It’s Official–U.S. Department of Labor Advocates Work Life “Fit”

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There have been many noteworthy milestones during my decade-long  Work+Life “Fit” ® campaign.  But one of the highlights happened last Thursday when U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis used the term “work+life fit” a number of times in her keynote address at the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Conference in California.  Here’s an example:

“Employers need to know that there are tools out there…It’s a balance, having that competitive edge and work-life fit.”    Yup, (emphasis mine).

This particular forum highlighted the unique flexibility needs of low wage workers to manage their work and life.  Her use of the term is exciting because, as I’ve noted before, “fit” makes a big, meaningful difference.  The language allows us escape the innovation-killing “10 Tyrannies of Work/Life Balance,” which are:

  • Balance is always discussed in the negative-what you “don’t” have.
  • Balance keeps you focused on the problem, not the solution.
  • Balance assumes we’re all the same.
  • Balance infers that there is a “right” answer.
  • Balance leads us to judge others (and ourselves), often unfairly.
  • Balance results in unproductive guilt.
  • Balance suggests that the goal is an impossible 50-50 split between work and the other parts of your life.
  • Balance leaves no room for periods where there’s more work and less life, and vice versa.
  • Balance ignores the fact that work and life are constantly changing, and
  • Balance will never be taken seriously by corporate leaders, who only hear “work less” when you say “balance.

And embrace new possibilities because with “work+life fit” we:

  • Focus what we could have.
  • See solutions.
  • Know we’re all different.
  • Realize there’s no right answer.
  • Stop judging yourself and others, harshly.
  • Lose the guilt.
  • Embrace and plan for the ebb and flow of work and life, and
  • Increase the likelihood that corporate leaders will support the need to flexibly manage work and life better and smarter.

This is particularly important when addressing the flexibility needs of low wage workers.  Their work+life fit realities, and therefore, the solutions that will work for them and their employers are different from salaried or exempt employees.  The report that outlines those specific solutions, “Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Hourly Workers” by Workplace Flexibility 2010 and the Institute for Workplace Innovation, will be released in March, 2011.

So welcome to the “work+life fit” club, Secretary Solis!  It’s nice to have you onboard.  After I finish this post, I’ll put a copy of my book, “Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead/Penguin Group)” in the mail so you can see that indeed the tools do exist and have existed for years.  The book, which was published in 2004, outlines the steps that individuals need follow in order to meet their employers halfway and use flexibility to find a fit that’s a win-win for everyone.

Now, if we could just get the President and First Lady Michelle Obama to join in…Imagine!

Related post of highlights from Pasadena DOL conference: “Gaining a Competitive Edge in the Global Economy–Using Flexibility with Hourly Workers in Healthcare” from Corporate Voices.

For more on work+life “fit” and strategic flexibility, I invite you to also visit my FastCompany, as well as join me on Twitter @caliyost.