What once was considered the “traditional work schedule” has seen massive changes in recent years. The “morning commute” has morphed from battling traffic and road rage along the highway to a simple trek from breakfast table to desk in the home office. Many employers are allowing their teams to work from home, for many reasons that include less wasted time commuting, access to more employee talent, fewer physical office space requirements, and increased market insight.

I moved across the country more than 8 months ago (as I shared how e-learning can be compared to moving). That move would not have been possible without my flexible work schedule, particularly as it relates to the physical location from which I work. As an e-learning designer, my work can be done from pretty much anywhere I can access Wi-Fi and my organization’s VPN. This was the only time in my 30 years of working that I was able to move without having to change jobs.

Many of my colleagues are part of a system in which employees must punch a timeclock twice a day from an established workplace. Why? Because they believe that employees will inherently goof-off when given the chance. “How do I know that my employee is at home working rather than out shopping at the mall?” Fortunately, I don’t work for one of these bosses. In fact, my boss is hundreds of miles away from my home office where I am writing this article!

The biggest reason for allowing flex-work is to help an employee balance her work life and family life. Having moved to be closer to family, I can attest that it works! Flex-work can be achieved in two different ways. First, employees can opt for a flexible schedule. Perhaps your staff member wants to work 9 to 5 one day, but come in at 10 the following day and stay until 6 p.m. because of an early morning activity at his child’s school. A simple flexible work schedule can make huge in-roads for employee work/life balance.

Second, employees may enjoy telework or flexiplace. Yes, there is a difference. Telework allows an employee to work outside the office, usually from home, for one or two days a week. That’s especially important during a snowstorm when he can be sitting at home working to meet an immediate deadline – rather than sitting in a car stuck on an icy highway trying to get to the office! Flexiplace establishes a non-traditional workplace, usually in the home, as the employee’s full-time place of work. This employee only needs to come to the office periodically for a meeting or for some facetime with the boss.

So far, we’ve talked about the benefits to employees. What benefits can the company expect? If your staff works the same 9 to 5 workday, what’s the chance of someone willing to give up their personal time to stay late or to talk with an overseas client at 2:00 a.m.? Flexibility is essential in a world where employees need to be available 24-7. Let an employee work from home in his pajamas and he’ll likely return the favor by working extra hours to meet a project deadline or to take that early morning call from your Asian client. You scratch his back . . .

In a recent study published in the journal Human Relations and reported by Discovery News, “researchers found that employees who worked remotely one day a week and workers who had reduced their required weekly office hours tended to report higher job satisfaction, lower stress and higher loyalty to their company than employees who didn’t work flexible hours.” The researchers also found that “flexible schedules are also linked to increased work intensity in the form of higher productivity and longer hours.” This study seems to support the fact that allowing employees to work flexible hours and from a remote location results in higher job satisfaction, lower stress levels and greater company loyalty!

So what does this all have to do with training and performance support solutions? Plenty! As an instructional designer working with you, I want you to identify for me what the gap is between employees’ current and ideal level of performance. Chances are that the performance gap will be wider with employees for whom flex-work is not an option. The wider the performance gap, the more resources you will need to help fill that gap... resources, which could be saved simply by giving your staff more flexibility in where and when they work. Offer your employees some flexible solutions and you just may find that performance gap shrinking!

I once had a supervisor tell me that I needed to work by the project, not by the clock. That was hard to do when I had a bus to catch to get me home in time for dinner. If managers focus more on productivity and output rather than clocks and office space, they’ll find that the lack of micro-management yields greater employee performance.

I should know. I’ve worked from home since 2011. Every year I’ve received the highest level of performance rating possible. I’ve put in late nights when I’ve had to and I’ve not had to take a personal day off due to bad weather or to meet with a repairman. In addition, not once did I think to go to the mall when I needed to be in my home office working.

In closing, let me say goodnight. You see, it is 11:30 p.m. and I need to get off the computer and go to bed. I’ve put in a good day’s work!

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