Alternative Work Options

  • Category: Business
  • Words: 1278
  • Grade: 88
Alternative Work Options
Flexible work options represent an important trend in today's workplace. Businesses are challenging their employees to do more with less and the employees are being pulled in many directions at once. Businesses are operating 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Despite the advancement in technology, people are working longer and longer hours. The high demand by organizations leaves less time for families to share quality time and adds a high amount of stress to individuals who are trying to balance their effectiveness at work, in the home and in the community. Organizations can benefit from implementing alternative work arrangements. Examples of possible circumstances where employees may ask for an alternative work arrangement are: employees returning from maternity, paternity or adoptive leave, employees having to care for elderly relatives, employees who may, due to a disability, now wish to work on a part-time basis, employees returning to school, or employees who may wish to spend more time on leisure interests. Some of the widely used alternative work options that many organizations are engaging in to help employees manage their fast-paced, overloaded lives are: Flex Scheduling, Telecommuting and Job Sharing.
        Flex scheduling is an alternative work arrangement that allows an employee to work a non-traditional schedule to meet personal needs. The schedule is created and agreed on by an employee and their manager for a period of time. There are several variations of flextime arrangements for employees to participate in.
 Set starting and quitting times that are determined for a specific period of time.
 Starting and quitting times that can change on a daily basis.
 Variations in daily hours (for example, an employee may work a six-hour day and then work a ten-hour day), with required core time."
 Variations in the daily hours per day, without required core time."
Flextime arrangements were one of the first alternative work options available to employees. Flextime was first introduced in Germany in 1967. (Olmsted & Smith, 16) "The Hewlett-Packard Company is generally credited with introducing flextime in the United States." (Olmsted & Smith, 17)
        There are many pros and cons of flextime. Flextime can have a positive impact on an organization by:
 reducing the number of paid absences
 improve employee morale and job satisfaction, which leads employees to be more committed to the success of the business
 cuts down on overtime costs
 improves employee retention
 improves recruitment
The leading problems associated with flextime include:
 difficulties with employee communication
 concerns with abuse of flextime
 sparse staffing during some hours
 perception of employees unable to participate in flextime

        Although there are many organizations that have accepted the flextime work program, many have limited the job classifications or departments that are eligible to participate; however, other organizations have managed to arrange some kind of flexibility that is available to all employees. Organizations should focus on their employee's function rather than there occupations when determining eligibility.
        Telecommuting is another type of alternative work option in which an employee works from a home office for a portion of or all of the workweek. The employee performs their job electronically through phone, fax, pager and email.
        According to a survey released by Cahners In-Stat Group, "The number of U.S. telecommuters grew from roughly 19 million in 2000 to 32 million in 2001. ("FAQ's") Companies that have a telecommuting program in place include: Motorola, Ford Motor Company, Kraft General Foods, Levi-Strauss, American Airlines and Texas Instruments. There are only a few examples. The list currently contains hundreds of organization and continues to grow every year. ("FAQ's")
        Some job functions are more appropriate for telecommuting than others. Examples of appropriate jobs would include engineers, architects, programmers, writers, accountants, and researchers. These types of job functions do not require daily face-to-face meetings or the use of special office equipment; therefore, it is easier for individuals in these types of jobs to spend most of their work time working from home or a virtual office.
        Telecommuting like flextime has similar advantages and disadvantages. Telecommuting can be used as a perk to attract and retain talented employees as well as attracting a wider range of workers that may not be able to commute to the office due to disabilities, geographical location, child care or other responsibilities. There are a few disadvantages for telecommuting, which include: telecommuters may have some fear of being left out and overlooked for promotions, and they miss the social aspects of being in the office.
        Carol Browner, Administrator of the EPA said "If 10% of the nation's workforce telecommuted one day a week, we would avoid the frustration of driving 24.4 million miles, we'd breathe air with 12,963 tons less air pollution and we'd conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel each week."
        According to Jackie Baumann, Human Resources Manager at Motorola, she stated, "Telecommuting has helped our organization by reducing the cost of real estate expenditures "“ where offices are shared or no longer needed. It has also increased productivity and employee satisfaction. People work smarter and sometimes even harder. Sales related workers spend less time in the office and more time with the customer.
        Linda Hey, a Motorola employee that has been telecommuting for about a year now stated, "I enjoy the flexibility around when and how I get my work done. It is contributing to a better-balanced personal life, which makes for a happier employee. I am happier about the reduced commute time and I am able to spend more time working and less time commuting."
        One of the more complex alternative work options is job-sharing, in which two workers share one job. The typical job-sharing arrangement consists of two individuals each working approximately on half of a week. There are many times when each person works slightly more than half of a full-time schedule in order to allow them some time together.
        Job-sharing began in the mid 1960s. "In 1997, of 1,777,000 employees in job-shares, 89 percent were women." (Brennan) It has allowed organization the opportunity to make part-time work more available by emphasizing that it is the employees who are part-time, not the job. Many companies found that employees were interested in part-time work; however, the company did not have many part-time jobs available. Job sharing was able to accommodate both the employee and the business.
        There are three main types of job-share:
1. Shared responsibility "“ there is not division of responsibilities. The employees sharing the job are interchangeable.
2. Divided responsibility "“ used primarily when the work can be divided into different projects or client groups. Each employee is responsible for his or her own project or client.
3. Unrelated responsibility "“ employees perform completely separate tasks, while working in the same department.
Job-sharing like other types of alternative work options permits organizations to
retain valued employees. It is useful in positions where turnover has been a problem and it helps improve coverage and continuity. It also increased the number of skills and experience in a single position.
        For job-sharing to be affective, there must be trust between job sharers
and managers, and dependability are the most important qualities of good job share situations.
        The workplace of the future is going to have to be more flexible. Organizations are getting smaller. Employees have more responsibility and they are being required to do more with less.

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