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How Should We Work?
Telework Is up, But Not Company Flexibility

A recent study found that 38 percent of employers surveyed are now offering regular telework options for their employees, up from just 23 percent six years ago. But there are still plenty of hurdles for employees who like the idea of cutting out the commute. The New York Times reports:

[W]hile more employers say they are offering flexible work arrangements—like working from home, starting and ending the days a bit earlier or later—they are still typically offered only to certain employees, and are often informally negotiated with a sympathetic manager, workplace experts say.

Many employers are even moving in the opposite direction when it comes to flexible work arrangements:

Beyond reported increases in telecommuting and flexible work schedules, recent studies show that more employers are cutting back programs that would allow workers to reduce hours to better manage the care of, say, an ill parent. Employers have also cut back the length of leave to new fathers and adoptive parents, and reduced pay given to birth mothers on leave. And fewer employers are encouraging supervisors to assess workers’ performance by what they accomplish, instead of resorting to measures like hours worked or face time.

We would hope to see more firms fully and formally embrace telework and flexible schedules—and all the benefits they bring. This is something the federal government has actually gotten right, for a change; all federal agencies are required to put in place formal telework policies as a result of 2010’s Telework Enhancement Act. Perhaps for once the private sector should imitate the public?

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  • Boritz

    Finally, a suitably pessimistic article on the uphill climb faced by would-be teleworkers.
    Add this one to the anecdotal list: A teleworker left for the coast (i.e. beach, fishing) on Thursday after work, checked into his hotel at the coast, and worked from his room all day Friday. At the end of the day he was already at his destination to enjoy the weekend. His manager found out about it, told him to never do such a thing again, and suspended all Monday or Friday telework for the organization. There is a long long way to go….

    • Corlyss

      Don’t worry. The realism won’t last. As academics who can email it in from anywhere and are expected to do so, they have little to no experience with the real work world where employers and unions would rather die than embrace telework.

      Weuns who habituate this site have been trying to warn the doe-eyed just how fragile the telework “movement” was and how unlikely it was ever to reach a critical mass, even among intellectual workers. The factory floor is the enduring model for American business and government, period.

      • Rol_Texas

        The Fordist Blue Model must be destroyed!

    • Breif2

      Your comment (and Bob’s) remind me of a Dilbert cartoon in which the pointy-haired boss is outraged to learn that nearly half (approximately 40%) of employee sick-days were taken on Mondays and Fridays.

  • Bob

    My company allows three “work-from-home” days per quarter, and they are restricted to the three middle days of the week not to precede or follow holidays or “paid time off” days. Recently, my boss let me in on a semi-confidential memo regarding a corporate-wide policy for flexible work arrangements. As implementation is left to regional management, his guess is very little flexibility will be implemented in our space.

    And although I would love to be a beneficiary of more “work-from-home” days, I immediately recognized that more flexible work arrangements, complete with signed agreements and so on, are really management nightmares in some respects. Far easier to have everyone in the office from 8AM to 5PM with an hour for lunch between 12 and 1. Much easier to schedule meetings and keep an eye on people that way.

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