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Employees in the alternative workplace are usually more productive than their traditional counterparts because they learn how to juggle priorities and minimize downtime by making phone calls, writing E-mail, clearing accounts, and performing numerous other routine tasks during the short pockets of time between other commitments throughout the day.But AW employees also are hampered by home and office designs.Otherwise, the AW initiative will be swamped by the sheer weight of these changes.But once the tide of change has begun to roll, AW employees can become strong advocates for extending the initiative throughout the organization.Developers are just beginning to include quiet, private office space and robust electronics in new homes. It is naïve to think that all one needs is a laptop and a cellular phone to be effective in the alternative workplace.Similarly, some new office buildings now include efficient “plug-and-play” drop-in space. Most people need coaching in the basic protocols of AW life.
Some managers argue that alternative workplaces hurt employee cohesion, while others say “just give ‘em a laptop and a cell phone, and they’ll be fine.” How can you sort through the myths and misconceptions to determine if the alternative workplace is right for your organization? Give careful thought to what you’ll do to ensure that remote employees still feel “in the loop.” Finally, see to it that managers are given guidance in monitoring remote employees, that employees know what results they’re expected to achieve, and that other stakeholders such as customers are fully informed. Employees ranging from the CEO to phone operators were part of an experiment that involved 100,000 people. To explore how far a vast organization could go in transforming the workplace by moving the work to the worker instead of the worker to work.
Yet leading organizations, such as those cited in this article, have shown that the AW concept applies to a large and growing segment of the workforce.
Ironically, in this new paradigm, the youngest are the most skilled, the oldest are the most awestruck, and the middle-aged are the most resistant to the changes in mind-set and rituals that the alternative workplace requires.
And relationships are enriched when managers use “face time” to focus on personal concerns rather than on business tasks. Army is rethinking the fundamentals of its traditional workplace through a high-tech “digitized battlefield” supported by a virtual infrastructure of knowledge, training, and logistics. Where, when, and what types of facilities and systems do they require? The alternative workplace also can give companies an edge in vying for—and keeping—talented, highly motivated employees. Chenault says that Am Ex’s AW initiatives help the company retain experienced employees who find the flexibility to work from home especially attractive.
The alternative workplace is really about computers. The impetus for adopting an AW program is rooted in corporate strategy and renewal more than it is in technology. Similarly, in other organizations, the alternative workplace is really about rethinking the basics: What is the real purpose of your workplace? Finally, AW programs are beginning to offer opportunities to capture government incentives and avoid costly sanctions.Could your organization benefit from the alternative workplace—where employees work off-site, primarily from home? Productivity gains are another compelling benefit: in a study of one well-managed office, conversation and other office norms distracted people from work an average 70 minutes in an eight-hour day. Army are saving a bundle in real-estate and infrastructure costs by having workers work from home—even with the added cost of providing these employees computers, software, tech support, etc.A company office is the most productive place to work. What few managers realize—but the alternative workplace highlights—is that the atmosphere and norms of the conventional office can distract people from their work.