But how many of us are taking advantage of telecommuting? In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 22.9 percent of men and 24.5 percent of women worked from home “on an average day.” That’s a fairly sizable chunk of the workforce.
Many telecommuters say they would not be able to stay in their current jobs without family-friendly flexibility. Does that mean if many companies follow Mayer’s lead, almost one-quarter of the workforce will have to find new employment?
Advocates of flexibility hope not. Michigan-based blogger Vickie Elmer quotes Amanda Augustine of TheLadders.com, a job-search site for executives, as saying: “I don’t believe we’ll see many other companies following suit. ... As technology continues to advance, our world is becoming smaller and smaller. Between conferencing software and document-sharing services, the ability to work — and perform well — as a remote team is even easier.”
While I might hope Augustine is right, my gut instinct is that family-friendly benefits will be among the first to be tossed aside in tough economic times. To answer my own third question, I believe workers overall are better off building their own networks, which allow them to juggle work and life outside it, rather than depending on gossamer corporate supports.
That means both parents need to pitch in and provide equal shares of child care and housework. Woe to the person who becomes a single parent without the benefit of a partner to share the work.
Bonnie Erbe is host of PBS’ “To the Contrary” and writes weekly for Scripps Howard News Service.