26 Comments

Summary:

A key issue staring companies directly in the eye is the ability to acquire and retain highly qualified workers.  This is especially true in the coming years as a main chunk of the workforce, the baby boomer generation, transitions into retirement.  As the baby boomers trade […]

Flickr imageA key issue staring companies directly in the eye is the ability to acquire and retain highly qualified workers.  This is especially true in the coming years as a main chunk of the workforce, the baby boomer generation, transitions into retirement.  As the baby boomers trade the day-to-day job in for their first Buick, they leave behind many job roles and responsibilities that Human Resources departments must backfill.

Deloitte LLP conducted a survey amongst technology and telecommunications workers to help figure out what keys points recruiters and HR should focus on in attracting and retaining talented workers.  Outside observers might jump to conclusions and quickly say more money is required.  However, the study shows that flexible working schedules and flexible working environments are more persuasive that financial compensation.

This should come to no surprise to many web workers.  Being able to work partially or fully from home is a valuable benefit that we enjoy.  When it’s appropriate for an individual’s job role, it is in a companies’ best interest to be accommodating to worker’s needs.  For example, if I have a doctor’s appointment to schedule, I know with my employer will allow me to work flexible hours.  Therefore, I’ll schedule the appointment for 4:00 (late in the afternoon) and go into work an hour early to make up the time.  Otherwise, I’d have to take an hour of paid leave for an activity that wasn’t nearly as fun as a vacation.

Other benefits arise from allowing employees to work from home.  If an employee is granted the ability to work from home just one day a week, their fuel consumption is cut by 20% instantly.  Plus the employee doesn’t have to drive to/from work, giving them more time for personal tasks and increasing their overall happiness with the company they work for.

Offering flexible work environments and hours is an advantageous ways for corporations to extend a benefit to employees in a no-cost manner.

What are your thoughts?  Are there any business managers who have thoughts for or against flexible schedules/work environments?

(image courtesy: Flickr user Bill Dimmick)

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By Jason Harris

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  1. I have written before about topics like this here. I consider these “Free Benefits”. They cost the company nothing or close to nothing and the return you get is very good.

    It costs nothing to let someone work from home, but you are telling your employee you trust them to get it done.

    These little things create loyalty. When you need someone to put in a long week it becomes less of a deal. They have your back because you care about them.

    I see it all the times, companies try to lock down on hours and all that does is piss people off who don’t abuse hours. So you go from people working 10 hours a day to 8.

    For those managers who don’t trust your employees to work remote once in a while you need to fire them because guess what, they are goofing off at work just as much.

  2. I’m a business owner so you can call me cynical. I just don’t trust people to work from home. In fact, I don’t even like flexi-time that much (workers clock in at 7am and do very little until everyone else arrives at nine).

    I’ve gone down that route of trusting people and I’ve learned from bitter experience that just because you treat someone well, don’t expect them to reciprocate. Some people mistake kindness for weakness.

    Finally, I take these studies with a pinch of salt. It’s not about the money once the money is at the right level. Until then, it’s always about the money.

  3. …Not this talent.

    I am still too jaded over the late Nineties to care about anything more than the bottom line. That, and not being treated like crap.

    Spent and/or invested properly, the dough has positive impact far past one’s tenure. Perks? Unless they save you money, not so much.

  4. Brian Dusablon Thursday, March 6, 2008

    It’s a balance. If the money’s not there, or not close, the perks aren’t going to make up for that. But perks would be enough to bring me in, if the money was close and the perks were what I wanted.

    As for Jake’s comments about not trusting workers to work at home, do you trust them at the office any more? If you don’t trust your employees, or at least have some form of accountability in place and let them know the consequences, then you’re either not managing properly, or not hiring the right people.

  5. Trust is something every business owner stuggles with… But must learn to do. I know that when I give someone a project, and keep my finger on it to completion,it’s usually not as good as if I just trust them to complete it on their own.

    If you have employees that you can’t trust, you need to let them go and get some new ones that are on the same page. Share your vision for your company, and get them to buy into it. You will be amazed at what might happen.

    With all that said, we have folks who want to be a part of our team, because they want to be apart of a team that is doing something good, helping them grow and become better at what they do, and helps them make a living… In that order.

  6. Wasn’t there a different study last week that said exactly the opposite?

  7. I have been running a small software company for several years now. I have found that you get two types of employees, those that need someone to look over their shoulder all the time, and those who you can trust to get the job done.

    Employing the latter leads to a profitable enterprize.

    This type of person is not necessarily motivated by money. As long as the pay is reasonable, they are willing to give more than they take. Generally, good developers fall into this category because it is more than a job to them. It is an expression of who they are.

  8. As a software development manager, I’ve never been a big fan of letting people work from home. However, given what we expect out of our developers, not allowing people to have flexible work schedules is simply cruel. I expect my employees to have priorities outside of work, and give them the flexibility to manage those priorities.

    I make it clear during the hiring process that my trust is not to be abused, and it never has.

  9. That’s a difficult question. Everybody wants a flexible schedule. Everybody wants to work from home. Not everybody is self-disciplined enough to stay focused in an environment that is not structured for work. That’s not just trust, that’s reality.

  10. Actually:

    * I don’t need a flexible schedule: My daughter and I ride the S-Bahn (in Munich) every day to the city at exactly the same time (school doesn’t have a flexible schedule); and the are just two busses in the evening from the S-Bahn to my home.

    * I don’t want to work from home: With 3 children and a happy neighbors community around, my only chance would be to seal off my office for the work hours – why should I invest in this?

    (I earn more than 100000 EUR a year – right now, that makes it some $150000; but the moment some things not mentioned would change where I work I’d leave in a second and go work for … well … maybe 80000 EUR :-) ).

    Regards

  11. Michael Haines Friday, March 7, 2008

    The saying is ‘show me the money,’ NOT ‘show me the perks.’ I love flexible hours and working conditions, BUT money will be the biggest deciding factor ALWAYS. – I emphasize ALWAYS – As workers, we do ourselves a HUGE disservice by making employers think we’ll work for less $$$ anytime. The author and the publisher are doing us an equally disgusting disservice by distributing this doo-doo, as is Deloite LLP (like the alliteration?) . So to them I say GFY!

  12. A lot of this comes down to time versus money. Would you take a 20% cut in pay for a 20% cut in hours worked? I would in a heartbeat.

    As to working at home, I know I would be more productive. I wouldn’t have the four women on the other side of the cube wall chatting all day. (They might be more productive at home, too!) I could work by a window, which is better psychologically. Finally, I could play music while working (studies have shown that workers are more productive listening to music they like). Rightly enough, playing music is banned here in cubeland. I wouldn’t get anything done if the guy in the next cube was playing heavy metal all day.

    Another thing to remember is that for most of human history, people only worked at home (or in an attached shop, etc). I know people who only work from home and it seems like a more natural life style.

  13. No working at home for me, thanks…too many distractions. Plus, I actually like the social interaction and ‘having a place to go to’ every morning. Also, sincere appreciation, a (verbally) non-hostile work environment, good communication, and a good team go a long way in making the job something you look forward to…

  14. I work from home everyday. Having switched to this working lifestyle several years ago, I have to say that it’s only benefited my work performance, but my personal life as well. I think that if given the chance, ‘most people’ would take advantage of the freedom it gives them to work form home, but wouldn’t abuse it. There will always be individuals who would abuse such luxuries, but then those same individuals abuse any luxuruy they get in the office place just as well.

    There’s a certain type of worker that I’ve come to realize as being the mass majority in the work place; the clock-puncher. Clock-Punchers has the typical ‘employee’ mentality, whereby they punch a clock in the morning, do nothing more than what is required of them, and punch the clock again the precise moment their workday is over. Their thoughts are only vaguely with the company when they clock in, and once they clock out, all thoughts of the company leave their minds until the next day. Employees who have the ability to work from home tend to take the company’s interests alittle more to heart. Their thoughts of the company don’t just vanish at the end of the day. And they feel slightly more a part of their company.

    I would have to agree, however, that it is primary about the money up to a certain point. Today’s workers tend to set goals for themselves moreso than individuals in the past. Providing that they can reach those financial goals, or come close enough, then it becomes less about the money and more about managing their time. If you pay an employee what he’s worth, or close enough to it, you atleast show him the respect he deserves. Beyond that, he’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done and more if you’re willing to offer him something to improve his life away from the company.

    Today’s average worker has two main stress factors he has to balance; the stress of work and the stress of life. If an employer can offer a way to reduce both, even a little, it will go a long way toward keeping their employees happy, and keeping their employees… period.

  15. Micah Burnett Friday, March 7, 2008

    It comes down management style. I started my programming career with managers, who, if they found you in your seat, assumed that you were working. The company I’m at now…and this is not a joke…likes to have all the lights on, because when the C levels come to our floor if they don’t see all the lights on, they don’t think anyone is here.

    I’ve also had managers that actually managed by project — managed by “Is this person getting their work done?”. I know, it’s a novel idea, you have to actually be involved in what your employees are doing, and not just have a seat warmer draining your payroll expense.

    I’ve found that what others have said here is true. If you can’t trust them to do work from home, chances are they’re not working at work either.

    Ok, I gotta get back to work!

  16. As a generalization, I think that flexibility is more important to women developers than men. There are exceptions to that rule, of course, but when you take primary or sole responsibility for kids, it makes a huge difference.

    Strangley enough I find that salary and trust/flexibility rise together. As I’ve gone from jr developer to sr and lead, the salary goes up and so does the respect, and then you get the trust to manage your priorities the way you see fit.

    I want the money I deserve AND the flexibility to take my kid to the doctor when I need to. I won’t stay in a job that doesn’t give me both. Working at home once a week is an extra perk I have lived without, but it really helps keep me sane, and I keep my clients happy no matter where I’m working.

    As for the guy who gets annoyed by the women in his office talking: believe me, a gaggle of guys (and I work with a lot more guys than gals) talking about their cars, gadgets, politics, wives and girlfriends is no picnic either.

  17. The person who mentioned two kinds of employee had it right. If your people are clock-punchers, don’t let them work from home. And, by the way, look for another company, because you’re managing clock-punchers, and your organization will never excel. (I assume that if you could fire them you would have done so by now.) Managers of good workers should let them work from home. I’ve been able to do it for nearly a decade now, surviving several managers, and it’s because I’m one of those people who, for better or for worse, derives much of his self-worth from the work he does.

  18. It’s all about the money, especially with inflation looming.

    Do you realize the value of a dollar today is only .50 of what it was 10 years ago?

    At that rate a gallon of milk is going to cost $10 in 5 years.

    Go ahead and work for the fun of it, you’ll be in the poor house soon.

  19. I’ve been saying this for years. When I inverviewed at places, my first note to them was that I don’t come in until I’m ready to work, and leave when I’m out of focus. Most days that means I come in at 10am and leave at 7 or 8pm. And if I put in extra long days (the last 4 I’ve put in 12 hour days), I may take some off. (Like today.)

    @Jeff: If you think people that come in at 7 don’t get anything done until people show up at 9, you must be a manager. I get more work done from 6pm to 10pm than I do the rest of the day. Why? Because there are no meetings, no co-workers chatting me up, no phone calls… Just me at my desk getting work done.

  20. Salary or Perks—What’s More Important? [Reader Poll] · TechBlogger Friday, March 7, 2008

    [...] Is salary the biggest factor for you when you’re making career moves? Debate in the comments. Competing for Talent: A Survey of Talent Trends in Technology and Telecommunications [Deloitte LLP via Web Worker Daily] [...]

  21. I work when I want, I get projects done and I do it in a timely manner. My boss has no problem with that because I put out a higher level of work than the other workers at the company.

    Hooray for working at home!

  22. I guess it depends on the industry, what is common behavior in that industry, the mind set of that sector and of course the individuals. If you hire your employees carefully and get those motivated people who like what they do, in the hi-tech industry you can count on these principles to work almost automatically. Off course you have to make sure the employees know you are trying to be flexible for their sake (inside PR) and have their appreciation on this. In addition, you have to verify in every case and make sure these conditions are not taken for granted – have some measurement and control on the issue. If you find the system doesn’t work for you or that people start to take advantage of it in a bad way you can always revoke the privileges for a period of time to remind the employees how it is without them.
    In general when employees are treated well and they are happy with what they do, they will feel committed and return the same to the company.
    I have worked from home on some occasions when I didn’t have to but I did it anyway because I liked the job I held and I was measured by deadlines which I wanted to meet on time.
    In general when employees are treated well and they are happy with what they do, they will feel commited and return the same to the company.
    I have worked from home on some occasions when I didn’t have to but I did it anyway because I liked the job I held and I was measured by deadlines which I wanted to meet (it is not that I would be fired if I didin’t).

  23. I agree, flexible work arrangements are just as valuable as compensation, if not more so. All companies, large and small, new and established, need to realize that the work world has changed in the last 40 years. Technology makes getting the work done less “location dependent”.

    As younger generations backfill for retiring boomers, we expect the workplace to become more flexible and not necessarily mean an office or a desk in a corporate location.

    Gen Y and the Millennial expect flexible work arrangements. If they don’t get them, they will move on to companies that will provide these capabilities. So companies have a choice: loosen up the policies written in the 1970’s or risk losing workers to competitors who will.

    Here’s another big news flash for corporate America: The “Command and Control” style of management is gone. If you think you can force workers into a huge cube farm to view your empire in one place, you may not like what you see. If you’re going to dictate to the younger workforce of today you’re going to get the same reaction as you did from your kids: defiance. Younger workers will not tolerate the dictorial style of older Boomers. Instead, they’ll head for the doors. Turnover and training are expensive. Don’t let outdated policies and management styles ruin your company.

  24. I’ve turned down 3 job offers in the last 2 months making $30k more a year then what I am making now. I can’t leave my current job because the perk of getting to work from home is too much. The other is that they don’t have an office at all so I don’t have to justify my telecommuting ever… which allows me to do my work and do whatever I want. Just yesterday my 2 y.o had a medical emergency that required 911 and the fact that I was home in my office and my wife could come get me was worth any amount of money.

  25. Salary or Perks—What’s More Important? [Reader Poll] » Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done Thursday, March 13, 2008

    [...] Is salary the biggest factor for you when you’re making career moves? Debate in the comments. Competing for Talent: A Survey of Talent Trends in Technology and Telecommunications [Deloitte LLP via Web Worker Daily] [...]

  26. I agree with both Brian and not so much with Jake I see it as Free Benefits .. working at a call center they use all kinds of tactics to get more work with less pay .. as for Jake I do understand from your point of view as a business owner but as someone from the other side that has never missed a day of work for almost ten years, being someone that is work detailed and self sufficient I have the discipline to work at home and get the job done, I think more so .. as people like to socialize and interrupt one’s work .. as I have an excellent work ethic that does not reflect how I feel about the work itself .. I know that I’m there to get the job done regardless .. but come to the conclusion of Mr_Simple (March 7th, 2008 8:05am)

    It’s a balance and one that is difficult especially in these times, having the job that fulfills and pays the bills comfortable

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