Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.
Alternative Work Arrangements Defined
Alvin is a human resource specialist that has been asked to review the company's current policy regarding alternative work arrangements. Alternative work arrangements involve providing flexibility in how people engage in work activities and how companies utilize labor. Alternative work arrangements include flexibility in:
- Number of employees in workforce depending on current needs
- Employee skills and abilities
In the old days when Alvin started with the company, all employees clocked in at 8:00, took an hour for lunch, and were on their way home at 5:00. Employees were almost always hired on a permanent basis. Nearly all employees worked at the company's facilities.
Nowadays, Alvin's company has employees working at different times and even employees that work from home. Moreover, the company will often hire employees on a part-time or even temporary basis depending on its current business needs. For example, the company employs a large number of temporary and part-time employees during the holiday season due to increased demand for its products. When the holidays are over, it terminates the temporary employees. When the company needs a worker with a special skill set for a special project, it will hire an expert on a short-term contract basis. When the project is done, the contract is over.
Telecommuting and Virtual Teams
Let's take a quick look at some of the more prevalent types of alternative work arrangements for employees.
Anne works full-time for Alvin's company, but she rarely steps foot on company property. Her commute involves going to her home office, which is equipped with a computer, high speed Internet, and dedicated phone and fax lines. All of her work activities are done at home. Anne is considered a telecommuter, which is an employee who works remotely from home.
Anne isn't just a telecommuter working from her home office; she's also a member of a virtual team that spans the globe. A virtual team is a team whose members act and interact through electronic communication. Members can be in adjoining cubicles or separated by oceans and continents. In fact, Anne's team members are located around the United States, Canada, Australia, and various countries in both Europe and Asia. They communicate with each other over the phone, emails, faxes, and through Internet video conferences and share files uploaded and downloaded using cloud computing.
Alternative work arrangements offer organizations some advantages. Alternative work arrangements can help with employee retention. It helps employees improve their work-life balance. For example, instead of spending an hour a day in the car commuting, Anne gets to spend that hour with her husband and children, while the company doesn't lose a minute of productivity. In fact, it may make employees more productive, as they are not worn down by the grind of long commutes.
Flexible scheduling can also be matched with peak times of customer demands so both employees and the company benefit. For example, employees that need the early morning to drop off the kids come to work around 10:00, right when customers start shopping. And people that want extra cash for the holidays or a vacation can take a seasonal job when companies need more staff due to increased demand.
Telecommuting and the virtual workplace literally can open up the world. Companies that employ telecommuting and virtual teams can tap into a labor pool that is truly global and have an opportunity to retain the best employees possible.
Flexibility in work arrangements is not without some disadvantages. Flexible work arrangements add complexity to management. Managing employees remotely requires different skills and resources than supervising employees in the same location. Employees that telecommute may not have access to the same training and development.
Perhaps more importantly, such employees may not develop a high level of connection with their co-workers and the company. Similarly, a flexible workforce consisting of temporary and contract employees may not be as loyal, committed, or innovative as traditional employees who have a larger, long-term stake in the success of the company.
Let's review what we've learned. Alternative work arrangements involve creating flexibility in the pursuit of work activities. Alternative work arrangements can include flexibility in hours, work locations, type of workspace, workforce levels, and skill sets.
Telecommuting and virtual teams are now common alternative work arrangements. Telecommuting involves working remotely from your home instead of at a work site. A virtual team works together virtually through electronic communication.
Alternative work arrangements have both advantages and disadvantages. Pros include improving employee retention, improving work-life balance, optimizing labor force levels, and being able to tap a global labor pool. Cons include added complexity in organizational management, possibility of reduced training and development of employees, and the risk of a lack of loyalty, commitment, and innovation from workers in alternative work arrangements.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define and describe types of alternative work arrangements
- Identify the pros and cons of alternative work arrangements like telecommuting and virtual teams
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