If you’ve been stuck in traffic or suffering through a long commute this week, then you might have also considered how nice it would be to do your job from your living room. This first week of October is National Work From Home Week, and alternative working arrangements are an increasingly popular way to save employees the hassles of commuting and reduce costs for employers. As more and more of office workers’ jobs are done on computers and phones, that work is moving anywhere with Internet access.
While a sizeable percentage of the workforce telecommutes every day because they live hours away from their office, employers are also seeing advantages to letting local employees occasionally work from home. In addition to offering a break from the commute, these arrangements can also give employees more flexibility in their personal schedules. Employers who regularly use alternative work schedules often take the opportunity to consolidate office space, since fewer employees are in the building. In the federal government, the General Services Administration has been redesigning offices with flexible “hotel” spaces instead of permanently assigned workstations to take advantage of space saved when people work from home.
Local governments have been looking to alternative work schedules to reduce office costs, improve employee morale, and help take cars off the road. A 2008 article from the Alliance for Innovation outlines the issues that local government telecommuting policies typically address:
Eligibility of the employee to work from home
- Performs tasks that can be completed from home, and does not require face-to-face contact with co-workers and customers.
- Should be self-motivated and able to work independently.
- Has access to necessary equipment to fulfill job duties.
- Familiar with job duties. (Some organizations require that employees have passed their probationary period and have a history of high quality job performance in order to be eligible.)
Ground Rules for Telecommuting
- Regularly scheduled work hours that allow accessibility.
- Work space that is safe and professional.
- Use software that complies with the city/county privacy policies.
You can find examples of such policies from Mercer Island, Wash., Las Vegas; Austin, Texas (with supervisors' guide); and Madison, Wis.In addition, Loudoun County, Va. was recognized in 2007 for its innovative telework program.
For more information on local government telework programs, see the ICMA Management Perspective on Mobile Workforce Management. This brief outlines how managers can control costs and maximize benefits not only from staff who work from home, but also the many local government employees who operate fleet vehicles, travel for business, go on site visits, or otherwise do their jobs outside of the office.