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Last Wednesday I went to a half-day forum on workplace flexibility at the White House.  This idea is a big deal, adjusting the structure of work to accommodate the true needs of workers and their families.  And it would be a boost for our economy.

The forum opened with the First Lady telling us that in addition to having basic minimum policies to protect families like paid sick days and paid family leave, the modern workforce needs to be able to  take care of responsibilities both at work and outside of work.....children for instance.

But what got my attention was President Obama's closing remarks:  he announced that the government is going to transition 400 federal workers to a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) [].  This means work is judged only on results, no clocking in or out, no need to ask for permission to go fishing or to a kid's soccer game.  Workers are simply judged upon their successful completion of the job at hand.

The goal?  Better performance.  The next time it snows in DC,  government isn't going to shut down.  Some meetings will be postponed, but by and large people will be able to work very effectively virtually.  That's good for the environment, good for workers' lives and good for productivity.  This is a pilot project that will be rigorously evaluated and if it goes well, and I predict it will, the U.S. government will over time become a model modern employer benefiting from a philosophy that honors workers' lives and makes it easy for them to meet all their responsibilities.  In five years instead of under 10% of federal workers working virtually, more than 50% will do so.   Flexible, custom-fit work that benefits both the employer and the employee is the kind of radical change that progressives and conservatives can agree upon.

Joan Blades is co-founder of MomsRising and MoveOn, as well as co-author of a forthcoming book titled The Custom-Fit Workplace, to be released Labor Day 2010.

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