Emma Plumb Advises Global Researchers on Communication Strategies

I was so pleased to address the participants of the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) Conference last month in Washington DC. My task: suggest strategies for how these global analysts of workplace trends could better share their inspiring insights with us all.

WFRN is a membership organization comprised of international work and family researchers from across a broad range of fields and disciplines. WFRN brings researchers together to share knowledge and understanding of work family issues—including the aging workforce and retirement—and also encourages the participation of policy makers and practitioners to help ensure WFRN member research impacts global stakeholders.

The 2018 WFRN conference, titled “OpenScience: Assumptions and Translation of Work and Family Research“, consisted of 118 sessions over three days, bringing together 400 participants from more than 30 countries. It was preceded with a workshop day focused on “Translating Scholarship into Action: Positioning Research to Fit the Needs of End-Users.”  I spoke on the topic, “How Will They Know?”—that is, how can we ensure that research from WFRN members gets out into the world outside of academia.

I was in impressive company: WFRN Co-President (and Respectful Exits Advisory Board Chair) Kathleen Christensen led an initial discussion with me and Scott Behson, professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a national expert on work-family policy. We were followed by Jerry A. Jacobs (WFRN’s Founding President) and WFRN Communications Committee Members Mary Hunt and Kendra Knight in a discussion about how WFRN can best connect to outside stakeholders.

Three Key Takeaways

I focused on a few key points in my remarks:

The Disconnect Between Research and Practice Must Be Repaired

I spent two years battling to work remotely at my former employer, where my supervisors could not see the practical and business value of flexibility.  Ultimately, I left because even after presenting report after report and bringing my case all the way up to the top, I couldn’t convince them of the necessity for change. And yet, outside that organization’s walls, there is an incredible and ever-growing body of research supporting the business case for flex—and other practices supporting work and family. How was it possible that my former employer was not convinced?  What accounts for that disconnect, and how can we overcome it?

The Nature of Work Must Be Part of Broader Conversation

We must bring conversations about the nature of work out of HR departments and into everyday conversations among families, around the dinner table, and at work. Work flexibility in all its forms, including phased retirement, must be normalized as standard business practice, not stigmatized as an accommodation for a select group of workers. For that to happen, models of work that make sense for our 21st century workforce have to become part of the zeitgeist.

Small Steps By Many Can Make a Large Impact

Work and family researchers can make a broader impact by participating in conversations outside of academic circles and the pages of academic journals. I encouraged them to use social media platforms and blogging as two key outlets for having greater reach, and thereby for helping to effect change.

Help Spread the Word

At Respectful Exits, we are eager to showcase research around issues of aging and work. If you are a researcher in this space, please get in touch so that we can highlight your work. If you are not a researcher but are passionate about making change in the workplace, check our blog regularlyjoin our campaign, chime into conversations on social media, and help spread the word!

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