Mason Employees Encouraged to ‘Test Drive’ Flexible Work Options

Posted: December 5, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

As budgetary challenges become a concern for many employers in the coming months or years, offering a flexible work schedule to employees is a low-cost and high-impact solution.

Some of the cost-effective benefits of flexible work include increased employee retention, sustainability, continuity of operations, productivity enhancement and increased job satisfaction among employees.

Currently, about 14,000 state employees in Virginia use some type of alternate schedule, and Gov. Timothy Kaine has called for 20 percent of eligible Virginia state employees to be teleworking by 2010.

Mason’s Office of Human Resources and Payroll (HR) recognizes the benefits of flexible work and has actually had a formal flexible work policy in place since 2002. However, this past summer the formal policy was updated and a new summer flex policy was created to promote the use of and allow employees to “test drive” a flexible work option.

“A flexible work policy is always in place, but we wanted to use a summer flex option to get employees talking about their flexible work options and encourage them to try it out,” says Janet Walker, work/life and communications coordinator in HR.

“The benefits of flexible work not only include keeping cars off the road, avoiding parking problems on campus and saving money, but it also helps supervisors keep their departments running effectively.”

Mason offers employees a flexible work policy that includes:

Compressed Work Schedule: An acceptable schedule, agreed to by the supervisor and employee, that allows completion of the traditional 40-hour workweek in fewer than five full workdays.

Flextime: An employee works an approved alternate work schedule that allows completion of the traditional 40-hour workweek in fewer or more than five full workdays. Flextime may include varying the time of day an employee works, the days of the week an employee works or both.

Job Sharing: Allows two staff members to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Each staff member shares a specific proportion of a full-time position. The two employees would be considered regular part-time employees.

Remote Work: A work arrangement whereby an employee spends most or all of their working hours outside of the traditional workplace, either at home or at an approved alternate work site.

Telework: An employee works at an approved alternate work site for an agreed period of time, with most of the workweek spent at a university work site.

Currently at Mason, there are 245 flexible work agreements in place among the classified staff and the administrative/professional faculty, with more women participating than men. The majority of these employees telework or have compressed schedules.

According to a recent survey of Mason employees who participated in the summer flex work policy, more than two-thirds (68.6 percent) reported that it was their first time using a flexible work option. Almost everyone who participated said that the flexibility helped them balance work and life responsibilities and feel more engaged in their role at Mason.

Supervisors at Mason also support their employees taking advantage of flexible work options. Nearly three-fourths (72.7 percent) reported that work/life balance was one of the reasons they approved their employees’ requests and that their staff was more productive as a result of flexible work. In fact, almost 90 percent of supervisors indicated that the benefits of employees utilizing flexible work outnumbered any challenges.

Although summer flex has ended, flexible work options are always available and include a 90-day trial period. As winter break approaches, Mason is instituting a short-term mini-flex opportunity for Monday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec. 23, to encourage flexibility in the workplace and allow eligible salaried employees to work from home.

For more information about flexible work options and mini-flex, see the HR flexible work web site or contact Janet Walker at 703-993-2604.

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