Mycareerin HRhasbeenlong, challenging and exciting. I’ve been fortunate to have worked in several indus- tries, including manufac- turing, financial services
and higher education. When I started in HR in the
early ’80s—when “personnel” was evolving into “human
resources”—people worked according to the schedule set by
their employers. Workers generally had no flexibility to tend
to personal responsibilities. Things sure have changed.
My first employer was a subsidiary of National Gypsum
Co., a large manufacturing company where employees’ productivity was measured by the number of units they produced. To my general manager, a person’s physical presence
was considered the best way to gauge that the work of the
company was being done, even though it wasn’t clear that
that was true. No thought was given to off-hours shifts as a
supplement or an alternative to the base schedule. It was simply not how the company operated.
That was when workplace flexibility meant that employees
were free to work late whenever they needed to. Unless it was
a holiday or they were sick or on vacation, they were expected
to be in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I remember speaking
with managers about what they perceived to be “employee
issues”—such as individuals requesting time off to leave early
to attend their child’s Little League game or take their dog to
the vet. The workers were willing to come in early or work
through lunch to make up the missed time, but their managers weren’t interested in giving them any latitude.
Where We Are Now
Today, HR champions telework and other programs that give
employees more control over when and where they work. This
isn’t altruistic. Rather, business leaders have come
to realize that they benefit from flexible work poli-
• Lower overhead. To run a profitable business
and meet stakeholders’ expectations, it is crucial
for companies to find ways to reduce costs. When
employees work remotely, companies don’t need as much
office space, saving thousands of dollars annually.
• A smaller carbon footprint. Telework reduces energy
consumption—utilizing less gasoline for commuting, for
example, and less energy to heat and cool commercial buildings and office space.
• Increased productivity. On average, employees working
remotely spend more time working, less time eating lunches
out, and little or no time commuting.
• Better retention. Workers who telecommute can be at
home for their children and still be able to work, which in turn
decreases costs for leave benefits and increases the likelihood
that they will stay on the job. The same goes for younger generations of workers. They are willing to work hard but at the
same time are driving the demand for flexibility. Such work
arrangements will make them happier and more engaged over
the long haul.
• Improved management. Employees who have the flexibility to deal with personal responsibilities are more engaged
and productive, and thus easier to manage.
For employees, the benefits are many as well:
• Autonomy. Flexible schedules allow people to work when
it’s convenient for them.
• Efficiency. Workers with flexible schedules can better
deal with personal responsibilities.
• Savings. Remote work dramatically lowers and sometimes eliminates commuting costs.
• Tax write-offs. Some expenses, such as for the cost of
maintaining a home office, can provide teleworkers with tax
The Evolution of Workflex
Today’s workers can choose when and where they work. That’s good for
them—and for employers.
By Iliana Castillo-Frick
‘When I started in HR in the early ‘80s—when
“personnel” was evolving into “human resources”—
people worked according to the schedule set by their
employers. …Things sure have changed.’