Thursday, December 2, 2010

Workplace Flexibility and the Military

Dod We blog here occasionally on military issues because the military is a workplace, after all, even if it is an unusual and unusually dangerous one. Despite that, I have to admit that I never expected to see a call for greater workplace flexibility in the military by the Department of Defense. From a press release earlier this week,

Recognizing and finding ways to accommodate the changing needs of servicemembers and their families with regard to the military workplace should be a priority for leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday. 

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke as part of a panel on work and life balance at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Focus on Workplace Flexibility Conference.

The audience was composed of more than 100 government, military and business leaders.

“The ability to be the best we can be and carry out our missions is so central to our focus on our people, … but more than our people, our families,” Mullen said, “and while we’ve made significant strides, we still have a long way to go.”

Allowing flexible options that affect the number of hours worked and the places where employees work is one way leaders can help in providing balance between work and family life, the chairman said, citing flex time and compressed work weeks, part-time work, job sharing and teleworking as examples.

While the press release goes on to focus primarily on women servicemembers, the issue is also framed as important for military families. And current working conditions in the military highlight the importance of flexibility for men, too, Men have families, and there are human limits that long, repeated deployments, or long hours with no down time can sorely test. Recognizing those limits and the need for flexibility is good for the servicemembers, good for their families, good for performance, and good for overall military readiness.


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Thanks for including this post, Marcia. Admiral Mullen spoke along with Valerie Jarrett and Ted Childs at the opening dinner of the conference, which was the culmination of a 15 year strategic initiative of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Flexiblity for military families was just one of the many topics analyzed at the conference. Anyone that is interested in learning more about the other topics discussed at the Focus on Workplace Flexibility can look at

Also, for those interested in military families and work-life, Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth of the Military Family Research Institute released a new paper at the Focus: Military Families: Extreme Work and Extreme ‘Work-Family’, available at In addition, WF2010 has an info page on military families that may be of interest: Among other things, work-life is viewed as a necessary retention tool for the military, and believe it or not, there are many innovative work-life policies in play, and others - like career intermission programs - are being piloted. Given the acute needs of the military as an employer and unique situations and stresses on servicemembers and their families, this is an area that continues to be ripe for research.

Posted by: Marcy Karin | Dec 13, 2010 2:05:51 PM

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