I can feel the cynical pushback from some of you, but bear with me. The starting point for any policy would have to be to include guidelines for “who” and “when” employees would qualify for FWA. Examples of exclusions that I can think of would be: office receptionists, those whose work is performed at the clients’/customers’ place of business, and those who are on teams that continually collaborate, to name a few.
Probably one of the challenges of adopting an FWA would be allowing some employees to have this perk, while denying it to others. Obviously, whatever you do has to be a win-win. I know a young market research professional who started at her employer’s Detroit headquarters, but after a year asked if she could work remotely from Colorado. Today, she works remotely from the East Coast.
At my former firm, Tailored Work Arrangements (TWA) have been ragingly successful for years — and the firm has been able to retain very talented professionals. My all-time favorite TWA is an amazing story. A young tax partner and her husband had adopted an infant daughter and, as time went by, she asked if she could reduce her work hours to spend more time with her daughter. The firm gladly agreed. Then she asked if she could work part-time, and the firm gladly agreed. She was a very valuable professional in a highly specialized area of tax. Sadly for us, she eventually decided to resign from the partnership and stay home full-time. A couple of firm partners continued to stay in touch with her, and even had her perform some contract work in her unique specialty area. As her daughter grew up and went to college, she was excited to rejoin the firm as a non-partner. After several years, she was asked if she would like to become a partner again, and she said yes. She went through the partner selection process, and once again was offered a partnership. As a matter of fact, she’s the only person, in the 90-year history of the firm, to have been promoted to partner twice.
In this competitive world, I happen to agree with Bill Gates; I believe companies that figure out ways to accommodate employees’ special needs will be the winners in the long run.