The competition between companies attempting to attract and keep qualified workers has taken an interesting turn. The Minneapolis-based marketing firm Nina Hale recently added “Fur-ternity Leave” to their list of benefits. The company is now allowing employees a week to work from home after they adopt a new cat or dog, so that the animal can adjust to the new home environment. Continue reading
I’m working from home today but not by choice. Our office is quasi-closed today as a result a water main break just a few blocks away from our building in Wilmington, as shown in the video below by 6abc.
Of course, just because I can’t go to the office to work doesn’t mean I get to take the day off–the work still must be done. In the era of mobile computing and the paperless office, this does not present much of a technological challenge. I have ready access to everything I would have access to if I were sitting at my desk. Well, everything but my multiple-monitor computer set-up, I suppose.
But I digress. Which brings me back to my original point.
Working at home is hard. For me, anyway. I am too easily distracted. By the cat, who is as cute as can be and who just loves it when he’s got a lap to sit in, pesky laptop be damned. By the bonsai tree that could use a meticulous pruning. By my car, which is calling to me at this very moment, asking that I give her a nice wash, followed by a leisurely drive with the top down.
By the view from my deck of the Brandywine Creek, which is as beautiful and serene as one might imagine a lazy creek to be on a clear day in June. Or the Great Blue Heron who, and I am not making this up, is perched on a rock, looking for lunch, at this very moment.
Or the rose garden at the end of my street, which is in full bloom and beautiful beyond belief.
I live in a park, people! It’s not my fault that I’m surrounded by all of these incredible distractions! Blame Mother Nature!
But, again, I digress. The point that I am trying to get around to making is that, as a general rule, working from home really doesn’t work for me. At my desk, I’m a disciplined, focused, work-generating fool of a task-master. But at home, I find that I mostly just walk in circles.
Maybe I’ll read some news articles to help me find the working-from-home sweet spot. For example, the Top 10 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Working From Home on Forbes.com. Or How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind (or Your Job) by Ask a Manager’s Alison Green at US News’ On Careers blog. According to Attorney Marketing blog, 2% of lawyers work from home all of the time. And good for them–there are plenty of benefits of telecommuting for those who have the self-control to stay on task.
Or maybe I’ll just get back to work. Wish me luck and have a great Friday, wherever you may be today!
In Delaware, courts take a holiday on December 26. Accordingly, most law firms are closed for the day, including ours. And, not surprisingly, many Delaware lawyers will work anyway. Duty calls.
Is there a way to accomplish those important work tasks without having to sacrifice family time? Enter telecommuting.
Technically speaking, telecommuting is one of many flexible work initiatives. A telecommuter works from home full-time or several days out of the work week. Telework or telecommuting involves work that normally would have been performed from a central office setting but can now be performed at home or remote location. Telework requires the use a computer, an internet connection, telephone, scanner, and, perhaps, a fax machine.
Telecommuting is an employment arrangement that involves moving work to the workers instead of workers to work.
Proponents of telecommuting claim (with good support), that efficiently run programs can offer employers the following benefits:
Cost Savings through the reduction of overhead and fixed costs, such as rent.
Increased Productivity of 10-40%, due in part to the absence of typical office interruptions.
Improved Motivation of employees who see the program as a sign of trust and confidence.
Skills Retention when an employee who would otherwise leave the workplace is able to stay. Includes employees on maternity leave, whose families move out of the area, whose disability prevents them from working in the standard office set-up, or who are nearing retirement but who the employer wants to retain as long as possible.
Organization Flexibility is substantially improved. Teams can be created without consideration for geography or the need for travel.
Flexible Staffing by reducing the number of hours worked to those with the highest demand.
External disruptions, such as natural disasters, inclement weather, traffic problems, and even security issues, have a lesser impact on the organization’s ability to operate at a fully functional level.
Enhanced Customer Service, which can be extended beyond the working day or the working week without the costs of overtime payments or the need for staff to work non-traditional business hours.
Each of these claimed benefits have at least some legitimacy. Although telework may not be appropriate for every type of job or every type of workplace, it certainly seems to be attractive on a day like today when there’s no need to be in the office and when my mother-in-law’s cookies are guaranteed to be gone before lunch!
Alternative schedules, such as “4/10s” (a/k/a four-day workweeks), have been hot topics for the past several months. I know I’ve put more than my two cents worth of commentary out there recently. So why is it that only a tiny percentage of the country’s employees report having access to such flex-time initiatives?
In a recent Gallup Poll, only 12% of workers say that their employers encouraged its employees to work from home one or more workdays per week. And only 16% say that the idea of the 4-day workweek has been supported by management. Yes, these are increases from alternative schedules reported in the past but they can hardly be considered to be representative of the general population.
What hasn’t increased, though, is telecommuting. There has been 0% increase in the number of respondents who say they telecommute at all. Well, no, that’s inaccurate–that number has actually fallen 2%, down to 30% today as compared to 32% in 2006.
What I found most important was the finding that employees who reported that they have telecommuted say that they do so as a way to put in extra hours on nights or on weekends. Telecommuting, it seems, has no correlation to a reduced cost of driving.
The popularity of a compressed workweek has skyrocketed. Workplace flexibility has long been heralded as a way to bolster employee retention. Alternative work schedules have even been lauded as a key to keeping women in the workplace and off the off-ramp.
And now, with towns and cities across the country adopting a four-day work week, the trend towards workplace flexibility isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the four-day work week isn’t the only option. Here are some other options provided by When Work Works, a project of the Families & Work Institute:
Traditional flextime allows employees to chose their starting and quitting times within a range of hours surrounding core-operating hours. Daily flextime involves the same concept but allows employees to select their start and end times on a daily basis.
A compressed work week enables employees to work their full schedules over fewer number of working days. Usually this means 10 hours per day for 4 days, or 80 hours over 9 days. “Summer-hour” schedules add an hour to workdays Monday through Thursday, and end work at 1 pm on Fridays.
Time off during the workday to address personal and family issues includes time off for anticipated issues, such as parent-teacher conferences, or unanticipated issues, such as waiting at home for a repairman or delivery.
Paid time off to care for children permits employees to take off for a few days to care for a sick child without losing paid time.
Flex-Careers include multiple points for on- and off-ramping over the course of one career or working life. This can include formal leaves of absences and sabbaticals, as well as taking time out of the workforce.
Flex-Place is defined as working some or most of the employee’s working time at a location other than the employer’s main place of business. Telecommuting is included in this category.
With all the buzz about alternative work schedules, four-day work weeks, flextime, and the like, the following Q & A on telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) might be relevant as these types of requests increase. Continue reading
The four-day workweek is gaining momentum. The rising price of fuel has caused many workers to pursue alternative working schedules. A shortened week has seen a rapid increase in popularity. Even schools have considered the idea of reducing operation costs by closing their doors on Fridays. Another employee alternative is telecommuting. A new bill, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, proposes to mandate this “alternative.”
If passed, the bill would authorize all federal employees to work from home (i.e., telecommute), for at least 20% of their work hours every two weeks. Federal agencies would be charged with creating programs that include this requirement.
The bill doesn’t seem to take into account that telecommuting doesn’t always work. Just ask the employees of the State of Ohio. As reported by the New York Times back in April (see Ohio State Workers Are Coping: It’s Now 8 to 5), Ohio officials had tried unsuccessfully to implement a 4-day work week. After several months on the 4 10-hour workdays, state officials planned to eliminate the alternative schedule in order to provide the basic level of customer service. On the four-day-week program, departments were closed, phones unanswered, and the needs of citizens not met on Fridays. Ohio officials did not prohibit telecommuting or flexible work hours–but compressed schedules (4-days workweeks) were off-limits.