Flex Work and Telework: It’s About Time to Kick the Excuses to the Curb

Why does your entire workforce need to be seen in the flesh?

Can you provide three reasons why you need to have your staff physically present themselves to work that doesn’t begin with “Our internal customers” and end with “need face time?”

Among the other excuses for why flexible work arrangements can’t happen are:

  1. How will I know they are truly working
  2. If I allow one person to a flex work arrangement, everyone will want it
  3. I need my people here doing the work.

The supply and demand of flex work

According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a position that is compatible with at least a partial telework arrangement. GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com goes on to report that 80-90 percent of American workers would like to telework or flex their schedules at least part-time to allow for concentrated work at home and in-person team collaboration via the office.

Technology has made it so that we can be productive whether we are sitting in an office or at the doctor’s office.

You need to check emails? Our mobile devices make that possible on-the-go. Is there an online meeting coming up that you need your staff to attend? Most online meeting platforms have an or mobile optimized site for people who need to a join meetings from where ever they are.

Many years ago, we could say “no” to telework, because the technology wasn’t there. Now that we have virtual workspaces, cloud storage, and video technology that allows us to collaborate and remain connected with our teams.

So really — what is the excuse?

The telework and flexwork challenge

If we are honest with one another, the nature of work is changing. It’s changing at an uncomfortable pace that appears to threaten our traditional way of doing things.

Change is both uncomfortable and inevitable. However, the case of telework and flexible work arrangements seems clear. The workforce wants it, the technology is ripe for facilitating it- yet organizations are still relying on antiquated ways of thinking to approach this topic.

As Human Resources professionals, it is key that keep a pulse on what is needed by our workforce versus constantly campaigning for what the organization needs.

No one wins when there isn’t some compromise. The issue around telework isn’t with the employees wanting it, but with our reluctance to evolve with the times.

Let’s be clear: Not everyone in your workforce will want to work from home.

It takes discipline to work at home

Working from home requires discipline. There are employees that will naturally prefer to come to the office for a more structured environment. This puts to rest the idea that if you offer one employee a flex arrangement that suddenly a stampede of employees will be outside your door.

For those that either need or want to telework or flex work, it is as simple as sitting down with them and figuring out a schedule that not only helps the employee, but compliments the needs of the business.

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After teleworking two days a week for two years at my previous company, I can tell you that my internal customers were well taken care of, interviews conducted and projects were on target. Granted, my then employer had me filling out work plans to show “proof” of my work from home; but they could never deny the fact that I was productive.

This brings me to the issue of trust.

Much of the challenge with managing a virtual or mobile workforce has to do with a lack of trust. There is a lack of trust with the collaboration tools and technology that make these arrangements possible and in some cases not semblance of faith in your employees.

Think of it like this: If you are asking for a telework arrangement and you choose to abuse that privilege by not working as you would in the office, who loses?

In some regard, the employer loses due to lack of productivity. However, most people who ask for flexibility need it more than it being a “want.” That said, the egg is on their face if they fail to work to standards and do what is expected of them.

What’s my call-to-action?

Cut the excuses for why telework and flexwork arrangements can’t happen. Instead, look at all of the instances where it is possible.

Use a mix technology to keep your team engaged and connected. The need for face-to-face interaction isn’t going away yet. In the meantime, look at the endless possibilities on-demand video technology provides. Video not only makes it possible for teams in different parts of the world to meet and collaborate, it allows candidates to record an interview without missing a day of work and tipping off their current employer.

I’m certain that some dedication to helping people work smarter and more flexibly can only help your talent management efforts. It’s all about adapting to what makes sense for your workforce while getting things done.

What will you do to kick the telework and flexwork excuses to the curb?

This was originally published on Janine Truitt’s The Aristocracy of HR blog.

Janine N. Truitt is a human resources professional as well as an HR blogger/founder of “The Aristocracy of HR” blog. Follow her blog "The Aristocracy of HR" at http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ . Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her tweets on Twitter @CzarinaofHR. The opinions shared in her articles are her own and are in no way a reflection of the views of her employer.

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