The FlexMatch Blog

A collection of interesting articles/our insights on telework and the process of setting up a successful remote work program.

How to Make Flexible Work Schedules a Reality

 

Businesswoman working at laptop in office
It’s time to make flexwork a reality!

The concept of flexible work is akin to a bridge attempting to span the gap between the needs of an organization with the needs of the individuals counted on to make that organization operate effectively.  And while many see the implementation of flexible policies and strategies as an obvious strategy to address the needs of both the workplace and the workforce, it’s important to note that many employers and employees still have challenges that need to be addressed to successfully implement these flexible work options.

Let’s face it, the idea of flexible working – be it telecommuting, part-time work, or work that allows for flexible hours, has gained significant momentum over the past few years.  This can be attributed in large part to organizations and movements that have advocated for these policies to become more widespread. Of course, however, the emergence from the Great Recession has also helped. Faced with more jobs on the market, job-seekers have become more selective, and are very cognizant about what they are really looking for in a job and an employer.  In fact, one study recently revealed that when looking for a job, Millennials, more than any other generation, prefer flexible working options. Organizations are now competing for talent, when just a few short years ago the talent competing for them!

So if flexible working can not only increase employee morale by offering the work-life balance individuals across all generations seek, and if it can serve as a tantalizing sign of your workplace culture to prospective employees, then why aren’t we seeing all organizations implementing flexible work policies?

While many organizations have been able to successfully integrate flex work into their workplace strategy, far too many still have not. Some of the challenges faced are organization specific, but many are common hurdles seen across all industries. For example, another study conducted by World At Work and FlexJobs discovered 80% of the companies reviewed by these organizations already have some type of flexible work policy in place. Common problems, however, include employees not being made aware of these policies, and/or policies not being consistently enforced.  If managers show unjust favoritism to a certain employee or employees, for instance, your flexible work strategy will be viewed as half-hearted by employees. An unevenly-applied policy can be worse than no policy at all!

Additionally, other managers insist their staff is incapable of working off-site due to their particular job roles or responsibilities. Often times, more truthfully, it is the manager’s own lack of skills and abilities to lead individuals he or she cannot see that is the real cause of this hesitation! Another hurdle is that many employees, even if they are aware of their flexible options, dare not participate out of fear of being mislabeled a slacker by their supervisor or peers. “There is a perception that time spent in the office correlates with dependability and responsibility,”–a great quote in a recent Bloomberg article on the subject.

The good news for flexible work proponents is that research continues to support the notion that flex workers are just as productive as employees that are based full time on-site.  Additionally, studies have shown that when workers have a say in their schedules, it can result in “lower levels of stress, psychological distress, burnout, and higher job satisfaction.”

Having your employees take our FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessment is a great first step for employers seeking to set up a top notch flex work program. How can FlexMatch™ help? First, an assessment can truly identify which workers are best prepared to work full-time, or part-time, remotely.  Not all job roles are ideal for flex work, and our assessments will help identify those in your organization.  Our assessments, however, go even deeper.  Social needs and personal competencies of participants are measured as well. Once completed, our proprietary reports will provide recommendations as to the number of days each candidate is suited for off-site work.

Next, managers that participate will have their readiness to lead off-site workers rated on our manager scorecards. These leaders will have the ability in their free text responses to describe what they need to be better prepared to lead flexible workers.  FlexMatch™ gives all employees and managers a fair and equitable opportunity to become an employee capable of conducting business from outside the office.

Despite the potential challenges, organizations that are willing to properly analyze and prepare for a flexible work initiative can achieve a win-win scenario for their workplace and workforce.  The end result will be a productive organization providing the flexibility and work life balance necessary to attract and retain the talent needed for prolonged success.

New Remote Work Stats Show Rise In Telecommuting

FM Telework Stats on riseOnce thought of as a workplace trend, telecommuting has become a preferred way of doing business. Beneficial for both employers and employees, telecommuting continues to grow in popularity, with more organizations adopting flexible work policies that allow them to attract top talent (and more importantly, retain them), and have a happier, more productive workforce.

Source: Remote.co

Gallup Poll results documented in this article support the notion that the telecommuting trend is on the rise.  Significantly, 37% of participants say they have worked remotely at one point, which is four times the amount of respondents that indicated this just 20 years ago.  Likely contributors to this jump?  Advanced technology, a generation entering the workforce that prefers mobility and flexibility, and organizations seeking to expand remote and/or flexible work options as a way to attract and retain talent.

Remote work hasn’t just changed in terms of popularity, however.  The Gallup Poll indicates that, in the past, employees identified themselves as remote workers if they logged onto their computers for brief periods of time before or after work.  The phrase ‘remote worker’ today suggests someone that is working from home, or another off-site location, for an entire day, week, or indefinitely.  And while the perception once existed that working from home was synonymous with taking a day off, several respondents to this poll indicated they were just as productive – or even more productive – working outside the office.

With these findings in mind, isn’t it time for your organization to explore the creation, or expansion, of flexible work options and policies?  If anything, start by taking a great first step, which is to find out which of your employees are best suited for remote work, and which of your managers are best prepared for leading remote workers.  By examining employee job roles, social needs, and personal competencies, FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments can help ensure you will set your organization up for success, and get the most out of your new remote work initiative.  Our findings will help you determine the right home/office mix for teleworkers, ensuring the program is being run as efficiently as possible.

Federal Telework Can Combat $86 Million Lost Per Day Due to Office Closures

FM GSA Tops Telework totals

The closure of federal government offices in Washington, D.C., and across the northeast caused by the huge storm there cost taxpayers upward of $86 million per day in lost productivity, according to one research firm. 

If only the rest of the government was more like the General Services Administration, that cost might have been slashed.

Source: FedScoop

Is your workplace prepared to handle adverse weather conditions that threaten productivity, deadlines, and your group’s overall reputation?  Armed with a well-implemented telework program and a staff of individuals suited to work off-site if needed, your organization does not need to miss a beat should weather, or any other circumstances prevent an employee or employees from making it into work.  Look no further than the GSA in this article for a model of how your organization could respond when properly prepared.

It’s no surprise a shift toward telecommuting is a trending workplace topic – and not just in situations where weather makes getting to and from the office difficult.  Organizations across all industries have recognized that work-from-home programs save both time and money.  When employees work from home, their often long and tedious commutes can be eliminated, allowing them to dedicate more focus to work responsibilities.  Office space can then be reduced, saving an organization money on real estate overhead.

But don’t simply select your teleworkers based on tenure, gut feelings, random drawings, or office hierarchy. Discovering the right personnel involves a deeper dive.  At FlexMatch™, our suitability assessments will rank employees based on their job role, social needs, and personal competencies.  Our analysis will include a score for each respondent, a recommendation of an appropriate home/office mix, and a scorecard for managers that indicates how prepared your leaders are for overseeing off-site employees.

Use the GSA as a model for your organization, and FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments to help implement this ultra-productive, cost-saving workplace initiative.

 

In 2016 Save Your Bottom Line Hiring Teleworkers

FM Teleworker bottom lineWe are living in an era of downsizing. We constantly look to find ways to downsize, save money and save time. From the number of employees on staff to the size of our seat on the airplane, services and amenities are shrinking while at the same time technology is expanding our world at a breakneck speed…

Source: Huffpost Business

How mainstream has the concept of telework become?  The answer is ‘very’, and it’s safe to say its implementation across the country and across the world is on the rise.

As evidence, we’ve already mentioned in a recent article that the federal government is encouraging this practice within their own departments.  Next, as this article reminds us, telework has the ability to eliminate the need for daily commutes, saving workers time (and not to mention the environment) simultaneously.  Third, organizations have begun to realize just how much money (and real estate) they can save by allowing employees to work from home, with estimates at $10,000 per employee per year.

But the momentum for increased telework does not stop there.  This article wisely points out that the same advancements in technology that have enhanced our personal lives, are the same types of advancements that can allow individuals to be comfortable in a remote work setting.  Programs like Skype, or Google Hangouts can simulate meeting with individuals in-person despite the parties being located in different geographic locations.  And if employees have the skills to bank online or shop on Amazon, then it is likely they can learn to use web-based portals developed for telecommuters that feature tools to help them complete day-to-day tasks or even projects virtually.

But while one’s aptitude for mastering new technology is an important factor to take into account, it is prudent for organizations to realize this skill is just one piece of a formula used to determine if  an individual is appropriate for a telecommuting initiative.  Factors such as job role, social needs, and personal competencies also need to be taken into consideration.  For the most thorough analysis of which employees or job candidates are the best fit to conduct their work off-site, utilize FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments.  FlexMatch™ gives your organization the opportunity to conduct a fair, deep-dive analysis into the all-around skills of a remote work candidate to help ensure the right people will be part of your new initiative.  The assessments also help determine the right mixture of home/office time per candidate.

Five Years of the Telework Enhancement Act

President Barack Obama signs the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 in the Oval Office, Dec. 9, 2010. Watching are, from left: OPM Director John Berry; GSA Administrator Martha Johnson; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Rep. John Sarbanes; Representative Stephen Lynch, D-Ma.; Deputy Secretary Bill Lynn; D-Md.; Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.;  and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis;  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.Ê“It used to be that if you weren’t in the office, you couldn’t get much done. But now, people can be connected and productive almost anywhere. Five years ago this week, Congress enacted the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 to help the federal government use telework for flexible workforce management…”

Source: WatchBlog

It’s now been five years since the Telework Enhancement Act was signed into law by President Obama. This piece of legislation requires government agencies to allow their employees to work remotely, and established policies stating that teleworking programs needed to be organized, efficient, and transparent.  The law even necessitates agencies to include teleworking strategies as part of their business continuity plans for the future.

According to this blog, however, federal teleworking programs still face challenges and resistance even five years later.

Employees are still concerned about fairness, specifically regarding who gets to be part of their agency’s telework program, and who is left standing on the sidelines, tethered to their desk.  Leaders still struggle to manage by results, stuck in a line-of-sight management mindset.  Some teleworkers are required to document everything they do throughout the day–as if the completion or progress made on their daily tasks and projects is not enough!

Whether you are part of a government agency, a corporation, or any other organization considering allowing your staff to work-from-home, know that tools do exist that give your initiative the best opportunity to succeed.

By signing your organization up for FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments, you’ll help ensure your remote workers are selected based on their job role, social needs, and personal competencies; never favoritism.  Additionally with FlexMatch™, you can assess how your managers score in terms of being open, prepared, and comfortable enough to lead a remote team.  Click here to learn more.  Then, when you are ready, enroll your organization for our next assessment period.

6 Obstacles to Working From Home Successfully

FM Lego telework“Working from home can be a blessing or a curse. The freedom that comes with working out of the house is luxurious — you set your own hours, take breaks when necessary, run errands as needed, procrastinate work projects in more constructive ways such as playing with the dog (that’s a joke). The possibilities are endless…”

Source: Entrepreneur

With telework becoming an increasingly mainstream practice, efforts to ensure the productivity of the practice must be made by the remote workers themselves, and the organization that employs them.

This article highlights some key hurdles many remote workers will face.  Fortunately, many of these challenges and bad habits are correctable.  To avoid your home turning into a work cave, for instance, it’s best for teleworkers to have a dedicated, professional space reserved in their home to conduct their work.  Making your dining room your desk, for instance, may tempt you to log back in and check email while you are eating dinner!  Having a space you can ‘leave’ at the end of your shift can help an employee make a transition back to their personal life.

One of the benefits of being a teleworker is the ability to better juggle work and personal responsibilities.  Many remote workers, however, voice frustration with needing to always ‘be on’.  Employees may feel like if they fail to respond to an email within moments, their supervisor may think that they’re watching TV instead of working; whereas a reasonable delay in response time in the office may be the norm.  This hyper-vigilance to be available at the drop of a hat or during off hours is real for many teleworkers and is something companies need to address organizationally.  An employee who may work exclusively in the corporate office may not even look at her smart phone to check email after 8 pm, when the same person may feel compelled to respond to an email at 10:30 pm when working from home regularly.

Having somewhat consistent start and stop times, scheduling a lunch break, and discussing reasonable response times and boundaries with your leader are things every organization should ensure their remote employees are doing.

FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments  is a way to screen candidates for a remote work program to ensure these hurdles, and many others, will not be too much to overcome for them.  By examining a candidate’s job role, personal competencies, and social needs, we can accurately identify the most likely candidates to be productive in your work-from-home initiative.

FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments can easily and accurately demonstrate to your organization which employees will be most effective working remotely, and which managers possess the requisite skills to manage off-site employees. By examining the suitability of job role, personal competencies, and social needs, our team is able to gauge which employees and managers are best suited for telework and what their ideal home/office mixture is. Enroll your organization now for our next assessment period.

6 Ways Work Will Change in 2016

FM Online Talent Acquisition“Most major workplace trends don’t evolve overnight, and if you know where to look, you can already witness their approach.

Many of the trends that will come into focus in 2016 already exist today, but their significance is expected to grow and become mainstream in the year to come.”

Source: Fast Company

It’s no surprise that the trend atop the list of Fast Company’s “6 Ways Work Will Change in 2016″ is “Remote-First Business.”

The concept of organizations allowing employees to work off-site is past the point of a workplace trend simply ‘gaining steam.’  Today’s technological capabilities make telework an attainable strategy, and organizations big and small are beginning to understand the advantages both on the productivity, and cost savings fronts.  As John Bersin, Founder of research firm Bersin, is quoted as saying in this article, “organizations really aren’t companies; they’re like networks of teams.  Even big companies are being reorganized like this.”

While FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments certainly caters to organizations considering implementing or expanding remote work options for existing employees, it should be noted that our service also allows organizations to vet new talent that can work partially, or completely, off-site as well.  Contact us to learn more.

FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments can easily and accurately demonstrate to your organization which employees will be most effective working remotely, and which managers possess the requisite skills to manage off-site employees. By examining the suitability of job role, personal competencies, and social needs, our team is able to gauge which employees and managers are best suited for telework and what their ideal home/office mixture is. Enroll your organization now for our next assessment period.

How Your Home Changes When You Telework

FM home office away“With winter on its way in, taking advantage of your company’s telework opportunity might sound appealing — but snow days aren’t the only thing keeping people at home during the workweek. Telecommuting opportunities are available at increasing rates to employees in the U.S., and they’re taking advantage of the option more than ever as well.”

“As of September 2015, more than 3.7 million employees work from home at least half the time…”

With work-from-home opportunities on the rise, many job seekers and individuals already in the workforce are excited to find a new position – or take advantage of a new policy – that allows daily tasks to be completed from one’s residence.

Responsibility, however, falls on organizations to ensure these new opportunities are being taken advantage of by those in the best positions to succeed.   Having a quality space to conduct off-site work is just one aspect of selecting appropriate teleworkers.  Other aspects include one’s job role, personal competencies, and social needs.

To give these individuals, the teleworking program, and the organization as a whole the best opportunity for success, telework candidates and their leaders should be carefully assessed in order for the right pieces to be plugged into place.  FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments covers all of the above mentioned criteria, and the scores of all participants will be reported, along with our recommendation as to the maximum number of days a week a respondent should work off-site.

As this article mentions, remote work is becoming a normalized practice, and employees are planning and preparing their home office space in anticipation of new, continued, or increased opportunities to telework.  Get a leg up on your competition by knowing in advance which employees in your organization will make the smoothest transition.

FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments can easily and accurately demonstrate to your organization which employees will be most effective working remotely, and which managers possess the requisite skills to manage off-site employees. By examining the suitability of job role, personal competencies, and social needs, our team is able to gauge which employees and managers are best suited for telework and what their ideal home/office mixture is. Enroll your organization now for our next assessment period.

Telecommuting works best in moderation, science shows

home-office1“Organizations are increasingly offering employees a variety of work-from-home options despite sometimes conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of telecommuting. A comprehensive new report reveals that telecommuting can boost employee job satisfaction and productivity, but only when it’s carefully implemented with specific individual and organizational factors in mind.”

Source:  phys.org

Organizations often fall into the trap of hastily rolling out an ambiguous remote work policy, which allows for certain employees to work outside the office at certain times.  The policies are then under-communicated, are not taken seriously, or become all but forgotten about.  Research, like the findings presented in this article, continues to suggest that a strategic approach to selecting teleworkers and determining when and how they telecommute is necessary for success.

For instance, in addition to our key findings that an employee’s job role, personal competencies, and social needs are crucial to the teleworker equation, this article sheds light on other important factors.  These include the feeling of control employees have over their eligibility to telework, as well as their abilities to select their schedule.  The findings also suggest their relationship with their supervisors and coworkers is critical, which validates and echoes our team’s firm belief in analyzing the social needs trait in potential candidates.

When offered the opportunity to take a FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessment, employees will have the ability to express their feelings on several questions designed to determine if that individual truly is a good fit for off-site work.  Conveniently, FlexMatch’s methods of analyzing results and scoring participants will include recommendations on the maximum number of days each week an employee should work from home, based on their responses.

FlexMatch™ Suitability Assessments can easily and accurately demonstrate to your organization which employees will be most effective working remotely, and which managers possess the requisite skills to manage off-site employees. By examining the suitability of job role, personal competencies, and social needs, our team is able to gauge which employees and managers are best suited for telework and what their ideal home/office mixture is. Enroll your organization now for our next assessment period.

 

Telework Can Increase Employee Satisfaction, But It’s Also Lonely

lonely telework“For over a year, I worked almost exclusively from my tiny apartment in Harlem. Aside from trips into an office every six weeks or so, my work schedule and surroundings were mostly left up to me. On some days, I would fly through assignments and personal tasks with unusual efficiency. But on other days, telecommuting meant working from the time I woke up until the wee hours of the morning with no breaks, or spending entire days seemingly accomplishing nothing other than making headway on my Netflix queue.”

Source: govexec.com

Here at FlexMatch™, we assist organizations seeking to add work-from-home policies to their overall workplace strategy.  Despite the best intentions of these organizations, many of those involved in the implementation process tend to remain skeptical.

This article highlights both the benefits, and common concerns, many institutions find themselves weighing as they consider moving forward with telework.  How can we ensure our employees are in fact working?  What sorts of distractions will this particular individual face?  Fortunately, some organizations have had the foresight to ask these questions up front.  Many have not!

Organizations that are serious about rolling out a successful policy will want to do as much fact finding as possible.  Knowing which employees possess the appropriate job roles, social skills, and overall competencies is an incredibly important tool for which to plan a shift to off-site work.  Throw in a service that surveys employees, scores employee results, recommends their appropriate number of days working outside the office, and grades leaders on their ability to adjust to a shift in management style, and you have a prepared project team confident in the decisions they are making moving forward.

Flexmatch™ Suitability Assessments can easily and accurately demonstrate to your organization which employees will be most effective working remotely,  and which managers possess the requisite skills to manage off-site employees. By examining the suitability of job role, personal competencies, and social needs, our team is able to gauge which employees and managers are best suited for telework and what their ideal home/office mixture is. Enroll your organization now for our next assessment period.