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Last month, Michael Richman, owner of Academy Awning in Montebello, California, waded gingerly into the modern world of flexible work schedules, allowing a 22-year-old designer to come in at odd hours so he could go back to college full time.
The designer wasn’t available midday to answer questions from an East Coast customer and was hard-pressed to quickly address concerns raised by welders and other factory employees at the awning maker, which has 35 staffers. Richman also wondered how much the designer was really working when he was alone in the office.
“It was a disaster,” Richman says. “We have to have a somewhat regimented schedule. To have people coming and going at different times creates disruption.”
America’s new flexible workplace is going through some growing pains. Many businesses are allowing variable hours – as well as work-from-home options -- to attract employees in a tight labor market. But as adoption grows, a significant share are struggling to make it work. Consultants say that’s because many companies haven’t put technology and other tools in place to ensure seamless communication and collaboration with co-workers and customers.
“They haven’t integrated it as part of their overall strategy,” says Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Flex + Strategy Group, which helps companies adopt flexible work arrangements. “We’re asking people to work differently but not telling them how to do it.”
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