Working at home can provide people with numerous benefits–flexibility in their schedules, fewer commutes, and opportunities to catch up on work. According to the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), about 12 percent of full-time workers with a single job did some work at home on an average day in 2003-07. However, the ability to work at home is greatly affected by the nature of one’s work because some types of work can be more easily performed at home than others
Mobile worker programs touch all aspects of local government, from fleet vehicles and government buildings to ongoing expenditures such as fuel and personal vehicle reimbursements to the mobile workers themselves. Looking at this issue holistically can help shape policies that leverage expenditures across departments more effectively while retaining employees who need flexible and creative approaches to where and how work gets done.
Local governments are under increasing pressure to maximize service and to minimize costs during a time of resource scarcity and flattening or declining budgets. A recent study by Runzheimer International, an ICMA strategic partner, estimates that an employer’s average mobility costs–such as for travel, virtual offices, relocations, fleet vehicles, and aircraft–are equivalent to or higher than what an organization spends on health care. Relocation and aircraft are often minor or nonexistent items for local governments, but travel, fleet vehicles, and virtual offices/ telecommuting are integral to nearly all operations. Understanding the financial impacts and opportunities related to mobile employees can alleviate fiscal duress and makes good management sense.
The recession may provide an extra stimulus for more companies to allow their employees to work from home. Many U.S. companies are realizing significant cost savings from teleworking.
More U.S. employers offered teleworking as a means to attract prospective employees and retain current ones in 2008, according to a World at Work survey. Approximately 17.2 million employees worked remotely at least one day a month in 2008, up from 12.4 million in 2006, which represents a 39% increase.
The U.S. Postal Service has suggested cutting one day of mail delivery a week. Now California is about to shut state offices every other Friday. In Utah, the nation’s biggest experiment in shrinking the government workweek already is under way – with encouraging results.
Surprisingly, the pluses aren’t exactly what Utah envisioned in August when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. started shutting down a third of state offices on Fridays — including driver’s licenses bureaus — and ordered 17,000 of 24,000 executive-branch employees to work their full 40 hours over four days instead of five.
– Utah Tops 2008 Digital States Survey
Source: Steve Towns, Government Technology, October 1, 2008
– Four-day workweek creates new volunteers in Utah
Source: Associated Press, July 10, 2009
From the press release:
This report examines the availability of and barriers to flexible work options, with a particular focus on older workers and phased retirement. There is growing evidence that flexible work options benefit both employers and employees; nonetheless, many employers remain skeptical of them, fearing that labor costs, output, or administrative efficiency will be unfavorably affected. In addition to availability, this report considers the utilization of and demand for workplace flexibility. Although many aspects of flexibility can benefit workers of any age, the desire of some older workers to phase into retirement introduces some special considerations.
A new ITIF report shows that the number of jobs filled by telecommuters could grow nearly four-fold to 19 million and deliver substantial economic, environmental and quality of life benefits for the United States over the next 12 years. Spurred by advances in IT, especially the spread of broadband, telecommuting is already the fastest growing mode of getting from home to work. Thanks to its potential to cut costs, increase productivity, and expand the universe of potential employees, telecommuting is also emerging as a standard business strategy for a larger number of organizations. The report calls for government to pursue policies to accelerate and maximize telecommuting, including spurring the deployment and adoption of broadband, which is an essential facilitator of telecommuting.
The large majority of high-income countries have introduced flexible working statutes aimed at making it easier for employees to change how many hours, and when and where they work within their current job. Patchy progress towards more diversified work arrangements is pushing workers out of the labor market altogether, or into jobs that are below their skill levels and potential. Few economies can afford such a waste of human resources in view of changing demographics, reduced labor force growth, and global competition for knowledge.
Flexible working statutes strengthen the ability of individual employees to find solutions that allow work-life reconciliation, but in a manner that takes account of employers’ business and operational requirements. Of 20 high-income countries examined in comparison with the United States, 17 have statutes to help parents adjust working hours, 6 help with family care giving responsibilities for adults; 12 allow change in hours to facilitate lifelong learning; 11 support gradual retirement; and 5 countries have statutory arrangements open to all employees, irrespective of the reason for seeking different work arrangements. Evaluation of statutes supporting flexible working hours shows that the laws have caused few problems for employers, and that gender equality improves most where laws are interpreted broadly, not narrowly focused on part-time work.
Source: Angie Collis, HR Magazine, November 2008
Many employers are trying to help their employees ease the pain at the pump. Allowing employee to work four 10-hour days each week instead of a typical eight-hour, five-day schedule represents one option.
From the press release:
A new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, charts what governments in high income countries are doing to speed up the pace of workplace change.
The report, Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective, is based on a review of statutory employment rights in 21 high-income countries, including the United States, aimed at increasing workers’ ability to change their working hours and arrangements to balance work and family, and facilitate lifelong learning and gradual retirement. It argues that, in the context of U.S. demographic and economic changes, an explicit right to request flexible work could play an important role in preparing the U.S. economy for the future.