Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flexible Hours Open the Way for a New Workplace

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flexible Hours Open the Way for a New Workplace

Article excerpt

Late last month, on a Tuesday morning, I awoke shortly before 5 o'clock. Soon thereafter I was at work. On this particular morning, the work was in an office that adjoins my bedroom. The soft clicking of the computer keyboard accompanied my data analysis work.

After about two hours of uninterrupted work, I roused my wife and three kids from their slumber and enlisted their participation in the standard morning drill of feeding the cat, walking the dogs, making breakfast and packing school lunches. Holding chaos and crisis at bay for one more morning, I successfully dispatched my wife and kids to work and school. I returned to my home office, where I completed my number crunching and sent the results by modem to a colleague.

In the car by noon, I headed out to the suburbs, where I joined my first-grade son's end-of the-school-year pool party already in progress. It was a gorgeous spring day, so I lingered at the party, visiting with parents, teachers and first-graders. I took my son from the party and picked up his siblings and returned home, where I checked my voice mail and e-mail and replied to it. After supper, I did a little work-related reading before bedtime.

Not a typical day, but not altogether that unusual. As a university professor, I find myself in an organization where employees are largely responsible for their own productivity, are held accountable for it and at the same time are afforded considerable flexibility in pursuing their work. As managerial traditions go, it is one that emphasizes trust over control. As organizational models for business go, it will increasingly be the rule and less the exception.

Recently at St. Louis University, we have undertaken an initiative to examine how flexible working arrangements are being used in the workplace. Flexible work schedules can take many forms. The U.S. Department of Labor identifies the following as the most common models: part-time work, flextime (that is, established core hours and a flexible range of starting and stopping times), compressed work schedules (extending the work day, but granting more days off), job sharing, home-based work or telecommuting and phased retirement.

How widespread are such arrangements? The Labor Department estimates that flextime is now available to 50 percent of all employees. Compressed work schedules are offered in about one-third of the workplaces. The remaining models are less common, but growing in application.

A 1994 survey of St. Louis employers found that 42 percent of the responding firms reported having a flextime policy, and approximately one-third cited instances of job sharing.

Many forces are moving firms to adopt more flexible work arrangements. Some are obvious, some are less so:

Employees and their families need flexibility. These needs are expressed in two basic ways: predictably and unpredictably. …

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