Flexiplace, also known as flexible workplace or telecommuting, refers to paid employment performed away from the office, either at home or at a satellite worksite, for an agreed-upon portion of the workweek. Designed as an alternative to the traditional work environment, flexiplace can be a valuable tool for managing workload constraints and improving employee efficiency.
The supervisor is responsible for deciding if the position is one that is appropriate for off-site work and for examining both the content of the work and the performance of the employee. Participation may vary depending on the nature of the job and the circumstances. Moreover, since flexiplace is a supervisory work option, there is no automatic right of the employee to continue participation in the event of a change of supervisor. If the manager believes the flexiplace arrangement is not working (for example, the employee's performance declines or the participation interferes with organizational needs), he/she has the right to end an employee's participation.
Case #1—Researcher Participating in Flexiplace
A GS-14 research chemist began participating in flexiplace for health reasons in October 1993. His productivity has dramatically increased since then. For example, he completed more work assignments than agreed upon during his first year in the program. His high productivity has continued over the years, and he has authored or co-authored several manuscripts, book chapters, and papers for professional workshops and meetings. In addition, he continues to supervise a small staff, providing them instructions daily or as needed and checking on their work via computer.
The employee's supervisor believes both the organization and the employee benefited. In fact, his supervisor believes the employee is more efficient and effective working and supervising at home than in the office. The supervisor indicated that this flexible arrangement has not impeded the progress of the employees the chemist supervises. As a testimonial to the flexiplace program, the supervisor points out that the chemist was promoted after his participation in flexiplace began.
Case #2—Personnel Management Specialist Participating in Flexiplace
A GS-12 personnel management specialist has been working for the agency for 8 years. In 1993, the employee began working at home because of her terminally ill husband. The employee commented, "Work-at-home not only allowed me to take care of my husband's needs and let him know that I was there for him, but also provided undistracted time for work projects. I kept a log of my hours worked. Some days, I would accomplish quite a lot while other days it was very minimal. When the nurse's aid came to my home, I was able to go to the office, deliver and pick-up assignments, and meet with my supervisor. Just knowing that I was available for my husband gave me strength and determination to put forth an extra effort to accomplish my work in a timely manner. This arrangement worked well not only for me, but also for my supervisor."
From the supervisor's viewpoint, this arrangement was mutually beneficial. He stated, "This flexibility worked out very well. I would do it again without hesitating! It was a good experience, but you have to understand that she'll always give you her best. The employee worked very hard to get as much done as possible. Because she works in an area without a backup, it was good for the organization. Although she was not in the office, it was nice to know that this specialist was available by phone to provide advice. Allowing her to work-at-home strengthened the bond between the agency and the employee."
Case #3—Social Scientist Participating in Flexiplace
A GS-13 social scientist made use of an agency's temporary work-at-home policy during recovery from surgery. The employee's doctor required that she remain at home for 1-month after surgery because he did not want her making the long commute to the work site. However, the agency's temporary work-at-home policy enabled the employee to return to work part-time within 1-week of the surgery.
This work arrangement was beneficial for both parties. The agency benefited by not losing the employee's contributions on current projects that would have been delayed if she had been forced to take leave for the entire recovery period. The employee was able to reduce her use of sick leave during a time when she was capable of working but not traveling. Moreover, both the employee and the agency benefited by her being able to continue work on projects with little disruption, avoiding the loss of momentum created by a long separation from the details of the work.
What are the benefits of flexiplace?
Employees working-at-home a day or two each week are often more productive because the quiet environment without constant interruptions allows for maximum concentration and creativity. Also, participation in flexiplace has allowed employees with health problems to continue providing valuable work contributions with less leave usage and little interruption to the office. Other reported benefits for employees include reduced stress levels, increased efficiency, and reduced commuting time.
Supervisors on the other hand report that flexiplace employees take more responsibility for ensuring office coverage is maintained, work quality is maintained or improved, office morale is increased significantly, and communication is strengthened between supervisors and employees.
What are the potential concerns of flexiplace and solutions to minimize them?
The primary concern of supervisors is in minimizing adverse impact on other staff members. The overall interests of the office must take precedence over working off-site. One person's off-site work should not adversely affect the performance of other employees or put a burden on staff remaining in the office. Not only should an equitable distribution of workload be maintained, but methods should be instituted to ensure that office employees do not have to handle the flexiplace employee's work.
Supervisors should encourage teamwork, communication, and alternative methods such as self-directed work teams, cross-training, and involvement seeking behavior among/between fellow employees to find viable solutions.
Is flexiplace appropriate for all positions?
No. While some jobs can be performed almost 100 percent off-site, most jobs require a certain amount of time at the office. Jobs that require the employee to perform a hands-on service for others may not be adaptable to flexiplace. Some examples of jobs that are appropriate for flexiplace include: economist, management specialist, researcher, and statistician.
Is flexiplace appropriate for all employees?
No. Participation in flexiplace is not a right. Supervisors should consider an employee's recent performance rating, as well as skills in priority setting and time-management to determine if flexiplace participation is appropriate.
How does flexiplace work?
The initial step in the process is determining the feasibility of flexiplace participation. This is done by the supervisor and employee collectively examining job requirements and the employee's performance.
After a favorable decision is made, supervisors and employees must develop a work agreement specifying applicable guidelines and policies regarding participation. The work agreement covers such items as the voluntary nature of the arrangement; length of flexiplace assignment; hours and days of duty for each worksite; responsibilities for timekeeping, leave approval, and requests for overtime and compensatory time; performance requirements; proper use and safeguards of Government property and records; standards of conduct; and completion of evaluation materials.
What guidelines are important for flexiplace supervisors?
Flexiplace supervisors should be:
What guidelines are used to identify positions for flexiplace?
Guidelines used to identify positions for flexiplace include:
What guidelines are used to identify flexiplace employees?
Guidelines used to identify employees for flexiplace are: