Telecommuting and Flexible Work Schedule Policies

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In a business environment where many employees are routinely bringing along work assignments on vacations and routinely make themselves accessible during weekends and other off-hours, jobs become ever-present and the line between on and off work time becomes blurred. By incorporating flexible work schedules and telecommuting into an organization’s structure, an employer may find that employees are more productive, satisfied and experience less conflict between work time and personal obligations.

In order to successfully implement and manage a flexible work schedule and/or a telecommuting policy in the workplace, it is imperative that managers weigh the benefits against any disadvantages of such programs. Some roles are equally successful and practicable whether an individual is based in the office location or from a remote one. Other positions, especially those that are reliant upon face-to-face meetings with clients or colleagues may be best left unchanged and remain as office-based jobs.

A position that is typically telephone- or electronically-based, may be housed in any location. With technology providing instantaneous communications via email and instant messaging, employers will not be disadvantaged by employing individuals who are remotely located.

The key with this arrangement though is to clearly define expectations of the work schedule, number of work hours per week and accountability. Where it is clearly more obvious within a shared workspace whether employees are present and performing their job duties, telecommuting employees should utilize their electronic communications as a means of regular accessibility during their work hours. It is also suggested that managers reach out to remotely located employees on a routine basis to ensure that the employees are engaged in their work duties as well as to assure the employee that the manager is accessible for support to the employee when needed.

This of course does not rule out flexible work schedules, which is the term for allowing employees to work shifts other than the standard 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday time period.

Employees who work a flexible schedule may bring a company or organization a variety of benefits, including: decreased absenteeism and tardiness, greater accessibility to customers, improved morale, and an overall increase in productivity.

When implementing a flexible work schedule, it is important that the employer clearly expresses expectations regarding the number of hours that the employee is to work. Establishing the hours per business day is another suggestion, as this clarifies the workplace rules, as well as benefits employees by informing them of co-workers’ availability.

Other benefits of telecommuting and flexible schedules are cost related; flexible schedules and telecommuting should not pose a financial liability to an organization. In fact, the opposite may ring true; employers who permit flexible work schedules and/or telecommuting often see a decrease in employee turnover. Some of the most common factors impacting employee resignations involve work/life balance. Employers who are able to successfully implement creative work schedules without compromising the operations of their business establish themselves as an employer of choice for individuals who value flexibility of schedules and telecommuting when searching for an ideal employment situation.

Whether an organization has already established a telecommuting and/or flexible work schedule policy or it is embarking on these options, it is imperative that the policy and the expectations are clearly communicated and that the policy is consistently applied to all employees eligible to participate in these alternate work schedules. It is also important to take into consideration any factors that would negate the program, whether for the employer as a whole or for an individual employee.

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