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Workplace Flexibility Could be Key to Corporate Success - 2002-05-15

Changes in technology, economics and labor force demographics have led to changes in the way work is done. In their new book, The End of Work as We Know It, authors Nadine Mockler and Laurie Young argue that flexible work options are key to corporate success.

The authors want U.S. corporations to manage their employees more creatively.

Why must everybody work together in the same office, they ask. Why can't workers be judged by their output, rather than by when or where they work?

Down with one person, one full-time job. Up with creative job-sharing and telecommuting.

New technology enables us to work any place at any time, Nadine Mockler said. Why, then, she asked, are most employers still adhering to the work style that originated in the industrial revolution?

"It really comes down to fear of the unknown. When someone is not sitting in front of you at a desk, it is very hard to judge what their productivity is. But we say people who work a flexible arrangement are so grateful that their productivity goes up," Ms. Mockler said.

Instead of laying off workers in difficult economic times, Laurie Young tells companies, ask employees if they are willing to cut back their hours to hold onto their jobs.

"Instead of always trying to plug the job into a full time position, start from the other side and say: 'What do I really need here? What really is the nature of this job?' Once you realize you can customize the job based on what you need, you will have many more options," Ms. Young said.

Take the corporation that was looking for a new chief financial officer, for example. After evaluating the capabilities the job required, Nadine Mockler said, the firm hired two very different people to share the job.

"One is the analytical end, the statistician. The other person is the policy setter, the strategic planner, the people manager. Marry those two people together in a job share, and you get skills out of two people that you could never get out of one person," Ms. Mockler said.

Many job descriptions require the employee to perform both high-skilled and low-skilled tasks. Laurie Young said it is inefficient to hire the same person to do both.

"Why not look at it strategically and pay the higher level person at the higher rate to do the higher level task and the reverse for the lower level task. All we are doing is getting people to look outside their narrow boundary of the 40-hour work week," Ms. Young said.

Strategic staffing, authors Laurie Young and Nadine Mochler say, is good for workers and good for business too.