Out of the Building, Seat at the Table

Any (reasonable) HR Professional will tell you that offering flexibility in the workplace is rapidly becoming as much a business imperative as paying your employees every two weeks. If you aren’t keeping up with today’s trends in flexibility, you are a laggard. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll fix it.

More and more companies are offering everything from traditional telecommuting arrangements to the more dynamic flextime and job-sharing arrangements and more and more employees are taking advantage of them. But I cannot for the life of me find any information whatsoever on what percentage of HR professionals – I’m talking Generalists here – take advantage of them. Do you know why? I’m guessing it’s because HR Generalists don’t use them. That’s right. Once again, “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.”

It’s late, I’m tired, and the last thing I really want to do right now is pull together the finishing touches on what is already a pretty lame blog post. So I’m going to just throw a couple of questions out there to fuel the fire. And maybe some of you will add the insight I’m having trouble providing.

1)      Can HR Generalists operate effectively remotely?

2)      Do the hours of the broader workforce dictate the hours of the HR professional?

3)      Does an HR professional need to be in the building “to get a seat at the table?” (sorry…I tried and tied, but just couldn’t resist).

Image Credit: Darwin Bell (via Compfight)


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  • http://twitter.com/sbrownehr Steve Browne

    I think it’s difficult for HR folks to be “effective” if they’re not physically visible. People like to see each other in person. Now, there’s Skype and other things that make this possible as well as seeing someone in the same room. The reality of physically interacting with others has power and is needed to be “seen” as available to even be considered to be strategic.

  • http://www.swaydigitalmarketing.com Christine Seib

    That’s the same logic used to deny flexibility to people who aren’t HR generalists – and to entire companies. That argument that we need face to face time shouldn’t dictate that people are in the office every day.

  • Michelle Todzy, SPHR

    I would assert that many HR professionals with multi-location responsibility, like myself, already work remotely. Half of the employees I support are located in different cities/states and we communicate mostly via email and telephone supported with 3-4 visits to the facilities each year. It’s that arrangement that allows me to work from home periodically too. My local folks will have the same access to me those days that their peers in the other facilities have most other days.

    One of our VP’s actually works from another facility as well so I think you can also have an executive role from a distance if the expectations are clear up front as to deliverables.

    If an organization wants to move to a more flexible, results-focused culture shouldn’t HR be the role model for that culture shift?

  • Rachael

    There are several issues here for me (some of which are entirely personal). I generally dont’ work well from home because I get lonely. I used not to work flexible hours because I had too much to do.

    Now, I work from home when I need to concentrate on something and I do work flexible hours (because I am required on late night and early conference calls with the US). I do this (a) because I will be given a seat at the table by what I achieve and not for the hours I stand behind my desk and (b) I believe that if you are going to talk about flexible practices a lot of people are going to look at what the HRBP is doing and make their own decisions about whether you are serious or not…

  • Buzz Rooney

    Ditto. I am a voice on the phone or signature on an email to 90% of our workforce anyway so I do just fine remotely.

    However, it does cause some tension for the remaining 10% who think I am slacking because they can’t “see” me working. We are working through that, especially as I shift duties to begin to travel more for training/development projects.

    I agree it is a culture issue. When there is trust and accountability and cohesiveness, it can and does work.