Energy Efficiency

Teleworking toward a happy, loyal workforce

More than ever, employees are craving flexibility and balance in the workplace, especially the younger generation. Telework is one option employers can use to provide that flexibility and make employees more likely to stick around.

Flexible work schedules mean a lot more than just being able to take the kids to soccer practice. It can mean avoiding a particularly long commute or taking a parent to a doctor's appointment and having the ability to balance work and personal lives. It's important for employers to look at flexible work arrangements because they are a great recruiting and retention tool.

Replacing an employee takes a lot of time and money, and leads to productivity loss. It puts a strain on your remaining staff. Policies that create flexibility can help prevent losing an employee who needs a more flexible lifestyle. It's all about retention — the end goal for telework or any flexible work schedule is a happy workforce that wants to be with you for a long time.

Telework can also help increase productivity. Many employees can get a lot more work done from home, without interruptions.

However, on the flip side of that, there's still some stigma surrounding telework. Some managers still think, "If I can't see you, how do I know you're working?" As a result, getting buy-in from senior management just to offer a telework option can be a challenge. It's all in your company culture — managers need to know it's not so much about where your employees work but that they're completing tasks and meeting goals.

That being said, having clear expectations is the most important piece of successful telework policies. Managers need to work with the employees who plan to telework and set expectations for the new arrangement. For example, teleworking employees may be required to be online and available during normal set working hours. It may be expected for an employee to come in on his or her scheduled telework day for a meeting. Some managers may want a status update at the end of the telework day. Setting those clear expectations and parameters at the onset will help make the telework arrangement successful.

Telework by its very nature can be tailored to meet whatever needs are present — but it's not for everybody. For a utility, the first step when considering implementing a telework policy is to examine all the positions within the utility and figure out which positions would allow for teleworking. Lineworkers, for example, can't telework — there's just no way around that. But other options may be available, such as flexible work hours, to lend that flexibility to other positions.

Utilities also need to look at the culture of their organizations. Is management supportive and on board? Does the policy need to be limited? Some utilities may be able to have fully remote employees; some may not.

Considering a telework policy but don't know where to start? The American Public Power Association's HR listserv is a place to get tips from your peers and even see sample policies. To find out more, send an email request to [email protected] to join.