Brookelyn has to set up a doctors appointment for her son. And she needs to Skype her soldier husband before a 5 p.m. deadline. Unfortunately, Brookelyn is at work and the company has a clear policy against using company equipment to conduct personal business during work hours.
An obvious solution is for Brookelyn to ask permission from her manager to take time to get the activities done. A longer-term solution is for management to look at the companys policy on the personal use of company property and time. A policy can be based on the nature of the work. There are some client-oriented jobs where it would be difficult to have personal time during work hours. If there were a personal emergency, substitutes should be available if possible.
Many companies offer policies that allow limited personal use of company computers and phones as long as the privilege is not overused or used to run other businesses or access inappropriate sites. These companies find that occasional personal use can help employees deal with emergencies from home and reduce stress.
The bottom line with personal use is that company business is performed effectively.
The mixing of personal business with company business also is part of the philosophy of flexible work scheduling. Flexibility can help relieve considerable stress that personal lives can impose on work lives.
Brookelyn needed time to make her sons appointment for a doctors visit that will determine whether he needs surgery. Her sons severe back pain has caused significant hardship in the family since he fell on the ice. Her husband will be off on a military mission for a long period, and she will not be able to see him. He is expected to head out at 5 p.m. her time, and the only time that he was available was in the afternoon, during her work hours.
Flexible work scheduling can be done in a variety of ways that can help maintain productivity while keeping the personal life together.
Telecommuting is a popular method. For example, this column was written at home and emailed to the Idaho Statesman.
Flextime allows employees to come to work early to avoid traffic and then leave early while maintaining the regular eight-hour day.
Compressed work weeks involve having four- or three-day weeks in which employees work more than the standard eight hours a day.
Moving a full-time job into two part-time jobs can help some individuals who have child care, health or other commitments that make full-time work difficult.
Variable-year employment involves changing work hours over the month or year, depending on job demands. Some individuals might like lighter loads in the summer or midwinter to take time off for vacations. A version of this is part-year employment, which is also called purchased leave. For example, an employee can work 48 weeks but have those weeks salary spread across 52 weeks. This example would be called 48/52.
A strict policy against personal use of company equipment and time may be detrimental to the company if it is taken to the extreme. Personal life can often affect work life. A more generous personal-use policy and flexible work scheduling can produce a more productive employee who has reduced stress.
Gundars Kaupins, Professor of management, Boise State College of Business and Economics. firstname.lastname@example.org