thrive."

"The Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP) at WorldatWork applauds the White House for hosting a Forum on Workplace Flexibility (March 31). Integral to the WorldatWork Total Rewards model, work-life and workplace flexibility are important initiatives for attracting and retaining employees."

“First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility on Wednesday with powerful remarks that made it clear that she knows just what it means to be a frazzled working parent. It’s great to know that work-family challenges are something that she and the President have experienced first hand, and that they know we need national solutions.”

"Yesterday, as I listened to the opening of the Forum on Workplace Flexibility at the White House, I wrote a note to myself: 'They are singing our song.' All around me were the words that those of us who have worked on issues of work and family life have used for years."

"The idea of having a White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility would have been beyond anything I could have imagined when a literally handful of us came to the independent conclusion in the 1970s that work was "not working" for employees."

"The times have certainly changed. Flexibility in how, where and when work is done has become mission critical for businesses and employees. As someone who was there at the beginning, having helped hundreds of companies understand and implement flexibility, I find myself incredibly moved by the White House Forum on Flexibility and all it might mean."

“At the inaugural White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility yesterday President Obama stressed the profound disconnect between the needs of our families and the demands of our workplaces. As a whole our culture sees flexibility as a special perk for women rather than as a critical part of a workplace that can help all of us. Equally worrying is the way constant contact with our work--via mobile technology--is eroding any sense of separation between home and work. Sometimes the race to respond to a colleague's email overwhelms any rational sense of how urgent that email actually is.”

"Introduced as the Teleworker-In-Chief, President Obama described workplace flexibility as essential to the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses. 'It affects the strength of our economy—whether we’ll create the workplaces and jobs of the future we need to compete in today’s global economy.'  The call for flexible employment opportunities couldn’t have been more clear."