Category Archives: Flexible Work Arrangements

Just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to

Source: Rani Molla, Vox, Recode, April 21, 2021

Which jobs are heading back to the office and which can stay home varies widely.

…And as the return to the office picks up, the extent to which American office workers are allowed to continue working from home — which the vast majority of them have done during the pandemic — stands to affect everything from their satisfaction at work to where they are able to live.

This summer, offices are generally opening on an optional basis and will open with more expectations for workers to be present this fall. The most flexibility will go to knowledge workers. These high-skilled workers, whose jobs are mediated by computers, will be much more likely than before the pandemic to be allowed to work from home at least some of the time in what’s called the hybrid work model. …

…Amazon, known for its brutal corporate culture, plans to have most of its white-collar workers back in the office by early fall, saying it wants to return to an “office-centric culture as our baseline.”

Meanwhile, companies that choose not to allow workers flexibility in where they work will be met with resistance. The vast majority of employees — 89 percent — say they want to be allowed to work remotely some or all of the time. So companies with stricter office rules could have trouble attracting and keeping talent, with one in four employees saying they might quit their jobs after the pandemic, mostly because they want to look for work with greater flexibility. …

What Do We Like About WFH?

Source: Vasundhara Sawhney, Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2021
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Evaluating the pros and cons.

…For some, this has led to greater productivity. I certainly feel that I’m getting more done: for work, with my family, and around the house. What’s more, I have greater flexibility to decide what to do when, whether that means answering emails in the evening or spending time with loved ones during the day. There’s a reason that WFH was on the rise even before the pandemic, and now both organizations and individuals seem more comfortable with it than ever before. In September 2020 the Conference Board surveyed more than 330 HR executives at large U.S. companies and reported that one-third expect 40% or more of their employees to work virtually past the spring of 2021, while 36% say they are now willing to hire workers who are 100% remote. But are we ready for that?…

How to Do Hybrid Right

Source: Lynda Gratton, Harvard Business Review, May-June, 2021
(subscription required)

When designing flexible work arrangements, focus on individual human concerns, not just institutional ones.

Since the pandemic, companies have adopted the technologies of virtual work remarkably quickly—and employees are seeing the advantages of more flexibility in where and when they work. As leaders recognize what is possible, they are embracing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset work using a hybrid model.

To make this transition successfully, they’ll need to design hybrid work arrangements with individual human concerns in mind, not just institutional ones. That requires companies to approach the problem from four different perspectives: (1) jobs and tasks; (2) employee preferences; (3) projects and workflows; and (4) inclusion and fairness.

Leaders also need to conceptualize new work arrangements along two axes: place and time. Millions of workers around the world this year have made a sudden shift from being place-constrained (working in the office) to being place-unconstrained (working anywhere). Employees have also experienced a shift along the time axis, from working synchronously with others 9 to 5 to working asynchronously whenever they choose.

If leaders and managers can successfully make the transition to an anywhere, anytime model, the result will be work lives that are more purposeful and productive….

A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility

Source: Michelle A. Travis, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 64, 2021

The dramatic workplace changes in the wake of the global pandemic offer courts both an opportunity and an obligation to reexamine prior antidiscrimination case law on workplace flexibility. Before COVID-19, courts embraced an essentialized view of workplaces built upon a “full-time face-time norm,” which refers to the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace. By applying this presumption to both accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and to disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-pandemic courts systematically undermined antidiscrimination law’s potential for workplace restructuring to expand equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for women with disproportionate caregiving responsibilities. This Article demonstrates how employers’ widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the wake of COVID-19—including telecommuting, modified schedules, temporary leaves, and other flextime options—undermine these prior decisions and demand a new analysis of antidiscrimination law’s potential to advance workplace flexibility.

Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Is This Working? A Year In, Workers Adapting to Tomorrow’s Workplace

Source: Prudential, April 2021

From the press release:
From remote work to company culture and benefits, the pandemic has highlighted the things workers value most in employment. And if they do not have them, they’re preparing to seek them out when the time is right, according to a newly released Prudential survey.

The Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Is This Working? A Year In, Workers Adapting to Tomorrow’s Workplace was fielded in March 2021—one year since many workplaces shut down on-site operations and employees began working remotely. The survey, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Prudential, polled 2,000 adults working full-time and found that 87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working remotely at least one day a week, post-pandemic. Among all workers, 68% say a hybrid workplace model is ideal.

…According to the survey, 42% of current remote workers say if their current company does not continue to offer remote work options long term, they will look for a job at a company that does. This signals that a “war for talent” may be looming if companies don’t address workers’ needs….

Where Will Remote Workers Go?

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Evan Carson, and Matt Colyar, Regional Financial Review, March 2021
(subscription required)

Remote work increased dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article considers the effect of remote work on migration decisions. To this end, we develop an empirical model of domestic migration to better understand how increased acceptance of remote work may impact the U.S.

What to Do If Your Team Doesn’t Want to Go Back to the Office

Source: Liz Kislik, Harvard Business Review, January 18, 2021

From the summary:
As offices continue to open up, there are ongoing discussions in many organizations about when and how employees should return to work. What should you do if your team wants to continue to work from home and senior leadership wants everyone to start showing up in person? You can advocate for your team, as long as you do it tactfully. Focus on what your leaders care about and find ways to show that remote work is beneficial to the company, not just to individuals. Demonstrate that your team is engaged no matter where they are located. For example, you might invite leaders to video meetings that include both in-person and remote workers. And encourage employees to treat company leaders as their most important customers. An emphasis on formal respect and personal interest can mitigate some leaders’ concern that employees aren’t taking their work seriously when they’re at home.

Supervision of Telework: A Key to Organizational Performance

Source: Taehee Kim, Lauren Bock Mullins, Taewon Yoon, American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published February 10, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Many employers, including the federal government, have introduced or extended their telework arrangements because of the associated advantages, which include cost-efficiency, personnel pool enlargement, and employee well-being and motivation. Despite the continued interest from both academics and practitioners, little understanding has emerged about this work arrangement, with scant studies in public administration and organization literature. Among those studies, consensus has not been formed as to the organizational benefits, especially on performance or employee motivation. Previous studies have also overlooked the heterogeneous characteristics of teleworkers, the dynamics between teleworkers and nonteleworkers, and especially, the role of supervisors in managing telework to achieve proposed benefits. This study adds to previous literature by empirically examining the role of supervisors in managing/motivating teleworkers toward improving organizational performance, using data from the 2011 Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) Telework study. Findings suggest that supervision which includes results-based management and trust-building efforts improves performance of organizations that have telework arrangements.

A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility

Source: Michelle A. Travis, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 64, 2021, Date Written: December 17, 2020

From the abstract:
The dramatic workplace changes in the wake of the global pandemic offer courts both an opportunity and an obligation to reexamine prior antidiscrimination case law on workplace flexibility. Before COVID-19, courts embraced an essentialized view of workplaces built upon a “full-time face-time norm,” which refers to the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace. By applying this presumption to both accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and to disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-pandemic courts systematically undermined antidiscrimination law’s potential for workplace restructuring to expand equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for women with disproportionate caregiving responsibilities. This Article demonstrates how employers’ widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the wake of COVID-19—including telecommuting, modified schedules, temporary leaves, and other flextime options—undermine these prior decisions and demand a new analysis of antidiscrimination law’s potential to advance workplace flexibility.

What Jobs are Being Done at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis? Evidence from Firm-Level Surveys

Source: Alexander Bartik, Zoe Cullen, Edward L. Glaeser, Michael Luca, Christopher Stanton, Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Working Paper No. 20-138, June 2020
There are 2 versions of this paper

From the abstract:
The threat of COVID-19 has increased the health risks of going to an office or factory, leading more workers to do their jobs remotely. In this paper, we provide results from firm surveys on both small and large businesses on the prevalence and productivity of remote work, and expectations about the persistence of remote work once the COVID-19 crisis ends. We present four main findings. First, while overall levels of remote work are high, there is considerable variation across industries. The Dingel and Neiman (2020) measure of suitability for remote work does a remarkably good job of predicting the industry level patterns of remote work – highlighting the challenge of moving many industries to remote work. Second, remote work is much more common in industries with better educated and better paid workers. Third, in our larger survey, employers think that there has been less productivity loss from remote working in better educated and higher paid industries. Fourth, more than one-third of firms that had employees switch to remote work believe that that remote work will remain more common at their company even after the COVID-19 crisis ends.