Providing your employees with flexible work arrangements can help an organization retain talented workers, create a diverse workforce, and address the lifestyle of Millennials.
By Larry Bonfante
The issue of flexible scheduling has received a lot of attention lately. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made quite a media splash when she decided to do away with remote working scenarios last year. I certainly understand the need and value of having teams of people "cohabitate" in an effort to build esprit de corps and to work on developing the type of corporate culture your team aspires to. However, I feel that organizations that embrace flexible work arrangements have a number of tangible advantages.
I’m working with a number of coaching clients who have offices in cities where they don’t have access to the deepest talent pool. One advantage of flexible work arrangements is that it opens up access to a new group of potential contributors who may not happen to reside in your company’s main geographic location.
Another advantage is providing a competitive value proposition for people with horrific commutes. For those of us who live in the New York tri-state area, we frequently measure our commutes not in miles but in hours! When I worked at Pfizer, I had a team in Brussels that I frequently visited. One time over lunch, as a conversation starter, I asked the local country manager about his daily commute. He told me that he rode his bike 10 minutes to work. When he asked me about my commute, I told him that I took mass transit from central New Jersey to midtown Manhattan, a journey of two hours and fifteen minutes! When he heard my reply he thought he had asked me the wrong question. I assured him he hadn’t! I’ve been able to retain a number of key employees by allowing them the flexibility to work from home a couple of days a week, which eliminated four hours a day of brutal commuting for some of them. Talk about a quality of life issue!
A Flexible Work Environment Supports a Diverse Workforce
I am also a big believer in collaboration. In order to get the best collaborative results, I think you should leverage a diverse group of people from different geographies with different backgrounds and different cultural makeups. Providing a flexible work environment allows for this type of collaboration; it also saves a huge amount of money on travel expenses.
Another variable is how different generations view time. Those of us who are baby boomers grew up with the notion that our work lives are separate from our personal lives. From 8 AM to 6 PM you were at work and from 7 PM onwards you were at home. However, those of us who work with Millennials know that they don’t "compartmentalize" their time the way baby boomers do. They simply believe in living their lives. Millennials may be working at any time from any location and may also sprinkle in personal commitments throughout the course of the day. What a huge loss it would be if we didn’t embrace this talented and innovative group of digital natives in the workforce simply because of our archaic and predefined notions of what it means to be at work.
The bottom line is that, as I’ve shared with my people many times, my focus is on achieving great results and doing it in a culture that drives a high quality of employee satisfaction. My feeling is if you can get your job done from a beach in Tahiti, well, God bless you!
About the Author
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.
To read his previous CIO Insight article, "The Three Keys to IT and Business Integration," click here.