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Thinking Outside the Box: Can Unusual Pro-Employee Policies Benefit the Workplace? By Roger L. Pettit

Posted by Attorney Roger L. Pettit in Employer-Employee Relationship, Human Resources, Business Management / Comments

I recently received a blog article entitled “Counter Intuitive Company Policies That Actually Work”.   Please click on the following link to read the article:  http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/20-counterintuitive-company-policies-that-actually-work/.   In this and future posts, I intend to address a number of the twenty (20) unusual workplace policies from my perspective.  I welcome your comments, pro and con, with respect to the viability of the policies.

The first “Counter Intuitive” policy is the “No Vacation” policy.  The company which has adopted this policy, Hubspot, defends the plan based upon two (2) factors.  The first factor is that so long as the employee gets his or her work accomplished, that the employees may “relax as much as they want”.  The company also points out that the “No Vacation” policy means that employees will not all want to take off at the same which may leave staffing problems.

While this policy may work for the Hubspot Company, it certainly would be inapplicable in manufacturing and, I expect companies with quick production turn-around times.  From a human resource perspective, the observation those employees faced with the ability to take as much time as they wished, in fact increases productivity is hard to imagine without supporting data.  Scheduling an oversight of employee time under such a scenario would be a nightmare.  It would be very difficult to properly manage overtime under these circumstances and indeed it would be very difficult to keep proper work time records to satisfy the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Such a laissez-faire attitude towards work – and presumably attendance – would make it very difficult to give employees additional work that may have different timelines.  Finally, it is my experience that employers manage vacation time thru traditional policies very well.  Requiring employees to give notice of their vacation, retaining management’s right to deny vacation during certain busy times of the year, and to deny vacation if it would leave the workplace short staffed, are all effective tools to make sure that the office is not short staffed.

In short, I do not think the “No Vacation” policy, which I would re-label the “Work When You Want To” policy, is something that will become a viable alternative to traditional employee time management and paid time off policies.

The second “Counter Intuitive” policy is the “Telecommuting”. Telecommuting itself is not new.  The article that encourages it however, does not mention the problems in managing a telecommuting workforce.  When employees routinely telecommute for a part or all of their work days or work weeks, the following issues must, at a minimum, be addressed:

a.         Creation of additional worksites – each home, or at least a portion of the home, belonging to a telecommuter will be considered an extension of the workplace.  As such, an employee injured while working at home may be covered under the firm’s Workers Compensation Policy and, if the workplace violated OSHA standards or guidelines for an office environment, the company may be exposed to citations and penalties.

b.         Control of time – telecommuting workers may be “on the clock” under the Fair Labor Standards Act for a much greater period of time in a day than is necessary.  Employers, who expect their employees to work when they are home, need to establish set hours for that activity or run the risk of large overtime accumulation during a work week.  In addition, an employee who does some work at home before going to the office may obligate the employer to pay for time commuting between workplaces.

c.         Oversight – employees who work from home are not at the office.  Call me old fashioned, but unless the employee’s job responsibilities are capable of precise measurement (15 calls an hour for example) there is no true way to gauge the effectiveness of the employee’s work – only its final product.  It is a rare employee that, when working free of the atmosphere of the workplace, and facing all of the distractions of a home environment, can work more efficiently than in a properly designed office.

Am I too old fashioned?  Am I too cynical?  I invite your comments in support of or contrary to my opinions about the first 2 of this long list of “Counter-Intuitive” company policies.  In a later blog I will address a few of the other suggestions.


Attorney Roger L. Pettit
Attorney Roger L. Pettit

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