Report Urges U.S. Government To Boost Workplace Flexibility

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009

A report issued yesterday by a public policy group calls on the Obama administration and Congress to make the federal government "a model employer" by increasing its support for flexible work arrangements such as compressed workweeks and telecommuting.

The call to "create a flexible fed" comes from Workplace Flexibility 2010, an initiative of Georgetown University Law Center. The group describes its report as the culmination of five years of discussions with employers, employees and consumer representatives.

The report urges the federal government, the largest employer in the country with about 1.9 million workers, to "lead by example" by including flexible work arrangements as a key component of its personnel policies and by providing training, technical assistance and resources to support such arrangements.

"I can't tell you the number of times we've heard employers say, 'Well, what is the federal government doing?' " Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown law professor who is co-director of Workplace Flexibility 2010, said yesterday at a news conference at the National Press Club to release the report.

The federal government was an "early leader" on flexible work arrangements, or FWAs, in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the report, which adds that the government needs to approach such arrangements with "renewed vigor" by improving existing programs, testing new ideas and serving as a bully pulpit.

"We need to hit the reset button on FWAs in the federal government," Feldblum said.

Members of the group said they have been encouraged by statements in support of flexible work arrangements from President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. "We expect to be moving forward," Feldblum said.

Feldblum said flexible work arrangements have implications for a range of issues and affect the environment, military families, health care and people with disabilities. "One of our goals is to bring this issue out of just being a labor and employer issue," she said.

The group recommends that the Office of Personnel Management and the Government Accountability Office each perform annual assessments of flexible work arrangements across the federal government.

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