The times, as Bob Dylan famously sang, are a-changin’. And while he was perhaps referring more to the social upheavals of the 1960s than he was to the business revolution of the 2010s, he was right: the times are changing. With tools like high-speed Internet, instant messaging and video conferencing making communication better than ever, the workplace has suddenly become an idea more than a physical location. But even as employers are increasingly aware of these developments and their enormous potential for improving efficiency and worker happiness, they often find themselves struggling to adapt their business models to meet the working world’s changing topography.
Most employers are familiar with the “telecommuting” model, in which employees work from home and submit their work online. This model doesn’t necessarily work well in every field, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously curtailed her company’s telecommuting program this past February. But what employers may not know is that there’s another option: “flexible working.”
In a flexible work model, employees are permitted to work part of the week from their home while still commuting into the office when necessary. It combines the productivity and work-life benefits of telecommuting with the supervision and communication advantages of a traditional office environment. According to a 2012 National Study of Employers, more and more companies are adopting this model: 77 percent of surveyed organizations offered employees time flexibility, while 63 percent offered location flexibility. In fact, a number of internationally-renowned companies encourage their employees to work flexibly such as Aetna, Rackspace, National Instruments and Bank of America, just to name a few.
So if you’re interested in catching up with the times and finding out first-hand what flexible working can do for you, keep these points in mind when implementing the model at your company:
- First, be aware of the benefits. According to a CBS article from 2011, 80 percent of Accenture employees said that their flexible schedule made them want to stay with the company. Furthermore, polled employees ranked flexible working as their third-favorite benefit, suggesting that it’s a cheap and effective way to increase employee satisfaction and retain top employees. The same article found that flexible working decreased stress-related medical costs.
- Identify what works for your company. A flexible working model isn’t right for everyone; in fact, a recent study found that about 45 percent of American workers “hold a job that is compatible with at least part-time telework.” Identify which of your workers can and should work from home before you implement your policy.
- Communicate your company’s policy clearly. A study by telecommunications group O2 found that while three-quarters of polled employers believed they encouraged flexible working, only one-fifth of polled employees agreed. Flexible working is only successful when employees feel they are encouraged to do so. Make sure you’re clear with your employees about their options.
- When in doubt, experiment. There’s truth to the old adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You know the potential advantages of a flexible working model, so start offering a program and keep tabs on employee satisfaction and productivity.
Of course, video conferencing is one of the easiest ways to encourage flexible working across your company without losing any of the in-person interaction from the office environment. Once you start a flex work program in your organization (maximized with HD video conferencing), you’ll be so surprised at how easy and effective it is that you’ll wonder why you didn’t adopt this model sooner.
- Dan Lothringer
Dan is a contributing writer for VideoConferencingSpot.com