Previously , I discussed the business imperative for companies to promote work-life balance and incorporate flexibility into their policies and practices. Yet these advantages extend beyond the private sector. Just as corporations are recognizing the need for an increasing arsenal of flexible work arrangements, we see similar trends in nonprofits and academic institutions.
The benefits are the same regardless of sector: flexibility brings more balance to employees and their families; it allows organizations to conduct business without the time and expense of brick and mortar office spaces; and remote arrangements have environmental and financial benefits that save on energy, real estate, and transportation costs.
There are also clear advantages in productivity and retention. The Minnesota Council of Non-Profits recently confirmed this point of view finding that telecommuting yields a 22 percent increase in employee productivity, a 20 percent decrease in employee turnover, and decreases absenteeism by 60 percent. 1
Beyond the payoffs that come with a flexible workplace – the market itself is demanding these changes. In 2010, women became the majority of the U.S. workforce for the first time in history.2 The often competing responsibilities of family and work, particularly for parents of young children, are making the need for flexibility greater than ever before.
In addition, an entire generation has been raised on electronic communication, where connection and idea transmission depend more on technology than face time. This younger cohort is pushing the boundaries of the workplace and seeking greater balance along the way. Laurie Young, author of The End of Work as We Know It, said “Generation Xers are three times as likely to quit a job due to lack of flexibility as their Boomer counterparts.”3Nonprofits may need to heed this call more than other industries; studies note that 50 to 75 percent of executive directors are planning to leave their jobs in the next five years.4 Flexible policies may be key to attracting and retaining new talent.
Many nonprofits and academic institutions have acknowledged these shifts and have incorporated work-life balance policies and practices. However, the academic and the nonprofit sectors have their own unique challenges in implementing and integrating such policies into their organizations.
A 2009 survey  of more than eight thousand doctoral students across the University of California system, conducted by the American Association of University Professors, found that 84 percent of women and 74 percent of men are concerned about the family friendliness of their employers, with particular alarm raised over research-intensive, tenure-track fields. Women doctoral students in particular cited the lack of female faculty role models who successfully combine work and family. Fifty-four percent of women and 36 percent of men felt that PhD programs and caregiving are incompatible, that if they have children they will not progress adequately toward their degrees (51 percent of women and 34 percent of men), and that pregnancy leave will not be available.5
Although technology has allowed faculty to reduce the amount of face time on campus, through teleconferencing and on-line meetings with students, colleagues, and administrators, it has not lessened other demands, such as in research and publishing. Pressed for time, it is increasingly difficult to find, for example, scholars willing to volunteer to conduct peer reviews.
“There has been a ‘clericalization’ of the workforce where everyone is expected to produce their own memos, do their own scheduling, and multi-task while instantly handling unprecendented amounts of email, social media, and information. Susan Faludi would call this the ‘feminization’ of work since everyone is expected to juggle so many tasks simultaneously and continuously,” said Carol Stabile, Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society  at the University of Oregon.
As technology continues to transform our culture, the workplace will need to evolve along with it. Flexibility in terms of time and space are among the myriad changes that technological advancements are bringing to the 21st century workplace, expanding the possibilities to bring an increasingly diverse set of people and ideas to our businesses, our nonprofits, and our institutions of learning. At the same time, the 24/7 work cycle poses a new set of challenges that we need to address so that not only industries and organizations can thrive, but people too.
For more blog posts from NCRW, visit http://www.ncrw.org/public-forum/blog 
1 Minnesota Council of Non-Profits. 2011. "Benefits of Telework ”. Accessed November 14th, 2011.
2 The New York Times, 2010. "Women Now a Majority in American Workplaces ". Accessed November 16, 2011.
3 Bridgestar, 2005. “Flexible Work Arrangements .” Accessed November 16, 2011.
4 MassNonprofit.org, 2011. “Cross-Generational Solutions to Crisis in Nonprofit Leadership .” Accessed November 16, 2011.
5 “Why Graduate Students Reject the Fast Track ,” American Association of University Professors, accessed November 9th, 2011.