With February 14-18 being National Telework Week, now's a great time to rethink your company's approach to workplace flexibility. The way we work is increasingly becoming more dispersed and mobile, with business spanning time zones and borders. It is estimated that the number of worldwide mobile workers will reach one billion by 2011, which includes nearly 75 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to David Clemons and Michael Kroth, authors of Managing The Mobile Workforce. At the same time, workers -- particularly younger generations joining the workforce -- expect a high degree of flexibility in how, when and where they work.
These drivers are creating a fundamental shift in the way we work, (we call it "workshifting" at Citrix). This is impacting every part of the economy, with enlightened leaders recognizing that there is a golden opportunity to improve productivity while reducing costs. A timely example is provided by the recent passage of the Telework Enhancement Act, which provides a new framework for federal agencies to support virtual workers, helping to accelerate change and expand telework opportunities for most federal workers. It is calculated that this shift in working practices could save taxpayers a staggering $15 billion a year, according to data by the Telework Research Network.
That's the good news. The bad news is that while many companies today allow workshifting for some employees on an ad-hoc basis, most don't have formal policies in place and aren't prepared to manage a truly flexible and mobile workforce. The rules for today's employees are changing; with virtual working, location is increasingly irrelevant. Location is out -- connection is in. If I am connected, I can work whenever, wherever, however.
There is a need for businesses of all sizes to have a strategy to address these new ways of working. There has to be a sense of urgency here; if you don't have a distributed work strategy for your organization today, you are already behind. If you haven't even thought about it, you may never catch up. Technology is not really the problem here: there are a variety of excellent tools available to facilitate virtual working. Rather, the biggest barrier to change is management mindset.
I'm proud to say that I'm a workshifter, and so are many people within my organization. We have actively encouraged our employees to support workshifting and National Telework week. This year our workshifting policy will enable us to grow our headcount while reducing or avoiding costs. For instance, by allowing just 10 percent of our workforce to workshift, we can avoid more than $2 million in facility-related costs -- an example of just one immediate benefit of this approach.
Based on my experience, here are some practical suggestions for ways to introduce more flexibility into the workplace that will create tangible benefits for both employers and employees.
- Develop a formal program. You're in business to make money, so the goal is to create a high-performance organization while enabling employees to benefit from workshifting.
Freedom from the company office is liberating for employees and, with the right policies and tools in place, can drive performance and business innovation. Adopting more flexible work styles can also be key to hiring top talent as flexible work arrangements are becoming more important when choosing one job over another. This trend is likely to become more evident as the economy continues to improve.
I invite you to make workshifting a reality for your company. Not only will your employees be happier, your company will reap the benefits of a vibrant and contemporary workforce management policy.
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