Productivity software

Flex-Time: Want a Four-Day Workweek? IT is Key

Bringing IT to the Table Early

Brad Johnson, vice president at consultancy SystemExperts in Westerly, R.I., says Utah and Hawaii should be commended for bringing IT to the table early to hash out issues that might otherwise have had disastrous results down the road.

"Most organizations don't think these flex plans or four-day workweeks the whole way through. There's no doubt that a change in work hours can mean additional costs for an organization—particularly for an environment that hasn't offered remote access before," Johnson says.

He points to help desk support as an example. "There is a big jump between supporting most of your workforce in-house to supporting a large percentage remotely," he says.

It doesn't work for some workers Mark Gibbs, CEO of consultancy Gibbs Universal, recommends that organizations start their alternate work-hour projects by figuring out who in the organization would be able to take advantage of it. As the Hawaiian government has discovered, some users might not be able to conduct their jobs remotely because of regulatory or corporate compliance constraints.

But it's not just regulatory constraints that limit who can take advantage of such a program—it's also legacy applications that can't easily be accessed remotely. "They become apparent pretty quickly," Johnson says. He adds that there is a cost to making those applications available that has to be considered.

Organizations must decide how they're going to allow users to safely access data on the network—by an employee's home PC, an organization laptop or a virtual desktop. Johnson says all of these avenues require some level of IT support that is different than on-site support.

One snafu that some organizations might encounter is around infrastructure and licensing. Johnson says IT teams might need to add more firewall licenses or boost server capacity to accommodate increased concurrent remote access to the network—another hidden cost.

Gibbs advises using instrumentation such as dashboards to make sure that the objectives of your alternate work-schedule project are being met and that you're not negating the positives with unexpected costs. If you're focused on providing access for employees, make sure you monitor and measure all the resources they use, including cell phones, voice over IP, applications and laptops. If you're focused on providing customer service while your business is closed, then you need customer experience tracking tools to guarantee you're meeting their needs.

Fletcher agrees and has deployed monitoring tools that help him record customer usage on the day off as well as application and network performance. That way, he can report back to state executives on the customer experience and the effectiveness of the project.

Sandra Gittlen is a freelance technology editor near Boston. Former events editor and writer at Network World, she developed and hosted the magazine's technology road shows. She is also the former managing editor of Network World's popular networking site, Fusion. She has won several industry awards for her reporting, including the American Society of Business Publication Editors' prestigious Gold Award. She can be reached at sgittlen@verizon.net.

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