The right time for flex time

Working primarily from home might sound like hopping on the mommy track and off the career track, but it’s actually shrewd for an employer and a professional. It cuts down on commute time, eliminates distractions and can be a huge boost to productivity. As more and more companies look for ways to save, we see our own clients reducing hours and asking employees to work from home one or more days per week. 

It’s a tactic that advertising, marketing and publishing have long used to get the very best creative writers, directors and designers on their teams. (Because the best often eschew regular hours and the confines of cubicles and offices, or they don’t even live in the same city.) 

The shift from the corporate ladder to lattice might be a preferred shift that continues even after the economy rebounds. Although telecommuting has been around since the advent of the Internet in the late 1990s, the recent proliferation reflects a more mature and sophisticated Internet, dependable providers and a plethora of self-motivated baby boomers, who have amassed a great deal of intellectual capital. 

Working from home can be very isolating, so it takes a strong organization to impart culture and teamwork throughout the ranks. This means taking a studied approach to embracing the technology that makes flexibility a productive working arrangement for internal and external workers. 

The concept isn’t new, but I’ve been amazed lately at the people I’ve run into who are working primarily from home — not just creative types — but strategists, coaches, technicians and professionals. In some cases, these individuals are independent contractors — in others, they are full-time employees. But I’ve been even more surprised at their job titles — vice president of marketing, vice president of management reporting, senior loyalty consultant … 

It seems as if the idea of slowly moving up until you snag a corner office might be a thing of the past. Some experts say it will be gone completely in 10 years.

Instead, success will not be defined by rank or seniority — but by what work you get to do — whether that’s providing technical expertise or managing the launch of a new product. 

I read with enthusiasm Time Magazine’s “The Future of Work” last May. Like many Americans, I searched for a grain of hope in what was looking like a very bleak unemployment climate. And I found it in interesting metrics like “40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be independent contractors by 2019” and “80 percent of employees would want work flexibility if it didn’t harm their careers.” 

Perhaps the business side of flexibility is the next step for American companies — engaging the very best workers at a fraction of the cost — good for business and good for the unemployed, underemployed and the overworked American workers still holding onto their jobs. (Being chained to a desk does not make them indispensable; it simply makes them less productive and tired.)

— Terri Smith

WordPress Lightbox