WESTERN-UNION-SaraBaker

HR Director Sara Baker

“Flex programs” where employees can work from home can work well but do your homework before jumping in, according to Sara Baker, Human Resources director at Western Union, Latin America.

Baker was the featured speaker at WorldCity’s HR Connections event on March 11 and spoke about the pilot program that Western Union initiated at the company’s Miramar offices. The company started with 15 percent of it 180 employees.

WorldCity invites HR directors from among the 1,100 South Florida multinationals in its Who’s Here database to the events, which are held every other month. The University of Miami’s School of Business Administration sponsors the event series.

One of the most obvious benefits to companies can be real estate savings. With employees working from home, the company can save on office space requirements, Baker said. Each “cubical” costs Western Union about $10,000 per year, it estimates.

“A major goal of the program was to contain real estate costs,” Baker said. “Thanks to iFlex, we eliminated the need for additional space, at a potnetial seven-figure cost savings over five years.” There is also a “green” benefit: Fewer cars on the road.

 

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But it is important for the company to provide the employee the tools to be efficient and productive, so there are costs associated — both start-up and ongoing. Western Union provided laptop computers, a cell phone, broadband connection, printer and an ergonomic chair, for example.

One of the obvious benefits to employees is work-life balance. That had showed up as one of the most important goals of employees in a Western Union survey.

But one reason companies conduct pilots is to discern what doesn’t work or learn things that had not occurred to them. For example, employees must have a good system in place for reserving office space when they plan to be there, almost as if they are renting a hotel room. Additionally, it is important to make sure employees working off-site don’t feel isolated and left out.

Western Union carefully chose not only the employees but also the managers who participated in the pilot program, Baker said.

After the pilot program, Western Union surveyed employees.

The teleworkers:
— 89 percent experience the same level of collaboration and teamwork
— 89 percent have more work/life balance than before teleworking
— 100 percent save money
— 100 percent said that if the program is extended, they would participate again.

The managers:
— 82 percent said that their employees require the same level of supervision/monitoring
— 82 percent said that their employees demonstrate same level of collaboration and teamwork
— 100 percent would support the continuation of the telework program

What about the employees not in the program? Here’s what they said about teleworkers:
— 87 percent said they saw the same level of collaboration and teamwork
— 80 percent said the teleworkers were as available as they were prior to the program
— 93 percent said the teleworkers were as effective at driving results as prior to the program
— 83 percent would consider teleworking