Telecommuting takes center stage

Superstorm Sandy has many companies rethinking flexible scheduling plans and allowing employees to work from home.

Superstorm Sandy knocked out power and transportation for millions of people this week. Still, many people kept right on working through the storm and its aftermath -- from home. Advocates of flexible work policies say Sandy could have lingering effects on the way we work.

Every time a disaster keeps a lot of people at home, more employers embrace telecommuting, says Chuck Wilsker, president of the nonprofit Telework Coalition. During the 2010 blizzard known as Snowmaggedon, he says the federal government saved millions of dollars in lost productivity because so many workers were set up to work at home: “It finally got the government to say, ‘Hey, this really works.’”

More companies are adopting flexible work policies, too -- not only to stay up and running in emergencies, but to attract employees. Kate Lister, who is president of Global Workplace Analytics, a research firm that promotes telework, says  "Companies are starting to pay attention to it and it's going to go beyond just the spikes from one event to the next."

Patrick Hasselbach approached his bosses about letting him telecommute from his home in Colorado’s Vail Valley. They went for it, but after a while, the charm wore off. “I really started to get cabin fever,” he says. “At times it was just not good for me personally to be that isolated from the people I was working with on a daily basis.”

Hasselbach eventually left that job for one in an office with co-workers, but he still works from home once a week so he can pick up his daughter from daycare.

 

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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