Employers have become increasingly aware of the need for flexible working conditions for their employees.
(article continues below)
This awareness has led to the development of several creative alternatives giving employees the freedom to balance their commitments at work with their commitments at home.
Two of the most common alternatives are telecommuting and flexible working hours (or flex time). Telecommuting is an arrangement in which the employee is permitted to do all or part of his job from a home office. Flex time programs, on the other hand, give employees a degree of flexibility in determining their working hours.
Telecommuting and flex time programs can provide a tremendous benefit for your small business in both employee morale and productivity. But in order to be successful, both alternatives require the creation of a written policy that outlines the expectations and limitations of the program.
First and foremost, your telecommuting policy needs to clarify how often employees will be allowed to work from home. Most employees expect to be given the freedom to work from home on occasion, especially in the event that they or one of their kids is sick. Incidentally, that's also a great benefit for you because the last thing you need is a sick employee infecting half your workforce with the flu.
Some employees, however, will want to work from home on a more regular basis. Certain types of jobs are more conducive to a regular telecommuting schedule than others. For example, telecommuting is obviously not an option for your company's receptionist although it might be for the guy who maintains the website. Even so, all telecommuters should be expected to report to the office in person at least once a week.
Part of the attraction of telecommuting is that it enables employees a high degree of flexibility in determining when they will work. For that reason, try not to obsess about what your employee is doing on an hour by hour basis. Instead, evaluate telecommuters' performance based on their ability to complete the tasks you have given them within a specified time period.
Like telecommuting policies, flex time policies vary according to your business type and the demands of the workplace. If flex time is a viable alternative for your employees, there are a number of different options you can choose to include in your policy.
One option is to allow your employees to choose the time they will start and end their workday based on a timeframe that you specify. For example, employees can be given the liberty to begin their eight hour shift any time between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Depending on what time they start, their workday would end between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. This alternative is especially attractive for employees who have childcare responsibilities before and after school.
Another option is to allow employees to work a 4-day, 10-hour schedule rather than a 5-day, 8-hour one. If you decide to allow this option, you need to consider how its impact on the workplace if a significant portion of the staff is not around one day a week (usually Friday). In some cases, it may be appropriate to spread the off-days throughout the work week.