Money

Workplaces adapt to nature of work

SHARON ASCHAIEK, SPECIAL TO 24 HOURS

A greater focus by more companies on improving their operations is creating more flextime opportunities for workers across Canada.

The objective to run more efficiently so as to boost business was behind a recent shift at Telus, which introduced an innovative new initiative to allow its employees to make the best use of their time.

"We had to get our team members to understand that the nature of work had changed, but the workplace hadn't. Now, they are able to work when and where they are most effective," says Mark Lang, architect of the Telus Flexible Work Styles program.

A former Capital One Financial Corporation executive who also implemented a flextime work arrangement at that company, Lang saw the need to update working styles at Telus as soon as he started working there four years ago.

"My first day on the job, I was greeted with an office, a desktop computer, a BlackBerry, a cellphone, a landline phone and a laptop. I didn't want the office, because I wasn't going to be there often. All I needed was the laptop and BlackBerry. I took a look around the organization to see whether I was the only one who was mobile, but I wasn't -- it was pervasive," Lang says. "People were working from home once in a while, or coming into work and not sitting in their chairs, but no one was talking about it."

In researching the best ways to help Telus workers maximize their time, Lang discovered that about 65% of employees in most workplaces are mobile -- they telework from time to time, but spend most of their time at the office, although in different spaces in the company, such as conference rooms, other people's offices, the cafeteria, and so on.

The Flexible Work Styles program Lang devised makes more efficient use of Telus' office space so that there are now more collaborative work environments, providing the company with the potential to reduce its workplace real estate by 30%.

Not only is the program more responsive to the way Telus employees work on site, it also makes it easier for them to work from home, when that is the best option.

Launched in 2007, the program is now being used by about 20,000 of Telus' 32,000 employees, and about 16,500 employees work remotely about one day a week.