While flexible work hours have become more common, flexible work arrangements can be a boon to small businesses. Being able, and willing to allow moms time to run to school when their kids get in trouble, or anyone time to meet the plumber in an emergency, can allow you to attract and keep employees who might otherwise want to go to a bigger company with better benefits.
I’ve used this to my advantage over the years. And in this economy it’s a wonderful way to get higher level employees, happier employees, which mean greater productivity, without additional cost.
However it’s important to think these types of programs through. For example, let’s look at telecommuting. Allowing employees to work at home has many advantages:
- Fewer hours away from home for the same number of hours worked
- Lower facilities costs
- Environmental benefits – fewer cars on the road
- Employees save money on gas and work clothes
- Fewer excuses for lateness or calling in sick
- Less chance of spreading germs when employees are sick
- and the list goes on
Some things that need to be considered are obvious (or should be). Managing telecommuters takes different skills from managing employees on site. Accountability and productivity need to be closely watched. But there are less obvious issues.
If Emmy Employee can work from home, why can’t she work from her beach house? And if she can work from her beach house, why can’t she work from a hotel at the beach. And if she can work from a hotel at the beach, why would she ever use up her vacation days?
Or what if Edmund Employee works from home and trips over his massively disorganized computer cables. Is that a workers compensation issue, or a homeowners insurance issue, or?
These issues can all be addressed if they are thought through in advance and if your personnel manual is updated to provide for telecommuting specific concerns. But it’s all well worth the effort. Flexible work arrangements can be the “secret sauce” that a small business needs to compete more effectively.