Workplace Flexibility

Corporate Voices for Working Families’ 2013 Annual Partners Meeting put the spotlight last week  on corporate leadership beyond the workplace, providing presentations rich in content, lively discussions and opportunities for attendees to network with other business leaders and policymakers.

The meeting provided a forum to examine and discuss a host of critical workforce readiness and work/life issues that are critically important to Corporate Voices’ partner companies. These included how employment pathways for younger workers just entering the world of work can benefit employees and employers; the opportunities and challenges in employer engagement in higher education; how demographic changes are reshaping the economic and political landscapes; new thinking in workplace diversity and corporate wellness; and how responsible corporate leaders can – and must – engage in national efforts to foster job creation and stronger economic growth.

ImageJim Quigley, CEO Emeritus of Deloitte, gave one of the keynote presentations, demonstrating how critical it is for business leaders to lead by example and foster a culture of values and respect. Quigley, co-author of As One: Individual Action, Collective Power, led the audience on a “conversation on leadership.”

“As leaders I would challenge you to consider whether the conditions for success are in place,” he said. “Have we created clarity about our key goals? Can we communicate these ideas in a way that we can be successful?”

Dr. Michael Dimock, Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, led the second keynote presentation. He engaged the audience with a discussion of values, demographics, generations and technology, highlighting how policymakers need to forge Imagesolutions to the significant problems facing our nation and working families – while spotlighting the importance for business leaders, and the businesses they represent, to engage in a manner that fosters job creation and stronger economic growth.

Among the takeaways from Dimock’s presentation was a point relevant to public policy work: Pew research indicates that American public opinion on values hasn’t changed over the years, but the extent of political partisanship has changed significantly.

One of the many highlights of the Annual Meeting was a 90-minute briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building that was organized exclusively for Corporate Voices by the White House staff. During the briefing, members of the Obama Administration shared their insights and perspectives on current and planned initiatives involving the jobs, training, education, economic and health and wellness issues of interest to our partner companies.

During the briefing, Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, said, “From the start of this Administration, Corporate Voices for Working Families has been a great partner on important issues.”

Corporate Voices’ Annual Partners Meeting – with generous sponsorship provided by Baxter International, KPMG, The TJX Companies, Johnson & Johnson, Ryan and SelectPlus — was held March 20-22, at the Loews Madison Hotel, Washington, D.C.

To view all presentations from this year’s Annual Meeting, please click here.


Yahoo!The decision by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to end the option for Yahoo! employees to work at home should matter to all working families and businesses. In one move by a highly visible executive and company, the decision threatens advances made over the last several decades in the workplace that have benefited working families and strengthened the competitiveness of American businesses. At the same time, Mayer’s decision underscores that workplace flexibility works when employers and workers benefit – and if it isn’t working for one side, flexibility may not be right for that company.

Both extensive Corporate Voices for Working Families’ research and the policies of our best-practice companies point to the fact that workplace flexibility options make a big difference for employees and their families and for the businesses that adopt these policies as a strategic management imperative. When companies provide options that help employees strike a balance between work and family, morale and productivity increases – and businesses benefit from less turnover and a more dedicated and productive workforce. Likewise, businesses find that these policies are critical management tools that enhance recruitment, retention, engagement, cost control, productivity, and ultimately, financial performance.

Businesses, working on behalf of all stakeholders, must continue to take the lead to promote and implement programs and policies that improve the lives of working families, while making our economy more vigorous and our nation more prosperous. When a prominent company such as Yahoo! turns back the clock on a flexible work option like working from home (that we know benefits working families and the business bottom line), it helps to create an environment ripe for new federal and state government employer mandates. That’s a setback for those businesses that strategically manage their organizations in the best interests of their employees and their own profitability and competitiveness.

Yahoo! is in a tough business, and the company’s stated desire to foster greater innovation and teamwork across its workforce is certainly laudable. Yet in our view, Mayer didn’t have to pick between telecommuting and better performance, when a management strategy promoting workplace flexibility would have given her both outcomes.

Corporate Voices’ research studies and best-practice case studies concerning flexible work options are available at

August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week and Corporate Voices wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the work we have done in this area.  With recent changes in federal laws surrounding breastfeeding in the workplace, Corporate Voices worked with Abbott Nutrition and Working Mother Media to develop the Workplace Lactation Toolkit. It gives employers high-quality resources and tools to comply with this new federal requirement, and to help them establish successful workplace lactation programs that work for all workers, including lower-wage and hourly employees. You can access the toolkit here:

And keep a look out for a new lactation toolkit from Corporate Voices and Abbott for military families: the Military Lactation Toolkit, which will have specific information for each branch of the military regarding breastfeeding and pumping policies.

Best Companies for Hourly Workers

Corporate Voices is delighted by the news that four of its partner companies were honored with Working Mother Media’s Best Companies for Hourly Workers Award at the 2012 National Conference Supporting Hourly Workers on May 18.  We applaud Bon Secours Virginia Health System,  Capital OneMarriott International and Sodexo for their outstanding work, which has resulted in this honor.  Our partner companies are joined by this year’s other honorees: Best Buy, Cricket Communications, Hilton Worldwide, Pet Smart, Target, University of New Mexico Hospitals, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and Valassis Communications.

At last week’s conference, Peggy Walton, Senior Director, Workforce Readiness, facilitated a breakout working group that discussed flex solutions for education, training and development.  Highlighted in the session were two Best Companies for Hourly Workers awardees, Valassis and University of New Mexico Hospitals, both of which have best-practice programs that support education attainment and talent development.

When Corporate Voices initiated the Best Companies for Hourly Workers recognition in partnership with Working Mother Media, the goal was to highlight those companies that set the standard for best practices for hourly workers.  Clearly, these winning organizations do just that.  They offer hourly workers benefits such as health insurance and company-matching 401(k)s, as well as paid vacation and sick days, tuition assistance, flexible spending accounts and flexible work schedules.

By Dorian Friedman

Corporate Voices is proud to have contributed two important chapters to a new thought-leadership anthology on workforce management issues, published this week by our friends at The Workforce Institute at Kronos.

Elements of Successful Organizations: Achieving Strong Leadership, Smart Management, and an Engaged Workforce, is a rich collection of articles by some of the nation’s most distinguished human capital management practitioners. The book looks at the similarities that successful organizations share and provides actionable advice on how to replicate this success.

In three complementary sections—Strong Leadership, Smart Management, and Engaged Employees—authors were asked to tap into their own experience to deliver anecdotes and advice on how to achieve success.  Kronos looked to Corporate Voices for our expertise on workplace flexibility and workforce readiness issues to round out the chapter on Engaged Employees.

  • In a chapter on Innovative Workplace Flexibility and Scheduling, Donna Klein of Corporate Voices joins Amy Richman of WFD Consulting in an eloquent argument for work/family balance as a talent management strategy.  “Progressive personnel policies and a work culture that supports occasional flexibility and gives workers…more control over their work schedules…are powerful drivers of business success,” they assert, and offer an impressive array of research findings from their two organizations and others to support the case.
  • And in a chapter on Business and Education Partnerships: Creating Pathways to Employment, John-Anthony Meza of Corporate Voices lays out an equally compelling imperative for American companies to collaborate with schools and community colleges to support their employees. Notwithstanding the nation’s economic challenges, he writes, forward-looking employers “recognize the value of investing today to shape the best possible workforce of tomorrow.”  By embracing innovative partnerships with educational institutions, these companies can “provide a new generation of workers the immeasurable value associated with higher education, a rewarding career, and the skills they will need to thrive in the uncertain global economy of the future”—all while serving their bottom-line business needs and earning a measurable return on the investment.

We thank Joyce Maroney, the anthology’s editor, and our partners at Kronos for their commitment to these important issues, and for inviting us to share Corporate Voices’ unique perspective.  (We thank them as well for their very generous plug of our work in the book’s introduction!)  Elements of Successful Organizations is available on for $21.95.

Recognizing workplace flexibility as a smart business strategy, as well as a smart traffic management strategy, Virginia has passed new legislation creating a Telework Expenses Tax Credit for employers. This new law provides for a tax credit of up to $1,200 per employee, with a maximum of $50,000 per organization, for eligible telework expenses incurred during 2012 and 2013.

This is good news for both employers and employees in specific areas of Northern Virginia where large transportation and construction projects are underway, such as the Dulles Metrorail Extension. The state legislation supports telework as a strategy to help businesses reduce their real estate costs, and to help their employees become more productive and reduce their impact on air pollution and traffic congestion. To be eligible for the credit, employers must apply with the Virginia Department of Taxation by October 31, 2011.

Governor Bob McDonnell, who signed the Virginia telework tax credit into law earlier this year, said in a press release,

“Transportation is one of the key challenges facing the Commonwealth, and ensuring we have a modern and efficient transportation system is a key part of keeping Virginia the nation’s best place to live and do business…Virginia’s new telework tax credit legislation and the Virginia Transportation Challenge all work together to improve our transportation system to meet the demands of the future and help address the congestion we are facing today.”

In fact, Virginia’s telework tax credit is similar to other tax credits and telework programs that many states have adopted, and echoes what the Obama administration has championed at the federal level. Important progress was made in expanding the federal government’s use of telework when President Obama signed the bipartisan Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 into law in December 2010. That Act expanded telework opportunities for most federal workers, allowing eligible employees to work remotely from home or an off-site location. Under this law, executive agencies were required to establish telework policies, determine employee eligibility for telework, establish telework training programs for workers and managers, and provide yearly reports to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA 10), who co-sponsored the federal legislation, said:

“People who telework are very productive, it takes cars off the road, so it’s good for the environment and it helps ensure continuity of government. There are almost no downsides to telework, when done appropriately. Telework is an idea whose time has come, and so the Act brings the government into the 21st century. This is not a  philosophical issue, a republican, democratic, liberal or conservative issue. It’s an issue of pragmatism and it just works.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families believes that workplace flexibility policies and practices, like telework, help modernize the workplace so that working families and businesses can be more productive, more competitive, healthier and happier. That is why it launched a national workplace flexibility campaign in 2010, at the request of the White House, to create a broader awareness of the positive business and employee benefits of workplace flexibility. The campaign spotlights “Business Champions” of workplace flexibility, which to date consist of 55 best practice organizations across industries that have signed Corporate Voices’ “Statement of Support for Expanding Workplace Flexibility.”

By signing this Statement, the campaign’s “Business Champions” have committed to communicate the business imperative flexibility, expand flexibility within their own organizations and to build workplaces where flexibility is available to all workers. Companies that join the campaign also have access to research, business cases and educational resources to help them design and maintain successful flexibility programs.

As the nation continues to struggle with the challenges of high unemployment and anemic economic growth, tax credits and legislation to encourage workplace flexibility practices offer businesses support in maintaining a competitive advantage, and help workers balance work and life. Corporate Voices’ national flexibility campaign will also play a role in keeping the momentum for flexibility moving forward. For businesses interested in learning more about this campaign, visit Corporate Voices’ website.

Related Materials:

Over the course of the last quarter century, the dialogue about opportunity and social mobility in America has fundamentally changed. Now, the dialogue centers not on opportunities for upward social mobility, but on consequences and how certain groups are experiencing downward mobility from the middle class. This is the main subject of a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts called, “Downward Mobility from the Middle Class: Waking Up from the American Dream.”

The study finds that a third of Americans who were raised in the middle class have fallen down the income ladder as adults. This downward social mobility is driven by factors such as education, marital status, test scores, drug use, gender and race. Namely, those most likely to experience downward mobility are:

  • Men and women who are divorced or never married;
  • Men and women who do not obtain education beyond high school;
  • Those who receive low scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT); and
  • Those engaged in heavy drug use.

Among white men and women, women were more likely to be downwardly mobile than men, and African-American men raised in middle class families were 17 percentage points more likely to fall from the middle class than white men raised in the middle.

The survey tracked Americans from youth into adulthood—the data focused on people who were middle-class teenagers in 1979 and who were between 39 and 44 years old in 2004 and 2006. It defined people as middle-class if they fell between the 30th and 70th percentiles in income distribution. For a family of four, that’s between $32,900 and $64,000 a year in 2010 dollars. If people fell below the 30th percentile in income, they were considered downwardly mobile.

Noteworthy is that the most important factor accounting for racial differences in the mobility gap were average test scores, highlighting the importance of education and the link between education and economic stability.

As the Pew study notes,

 “A key element of the American Dream is that each generation will exceed the living standards and economic position of the one that came before it. At the very least, parents want to ensure that their own economic position will transfer to their children.”

The findings of the Pew study, however, upend that dream, and shed light on the sober reality that many Americans are experiencing: it is becoming increasingly more difficult to enter and stay in the middle class. This downward mobility, and the “unraveling” of the middle class, is a trend that other studies, such as one published by the national policy group Demos, are confirming.

As more Americans find themselves falling down the income ladder, businesses can play a positive role in helping lower-wage workers maintain economic stability. By educating workers about tax credits and other benefits that they have earned, supporting low-wage workers in managing their work-life balance, and by supporting nursing mothers at work, employers can help lower-income workers retain more of their income and improve their quality of life.

Corporate Voices for Working Families has published practical toolkits to help employers, in turn, help their hourly workers, recognizing that policies and practices to do so positively affect the business bottom-line. In fact, the following toolkits published by Corporate Voices help businesses improve their recruitment and retention rates, employee productivity and engagement levels and help lower health care costs.

  • The 2010 Employer Guide: this guide provides businesses with practical tools, like paycheck stuffers, posters and a guidebook that provides information about the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Medicaid and other benefits.
  • Healthy Babies Make Happy Moms, and Excellent Employees!: This online workplace lactation toolkit gives employers practical information about new federal workplace lactation provisions, and how they can implement lactation programs to support nursing mothers in hourly positions. Including things like employer talking points, a lactation room checklist and breastfeeding resources for new moms, this toolkit supports a mother’s choice to breastfeed while also helps businesses engage a key segment of the labor force.
  • Workplace Flexibility Toolkits for Hourly Employees and Managers: This set of toolkits help managers effectively implement flexible work arrangements (FWAs) for hourly workers. They also help workers assess what kind of flexibility they need and give them useful tips on how to request an FWA.

At a time when the middle class is struggling with the challenges of high unemployment, the rising costs of health care, child care and college tuition, and when many Americans are finding themselves sliding out of the middle class, it is helpful to remember ways that businesses can play a role in improving the lives of working families.

Note: Corporate Voices encourages employers to use its toolkits free of charge. Re-branding opportunities, however, are only available to Corporate Voices partner companies.

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