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Make it easy for employees to work when, where they want

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in Centerpiece,HR Management,Human Resources

by Gytis Barzdukas

employee working from homeThe easier your organization makes it for employees to access work files from home—or from anywhere outside the office—the more time they will spend working before and after their scheduled hours.

In fact, when my company conducted a survey on how technologies like cloud computing and smartphones are changing the way people work, 18% of U.S. employees said they use them to check email or otherwise start their workdays before 7 a.m.

The more tech, the more productive

Result: Bosses have relaxed the rules for showing up a little late in the morning and better tolerate employees who take long lunches to run errands, make phone calls and surf the web for personal business. (Note that we’re mostly talking about exempt employees here.)

In fact, 22% of U.S. bosses claimed they are fine with their employees combining work and personal chores during the workday. They figure their employees are working beyond the office walls often enough to easily make up the time.

Plus, managers feel freer to contact employees who have clocked out for the day. Nearly 70% of U.S. managers surveyed admitted they sometimes call staff members after hours, and 15% say they have no problem making those calls as late as 9 p.m.

The upshot: The more technology your organization’s employees can take home with them, the more productive they’ll be, even when they’re not physically at work. And if the tradeoff is that real life spills into work a little more during the day, managers seem OK with that.

Blurring the line between work and home

Still, just 20% of U.S. employers make it possible for their workers to access everything—email, network drives, applications and cloud services—on the go. That’s despite a clear correlation between the amount of access they have and the amount of work they do outside the office.

Gradually, employers will make it easier for everyone to work wherever and whenever the mood strikes them, espe­­cially as the workforce fills up with young employees who take for granted access to mobile tools. Then, we’ll see even more blurring of the lines between work and personal life.

5 ways to foster tech-flex

For now, consider how full access to mobile tools—and a more relaxed attitude about face-time—might benefit your employees and your business.

1. Grant greater access to more employees. If you give a little, you’ll get a little. If you give more, employees most likely will take advantage of it to slip in some work here and there during their off-hours.

Full access means an employee has a password that allows him or her to log in from any computer and see everything: work files, benefits information, product features and development schedules, for example.

2. Let them know you appreciate off-the-clock efforts. Start by telling employees that if they do some work from home, they’re free to come in a little later or spend a few minutes during the day catching up on personal business. Our survey showed that, although managers tolerate em­­ployees arriving up to 37 minutes late for a scheduled workday, more than half of employees still believe their bosses will be unhappy if they’re late.

3. Trust employees to use technology responsibly. We found that, by and large, people who said they take pride in their work tended to use those tools to extend their workdays. Hire good people, and you’ll get the most out of them by giving them technology-enabled flexibility.

4. Let everyone work from home sometimes, not just teleworkers. U.S. employers that participated in the survey agreed that it’s acceptable for those who are not designated at-home workers to telecommute 1.5 days per week, given the right technology.

5. Recognize that employees really do use their mobile tools for work. Our survey revealed that employers underestimate the time employees spend working away from the office. Employees we surveyed estimated they put in an extra 46 minutes of work per day before or after regular office hours.

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Gytis Barzdukas is senior director of product management for Seattle- and London-based Mozy, a provider of secure data access and backup for consumers and businesses. Contact him at (877) 669-9776.

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