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Over the past decade, the concept of work/life balance has continued to increase in importance. Along with the widespread proliferation of the internet, telecommuting has become incredibly easy thanks to laptop computers, smart phones, and that glorious, glorious Wi-Fi.
However, when your workers ask for flex time, or the ability to work from home, without a medical or family reason, it can often put you in an uncomfortable position. Yes, it's very possible. Yes, we have the technology. Sure, the work can get done from an employee's home. But some employees just don't perform as well, or might take short cuts, when not in the office. Another potential problem is appearance of favoritism and employee jealousy, which can happen even when other employees need ADA accommodations for ultra personal reasons.
Fortunately, if you have a clear policy that is based in logic, denying flex time or other fringe benefits can serve as motivation rather than a morale killer.
Crushing Spirits Into High Productivity
If an employee is requesting flex time or some other fringe perk that they may or may not be eligible for, unless you're contractual required to provide it, sometimes saying no is the right move. However, if the employee is eligible for the perk but you don't think it is a good idea to provide it, you need to be able to provide the employee with objective criteria they can meet in order to qualify.
For example, setting performance objectives that must be met before being allowed to work from home can motivate an employee to improve their performance. Additionally, if you're concerned about the employee's performance while working from home, you can set performance objectives for time spent working from home. But making these policies after the request has been submitted might create some disgruntled feelings.
Exercising caution when denying employee requests is advisable as discrimination claims can often be premised upon unfair, or unequal, treatment. Having, and actually using and fairly enforcing, objective, clearly written, policies can protect against unfounded discrimination claims.
Avoiding Jealousy and Favoritism Claims
Since flex time is usually up to the discretion of management, being able to point to clear policies, such as not allowing public-facing employees to work from home, or requiring an employee meet a certain seniority level before qualifying, can make denying an improper flex time request easy. This later example, again, provides a motivator for your employee to get to that level of seniority to qualify for the benefit. Making flex time an earned perk can help alleviate hurt feelings from other co-workers, as well as motivate through competition.
Another way to avoid claims of favoritism is to apply the basic "smell test" to any decision to grant an employee any employment perk. If you would feel awkward telling others on your team about the decision, or if the team would think the decision "stinks," then it might not be the right decision.