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Creating a Win/Win
We recently experienced our first winter storm of the season. This first storm always generates a great deal of media attention, but often results in only a few inches of snow. Any negative anticipation of the storm is clearly related to the impact it will have on driving conditions. Last week, many commuters sat in traffic for 3 times longer than usual to get into the office.
A recent article on www.Management-issues.com by Nic Paton addressed the possibility that some employers in the UK are considering docking pay from employees who do not come into work due to bad weather. This makes me think of the role alternative working arrangements such as telecommuting can play. Obviously not all jobs lend themselves towards this type of arrangement, but a significant number do. Does telecommuting reduce work absences (especially in bad weather)? There are lots of resources on the web that discuss the benefits and downside to telecommuting. Benefits include:
↑ Employee moral
↓ Transportation costs
↓ Environmental pollution
↑ Retention due to job satisfaction
↑ Ability to accommodate employees with needs such as health issues, young family, eldercare responsibilities
↓ Costs to business related to energy use, office space, employee absences
↑ Productivity in part due to fewer non business interruptions
At HR.com´s Employer´s of Excellence conference in Phoenix this year, Ann Rhoades, Former Executive VP for JetBlue Airways and President, PeopleInk spoke about innovative steps taken at JetBlue to create flexible working situations. The result was a "Win/Win" situation for both the company and the employees. In particular I remember the example of call center employees who worked from their homes. This arrangement resulted in increased retention, improved reliability, reduced employee absences and improved performance.
This topic is explored further in the article "How Some Innovative Employers Are Embracing Flexible Scheduling" by Sue Shellenbarger, (The Wall Street Journal Online). Shellenbarger provides examples of effective flexible scheduling, including an example of how J.C. Penney Co. provided its telemarketing employees with access to computer kiosks and computer workstations in the mall to indicate scheduling preferences and trade shifts as appropriate.
Shellenbarger also brings up the point that "too often, flexible schedules have been expanded on an ad hoc basis," leading to mistrust and perceptions of unfairness. This points to the need to formalize telecommuting expectations or policies, ensuring they are offered in the same manner to individuals whose jobs lend themselves to this type of arrangement.
But there remains resistance to telecommuting in some organizations and a number of concerns have been identified, including: less face to face contact, equipment issues, blurring of work life/home life, increased planning required and concerns re: accountability. An example of a discussion around these issues can be found at: http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/humanresources/
The U.S. Office of Personnel management conducted a survey on Telework in 2003 and 2004, details of which are discussed at http://www.telework.gov/
The most significant question is; How does telecommuting impact organizational performance and further the achievement of business objectives? If you want to share the details of initiatives or arrangements that have worked well within your organization, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.