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Want a four-day workweek? IT is key

Want a four-day workweek? IT is key

Floundering economy makes it attractive, but hidden problems could arise

Hawaii's government, the state's largest employer, says telecommuting is a necessary element of its project to help reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu's downtown area during peak hours, provide employees with a better work/life balance, and serve as a recruitment and retention tool, according to Marie Laderta, director of Hawaii's Department of Human Resources Development.

State officials are working closely with IT to make sure that employees who have been approved for telework can securely access file systems as well as do remote transaction processing. However, the state has already hit a snag because some transaction processing requires the use of paper files. Laderta says removal of paper documents from the office raises privacy concerns and must be closely examined before the pilot is expanded. "For now, we are limiting the remote transaction processing to systems administration and monitoring, small-scale systems development, and processing that does not require access to paper files," Laderta says.

Brad Johnson, vice president at consultancy SystemExperts, 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.

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Tags work/life balance

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