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FLEXIBILITY & PLACE OF WORK
Content prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

The two major types of flexibility in the place of work are telework and work in alternating work locations.  

Telework

Telework (also known as "telecommuting" or remote work) is an arrangement by which an employee works off-site. The employee works away from the traditional office space; for example, at his or her home, at a satellite office, or at a client's or customer's site. Workers working remotely from their own homes or other off-site locations may need telecommunications connections to the workplace or specialized equipment.

Examples:

  • A worker teleworks from home on Monday/Friday, and works at the office Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday.
  • A garment worker brings materials home from work and sews at her home two days a week (work not involving any telephone or computer connections with the office).
  • A policy researcher occasionally works from home when working on a complicated or lengthy document in order to avoid being interrupted. She otherwise works in the office.
  • An employee is able to work remotely during snowstorms, road construction, or other events that interrupt travel to the office.
  • A worker works from a nearby telework center Monday through Friday to avoid a long commute to work.

CASE EXAMPLE

CapitalOne, a large banking and financial services company, "has launched a pilot giving more than 1,000 employees choice as to where they'd like to work. Basically, most staff involved in the program now works away from the office much of the time. When they do come to the bank, most just look for an empty workstation to use that day, rather than having office space dedicated only to their own use. Sound complicated? Here's how it works: staff in the Richmond, Virginia, area can elect to work in the same office every day. Or, they can work at home or at a customer's office one or two days a week. On the other days, they find an empty cubicle at Capital One to plug their laptops into. Finally, some employees can work almost entirely at home, getting all the technology they need plus a $1,000 furniture allowance to ensure a good, ergonomically sound home office. And the bank can consolidate its real estate portfolio dramatically, gaining the ability to house 800 employees in space that previously accommodated 300. (34)
 

Alternating Location

Workers work part-year in one location and part-year in a second location, or may have a choice among multiple work sites.

Examples:

  • A "snowbird" couple works at Wal-Mart in New York from April to September, and then moves south for the colder months, working at a Florida Wal-Mart from October to March.
  • Employers in the construction sector were more likely to offer options for working at multiple worksites [20.4% in construction, compared to 13.9% of all other sectors]. (82)


ALTERNATING LOCATIONS
Benefits to EmployeeBenefits to EmployerChallenges
  • Time saved on commuting can be applied to work. Telecommuters report lower work-family conflict, increased performance, and may be more likely to help coworkers. (60)
  • Job satisfaction increases with teleworking for many employees, but satisfaction appears to plateau at more extensive levels of telecommuting. (42)
  • Some employees find it easier to focus on job-related tasks in a quiet off-site location.
  • Alternating locations allows an employee to continue to work in a more convenient location, saving commuting time.
  • Positive effect on space requirements; having employees work remotely may result in reductions in office space requirements or the need for new construction.
  • Availability of skilled workers in multiple locations.
  • Teleommuting employees must be careful to maintain separate work and family boundaries, in order to maintain lower work-family conflict. (60)
  • Telework and telecommuting may result in challenges to maintaining work relationships, team cohesion, and workplace culture. Successful supervisors of teleworkers must find a way to stay in close contact with their remote employees as a way of sharing information without concern for the work schedule per se. (60)
  • Telecommuters may need to create boundaries between work and family. In some cases, this may mean that they cannot extend themselves in crunch times or after hours to help their colleagues. Non-telecommuters workload and work-family conflict may increase as a result. (60)
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