Work was once much simpler than it is now. Your home life happened at home, your work life happened at work, and your social life happened everywhere else. The boundaries were easier to define: work happened at set hours and at a work site, and when you left the workplace you left your work. All of us working in knowledge work occupations know that this has changed dramatically.
I'd be 10 years behind the times if I claimed that this was a new observation. But as we change our company culture and move towards more flexible work arrangements, what is a new observation for me is that the workforce that wants these arrangements is often its own impediment to change. I had to deal with a department this week that turned on one of its own, who was coming back from maternity leave on a flexible schedule to accommodate child care. The sniping about "full-time pay for part-time work" when the person was delivering their work assignments well and on time was troubling. It really pointed out while alternative work arrangements are desirable, achievable, and (I think) inevitable they open up a whole new realm of conflicts between those whose jobs permit it, those whose jobs won't, and those who would complain about anything given the chance.
So, while I don't have a solution, I do have a challenge for each of you. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Can my job be done outside the company facilities without extra expense? If so, where would I do that work if I had my choice?
2. If I can work at home, can I get quiet time to do quality work, or will I have crying babies and talkative neighbors and demanding spouses to deal with? In other words, is my "alternative" work place any better than my current work space?
3. If a co-worker can work from home, but I can't, will I mind? Will I be reasonable and charitable when I need something from someone that I have to IM or email or call rather than roll my chair back and ask?
4. If my co-worker works from home half days and accomplishes their work from 8 p.m. to midnight, rather than 12 - 4 p.m., is this going to bother me?
5. If someone works for me and they're not working right outside my office, is my first instinct going to be that they're not working?
For alternative work schedules to become a reality we're all going to have step back and ask ourselves how we work with one another as cohesive teams and respected colleagues when we're not all in the same space at the same time. Think about these issues, and I welcome your comments. Remember, change your mind and change our world.