• Flexible work options make employees work better

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    Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm

    Most employees nowadays have a lot more freedom with their time at work than in the past. Before this, the work hours were strictly 8 to 5 or 9 to 6 for all employees. That put the rush hours between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., when the entire workforce in the country would go to work, and from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., when the employees would go home. That schedule even now causes stressful traffic and a transportation crisis. Vehicles can barely move along certain roads due to the volume of vehicles and a huge number of commuters line the streets waiting for a ride.

    One of my former officemates who used to live in Antipolo would wake up at 3 o’clock every workday and leave her house at 4:00 to avoid the horrendous traffic jam on her way to our office in Pasay City. She would reach the office at 5:00 a.m., slept, woke up at 7:00, fixed herself and took her breakfast and be ready to work at exactly 8:00 in the morning.

    At quitting time, she had no option but to join the throng and endure the traffic. When she reached home, normally at 8:00 p.m., she would have dinner with her family (they waited up for her, and her kasambahay prepared the food). Afterward, she would tutor her two kids, prepare things for tomorrow morning for her school-bound kids, her office-bound husband, who took another route to his office, and for herself. Sundays were spent marketing, preparing instructions for the kasambahay, catching up on her sleep and, when there was available time, bonding with her family.

    It was a stressful life, especially for women who were expected to contribute to the family coffers and still manage the household and take care of the kids and ageing parents.

    In one of the activities of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), IBM Philippines presented an impressive and relevant social accountability programs for empowering the environment for their employees and uplifting the conditions of the communities where they operate.

    The programs promote flexibility at work with multiple work arrangement options to help their employees achieve work-life balance and enhance productivity.

    Compressed/Flexible workweek. This is a compressed workweek that is fewer than five days, the regular workdays/week. For example, an employee could choose to work 10 hours per day for four days/week, if they work a 40-hour week.

    Individualized work schedule. Within certain limits, employees may request to vary the time they report for and leave work. The daily hours worked must still at least equal the daily hours that are consistent with the traditional IBM workday. Core hours may be established by the management, which is not negotiable for flextime.

    Leave of absence, or commonly referred to as sabbatical leave. This program allows unpaid time away from work for an extended period. Employees can request a leave of absence for a variety of circumstances, such as dependent care, continuing education, etc. Eligibility is based on business needs and a satisfactory job performance.

    Part-time reduced work schedule. This is a regular employment schedule that is less than a full-time schedule. It provides additional flexibility in staffing teams. The salary and many benefits are based on the reduced work schedule. These opportunities are based on business need. An example might be an employee who works five-, four-hour days on an ongoing basis.

    Job share. Job sharing provides employees an opportunity to work a reduced work schedule, and managers, a flexible staffing option that leverages the talents of two employees to meet the needs of the business. An example is two employees sharing responsibilities for a full-time position, with each working a part-time schedule. Job share teams, along with their managers, negotiate scheduling and work design processes.

    What comes to mind is an arrangement in which two drivers work every other day using one and the same taxi or jeepney alternately. I hear complaints about the other not cleaning up or not taking proper care of the shared vehicle.

    Mobile. Mobile environments allow employees to spend a majority of their time away from the office. Mobile employees are usually on the move, working at various IBM sites, making customer calls, and/or on consecutive short-term assignments at customer or office locations. They may use mobility centers or other shared space when traveling to IBM locations.

    Work-at-home. This option is for employees who perform their regular work schedule from home. Work-at-home provides a way for employees on a regular schedule to work the major portion of their work at home. Employees using this option do not have a dedicated desk or office in any IBM facility.

    At IBM, these flexible work options are initiated by the employees and approved by their managers. They are influenced by the legal environment. Here are some of the guidelines used: What are the job’s business requirements? What impact would using flexible work options have on the ability to meet and/or exceed customers’ needs? What are some potential obstacles and ideas for dealing with them? What sort of plan and communication strategy may be in used to keep peers informed about projects? How can work be evaluated and modifications made, if necessary?

    Time is, indeed, important and being able to use time meaningfully for one’s purposes is a benefit a company could give to its employees.

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