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What is Flexwork?

Flexwork is a holistic suite of workplace policies, allowing commuters to avoid travel during peak commute hours.

 

Flexwork policies include:

  • Telework/Remote Work: allows employees to skip a commute trip and work remotely, either from home or another location.
  • Flexible Scheduling: shift commute trips out of peak commuting hours (aka rush hour) to avoid congestion on roads or transit.
  • Compressed Work Week: allows an employee to work a traditional 35-40 hour workweek in less than the traditional number of workdays.
  • Satellite Office: establishes a work location that is physically separate from an employer’s main office, shortening or simplifying commute trips for a nearby concentration of employees.

 

Flexwork Benefits

 

Implementing Flexwork can result in a number of benefits including:

 

  • Employee recruitment, retention and work/life balance
  • Workplace productivity
  • Environmental impact
  • Cost savings for business and commuters
  • Reduce the need for office space
  • Schedule flexibility

Sample Resources for Employers

 

For employers looking to formalize or improve their telework policies, practices, and agreements, King County Metro and the Washington State Department of Transportation have generously provided sample documents for your inspiration!

 

How We Can Help

Free Consulting Services

We can help your business craft customized Flexwork solutions. We offer free consulting services to any business in Seattle. Services include but are not limited to employee surveys, policy crafting, implementation, management tools and educational seminars.

Talk to Nick Abel
Senior Transportation Specialist

FAQs

What is flexwork?
Flexwork is a holistic suite of workplace policies that allow commuters to avoid travel during peak hours. Flexwork policies include:

  • Telework/Remote Work: allows employees to skip a commute trip and work remotely.
  • Flexible Scheduling: shifts employee start and end times outside of peak commuting hours to avoid congested periods.
  • Compressed Work Week: allows an employee to work a traditional 35-40 hour workweek in less than the traditional number of workdays, reducing one or more days of commuting.
  • Satellite Office: establishes a work location that is physically separate from an employer’s main office, shortening or simplifying commute trips for a nearby concentration of employees.
What are the key components of a good telework policy?
A strong telework policy usually includes some or all of the following elements:

  • A statement of purpose (why is the company allowing employees to telework)
  • Clear definitions of:
    • Telework
    • Employee
    • Eligibility
    • Official worksite/duty station
    • Alternative worksite/location
  • Emphasis on telework as an arrangement established to facilitate the accomplishment of work
  • What positions are eligible for telework
  • When is telework allowed, how often, and whether it is ad hoc or scheduled; clarify whether employees may telework full time, and any impacts that could have on pay or travel opportunities
  • Determine core hours for when employees are expected to be available for work (for example: 10am-2pm)
  • How employees can opt-in to teleworking and the approval process
  • Process for addressing issues with telework, including removing the privilege or appealing the manager’s decision to deny a telework request
  • Outline what resources or tools your company will provide to employees, if any
  • Outline requirements about appropriate use of company-provided equipment such as cell phones and laptops
  • Describe what constitutes a suitable telework environment, particularly if your company does not want to encourage working while commuting, at coffee shops, or while providing care for dependents
  • Describe employee responsibilities for being present during core hours, being available to coworkers, record keeping, reporting, security, ensuring their telework arrangement does not negatively impact coworkers, and maintaining productivity
  • Describe any available telework training for employees and supervisors, as well as how employees may access the training
  • A safety checklist to allow employees to certify that they are performing work in a safe environment
  • Company emergency policies (e.g., disasters, dismissal and closure procedures due to weather) and the expectations that will be imposed upon teleworking employees if such events occur
  • A telework agreement for employees and their supervisors to sign
How do I manage employee productivity when staff are working remotely? How do I know employees are really working?
We recommend shifting the focus from how much work an employee appears to be doing, to how much they are actually accomplishing, allowing supervisors to manage projects rather than time spent. By focusing on the work product instead of hours spent at their desk or on the phone, many supervisors find they are better able to communicate clear expectations around productivity and deliverables to their employees, often improving both job satisfaction and productivity. Measuring deliverables makes it easy for supervisors to monitor employee productivity.
What equipment is required for telework? When employees work from home, is the business responsible for paying their work expenses?
This decision is up to the business to determine, based on their desire to provide for their employees, security requirements, and budget constraints. For example, employees may need secure access to their company’s server, may have strict rules separating work and personal use, or security concerns related to employees performing work on computers that don’t have built-in monitoring or admin controls. In most cases, employers choose to provide at least computers to employees. Employers may also offer connection stipends for Internet, compensation for the use of personal cell phones for work or employer-provided phones, or a small subsidy for setting up an ergonomic home office.
Does an employee who uses a portion of their home for business qualify for any Federal Tax deductions?
As of 2020, most employees cannot deduct any expenses related to their home office. Self-Employed individuals, however, may be able to do so.
What are the key characteristics of a good telework culture?
A strong telework culture usually includes some or all of the following elements:

  • Include dial-in and video-in options to all meetings, even when many employees are in the office
  • Encourage the use of video calls for all employees
  • Consider using an instant messaging platform to facilitate quick questions and impromptu discussions outside of email. There are many platforms that are free to set up for your business. Clarify whether this platform is considered “private” for employees.
  • Provide training and mentoring employees about the various programs, platforms, VPNs, and other tools to be used while working remotely 
  • Consistent supervisor training across all departments so that managers are well equipped to project manage remotely, avoid micromanagement, and evaluate remote and office employees in the same way
  • Respect for the core work hours, both in terms of being present for them and not scheduling critical meetings outside of them
What is the purpose of core work hours?
Setting core work hours (example: 10am – 2pm) allows employees to flex their start times earlier or later, while still guaranteeing that all staff are available for customers, meetings and other work during core business hours. This allows employees to avoid rush hour commutes as well as better manage childcare and other responsibilities without sacrificing team time.
When should employees telework, and how frequently?
In Seattle, the highest commuter traffic volumes occur on Wednesday, Tuesday and Thursday, making those ideal days for telework. If your company culture includes more brainstorming or creative meetings on a certain day, it may be ideal to schedule work from home other days to facilitate deep work.
Do I have to manage a teleworker differently than my in-office staff?
Performance standards for teleworking employees must be the same as performance standards for non-teleworking employees, holding employees accountable for the results they produce.
How can I determine which roles are suitable for telework?
When deciding what positions should be eligible for telework, consider the job duties associated with the role. Suitable tasks may include:

  • Writing and editing, social media or website management
  • Data entry or accounting
  • Preparing presentations or reports
  • Telephoning or conference calling
  • Design and drafting
  • Programming
  • Research or data analysis

Note that some positions may be well suited to teleworking sometimes, but require staff to be in the office or field other days. Be creative when approaching how and where employees perform work.

How can I tell if an employee is a good candidate for telework?
The ideal teleworker is self-motivated, well organized and can work independently with minimal supervision. This employee will have a high degree of job skill and knowledge, strong time management skills, and they don’t mind working alone. Remember that telework is not desirable for every employee!
Are there union issues around telework?
Many collective bargaining agreements do outline requirements and procedures related to telework. Ideally, an employer’s telework policy will align with these requirements so that supervisors can remain in compliance by following the policy.
How does a manager ensure the alternate work location for a teleworker is safe, and how is a claim for injury handled?
It is the employee’s responsibility to maintain a clean, safe and productive home office environment. Supervisors may ask the employee to complete a safety checklist to self-certify that their chosen remote worksite meets basic safety standards. Employers are responsible for any injury that occurs while the employee is working solely for the benefit of their employer, and must still be prepared to provide worker’s compensation. While follow-up on a claim is more nuanced when employees are working from home, the employer responsibility likely remains unless the employee is not performing work for the company at the time of injury.
How do we manage ergonomic issues for employees?
Some employers chose to provide an ergonomic assessment for employees’ home offices, or to offer a subsidy for employees to purchase and adjust their own home equipment. Employers may also provide ergonomic training resources to employees who work from home to better prepare them to evaluate their own workspace.
Can telework help an employee with child or other dependent care needs? Does having a dependent in the home automatically disqualify an employee from being eligible for telework?
Telework is not a substitute for childcare, though it can still be a valuable tool for employees with caregiving responsibilities. Time saved by skipping the commute can be spent with family members or meeting care obligations, and the flexibility of being closer to home may help caregivers take less time off for doctor’s visits, school programs, or other obligations. 15 or 30 minute breaks can also be used productively to meet the employee’s family needs. While a teenager or elderly relative may independently pursue their own activities while at home, we recommend that employees arrange childcare or an alternate caregiver for smaller children during the core hours of their telework day.
What if teleworking does not work?
If a teleworker’s quality of work or productivity declines, it should be addressed the same as any other performance issue. Review the telework agreement and give your employees a chance to improve. Your telework agreement should include a clause stating that either the manager or the employee can cancel the telework agreement for operational or performance issues.
Is telework a benefit or an entitlement?

Telework is a benefit that an employer may choose to offer eligible employees- it is not a right.

Can I require my employees to telework?
Employers may choose to make some or all positions telework only.
Does Washington State or the City of Seattle offer any incentives for businesses that allow telework?
Not at this time.

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