Monday, February 8, 2010

Mother Nature Makes the Case for Flexibility

The flexible workforce used to be a nice-to-have for working parents, mostly mothers. Phased return to work for new mothers, job-sharing, alternate work schedules; these seem like almost quaint strategies to help employers attract and retain their top talent.

Then the economy collapses and, when faced with shrinking profit margins, employers began to hire part-time workers in both contract and permanent position in droves. This flexibility, while not ideal for many, is a huge positive for working mothers, returning-to-work baby boomers and grad students seeking supplemental income.

The fall of 2009 turned into the winter of 2010 and the country was faced with a massive H1N1 outbreak. As employers prepared to deal with highly contagious sick employees and absenteeism while taking care of sick children, we recommended many reasonable accommodations for creating flexibility in your workforce to keep people working while out of the office.

As H1N1 faded out, many smart employers maintained those flexible work policies to keep business moving as the Mid-Atlantic got slammed with several historic snowstorms. With 2 1/2 feet on the ground now, my street still unplowed and another 5-10" expected tomorrow, it's clear that I won't be making it to our new DC area office anytime this week.

Here's what we're doing to keep our business on track as Mother Nature continues to throw us curveballs, make that snowballs:
  • Laptops, high-speed internet access, and cloud computing. Important documents on shared servers or Google Documents for version control.
  • When the power flickers out, charged smart phones (like my iPhone) save the day.
  • Google Video chat and Skype allow us to conduct candidate interviews, client meetings and internal meetings without digging out our cars.
  • Working very early (I prefer 5-7AM) and late (after bedtime) to spend the daytime hours building snowmen, sledding and enjoying an historic winter.

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