Many people automatically translate work-life balance and flexibility into "family-friendly" policies. Asking for a different schedule in order to care for a newborn baby or a sick parent has an urgency that can be compelling. Other family responsibilities, like coaching the soccer team or being home in time for dinner, may seem less urgent but may also meet with approval.
But reasons for flexible work schedules should encompass a broad range of individual needs -- from taking a graduate course to training for the marathon, to volunteering. This is what we prize in Jewish life, a multi-dimensional approach that allows us to engage in culture, spirituality, education and community.
Flexible work arrangements should not create competition for who is the most deserving, nor should the impact of these arrangements affect one demographic disproportionately. In fact, many single people in Jewish organizations have expressed concern that flexible scheduling depends on their willingness to cover for their colleagues, particularly on evenings and weekends. Instead, all employees should be seen as equal candidates for flexible schedules. The emphasis should be on restructuring the organizational work, to permit a range of flexible work requests.
In the Jewish world where flexibility meets resistance, even for parents of small children, it will take real imagination for executives and managers to envision the benefits of opening flexible opportunities to people at every stage in their lives and careers. But this kind of creativity is what's required to attract and retain the best employees for 21st century organizations.