Why We Need Flexibility In The Workplace

Flexibility in the Workplace


Aug. 10 2017, Published 4:45 a.m. ET

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According to a recent study conducted by the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), women are increasingly choosing to become an entrepreneur due to necessity, rather than opportunity. There is a distinction between the types of entrepreneurship as each has different motivations backing the premise.

Opportunity-based entrepreneurship is when the motivation is to exploit a market opportunity. The service or good that one wants to provide is either unavailable in the current market or in high demand. On the other hand, necessity-based entrepreneurship starts because the traditional labor force offers no room for growth or is not suited for that person.

Focusing on women, we see they gravitate towards necessity-based entrepreneurship. It’s not a matter of market opportunity as much as the need to tailor a business to their liking. Often, the work they do doesn’t provide the conditions for growth. Some examples include the lack of paid leave, the lack of paid maternity leave, and/or the lack of flexible policies.

Workplace Flexibility
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The lack of flexibility restricts women from advancing. Companies do not adhere to flexible policies aimed to send women up the leadership pipeline. Instead, women are forced to choose between career and care. It’s not a matter of women wanting to leave, it’s a matter of them being forced out. More women find they cannot grow personally or professionally in their current situation.

Even with the mass exodus of women from the workplace, companies are still hesitant to implement work flexibility policies. Companies correlate flexibility with laziness, as they believe that flexible policies are a way for people to do less work. But as we move forward with closing the gender gap, companies need to understand the pertinence of flexibility.

According to Werk, flexibility is a “a set of agreed upon terms between an employee and their employer at the outset of an employment arrangement that is used to modify and enhance traditional work structures in order to create compatibility between the needs of the employee and the objectives of the employer.” Flexibility doesn’t mean that a person will do less work, but they have set upon conditions that allows for them to do the same amount of work, but with nontraditional conditions that help them succeed. Women can be on track for promotions while following flexible policies.

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Workplace Flexibility

While companies prepare for the change in workplace policy, female entrepreneurs should be proactive in incorporating strategic flexibility policies they sought for after leaving the traditional labor force. Annie Dean, co-founder of Werk, a job platform that posts job opportunities that implement flexibility policies, mentions the importance of implementing policies in a sustainable way.

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“In term of policies they should be enacting, it’s very important to understand the structures of work that enable success. And that if you are willing to [incorporate] flexibility, you need to do so in a way that is clear, measurable, and detail-oriented,” she notes. Dean establishes that it has always been challenging for women to secure funds, but highlights that “[women are] always going to win when it comes [to the team] because they think about these [traits] like inspiration, flexibility, and culture that is sustainable.”

More women entrepreneurs are popping up in the circuit as companies shy away from flexible work policies. Carla Bayot, co-founder of Design My Meals, left Silicon Valley because she “burned out … while trying to juggle being a mom and a wife.” Bayot’s startup, along with her partner, is designed to help busy moms by delivering the ingredients needed for a recipe so it is easy to cook once someone orders a meal. She is among the many who are making the shift towards entrepreneurship to address the holes in the current work situation.

With more women deciding to go into the workforce, it is important that we continue to support their endeavors. Whether they choose to engage in entrepreneurship or remain in the traditional labor force, people need to recognize the importance of flexibility.

Flexibility is the future of workplaces, and companies need to prepare for it.

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