Saturday, June 27, 2015

Corporate Wellness Programs

Written by  Richard Finger

It’s about the time of year when some companies allow for “Summer Fridays.” Likely, the policy on this is that employees must work an additional four hours from Monday through Thursday, requiring only four hours worked on Friday. The policy is usually in place from the Friday before Memorial Day until Labor Day weekend to allow employees to get started on enjoying their weekends. I implemented such a program at my own employer a few years ago. Some of our senior management seemed to be against the idea, for fear that employees would take advantage of the flexibility, would not honor the policy, and productivity would decrease. Sure, there will always be a bad apple in the bunch, but overall, most employees are honest, and appreciate the company’s willingness to provide such a benefit.

What managers are learning over time is that there is an increase of discretionary effort from employees when they are engaged and feeling good about their employment/employer. Allowing for Summer Hours is a fairly easy benefit to implement, without the company having to contribute too much financially to allow for it. Another flexible benefit more employers are implemented is telecommuting, or in other words, working from home. With today’s technology, we are seeing this worker type surface more and more.

According to the results of the latest Remote Collaborative Worker Survey, which polled 353 adult internet users and conducted by ConnectSolutions, when properly managed, telework can be a win-win for employers and employees. Of those who work remotely at least a few times per month, 77% report greater productivity while working offsite; 23% are willing to work longer hours from home than they would onsite; and 42% feel just as connected with colleagues as if they were working on the premises. This last statistic is a bit surprising to me at first glance, but as I thought about it, today, most people do not leave their offices when working onsite, and are communicating with their colleagues by email, instant messaging, or by phone. All of these methods of communication can occur from the comfort of home.

Some managers are still of the mindset that if they cannot see you at work, this means you are not working. My counterargument to this opinion is a consistent one, if the employee is meeting the objectives set forth for him or her, then there is no issue. This perspective seems to diffuse some of the skepticism. Of course, remote working is not for everyone, and may not even be advisable for some job types. Given my role in Human Resources, I make my living by interacting with all levels of employees. It would be quite difficult to make connections away from the office. Secondly, I am very easily distracted. It would be a challenge for me to stay focused on the work at hand and fight the urge to crawl up on the sofa to watch a movie.

Recent studies have found that prospective employees are citing workplace flexibility as a top priority. Some of the underlying reason for this is the need to care for aging parents or caring for young children. By allowing for flexibility in the workplace, either by a Summer Hours-like program, or telecommuting, companies are better able to attract and retain talent in their organizations. Along with this, there are significant indirect costs that are decreased. For example, decreases in costs of office space and heating and cooling those offices. Even more benefits can be found in productivity, when employees are able to work during weather related office closures. Overall, exploring these workplace solutions just makes good business sense.

Richard Finger is president of Fresh HR Consulting (410-599-3173)... and moonlights as our restaurant reviewer!


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