Emory Report
July 21, 2008
Volume 60, Number 35

‘Great place to work’
Emory has been recognized in an online survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the 2008 “Great Colleges to Work For.” Find out why in the next issue of Emory Report on Aug. 4.


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July 21, 2008
Alternatives to working 9 to 5

By leslie king

Gas prices, traffic and parking are the critical factors pushing Emory’s increased emphasis on alternative work arrangements (AWA).

Human Resources is developing a set of guidelines that managers and staff can use to encourage AWAs in appropriate circumstances, says Human Resources Vice President Peter Barnes, adding that a manager’s support makes for successful implementation.

In the meantime, “We really want to encourage managers, in the view of the economy, the gas prices, the commuting difficulties, to look at AWA,” he says.

AWA is part of the University’s strategic Work-Life Initiative. Arrangements include flex times and compressed workweeks — those are the most popular, says Barnes — and telecommuting.

Experiences in different University departments are as flexible as the options.

“I love it. It really increases my productivity,” says Melissa Blackmon, in the School of Medicine’s environmental health and safety division, who works four 10-hour days with one off. “For me, the early time [in the morning] is good; I get a lot done. Then the calls die down in the afternoon and I get a lot more done.”
Her department will evaluate AWA when it ends its three-month trial in August.

Sharon Ashley, who works on the Grady campus of the School of Medicine, says it was her supervisor who suggested her department try AWA.

“It’s been good,” Ashley says. “Staff members enjoy their day off, especially to take care of personal matters that can’t be handled on the weekends.” These include child care and the illnesses of family members, issues mentioned by employees in other departments.

Emory School of Law this month rolled out an AWA program as a summer pilot. “We aim to provide temporary relief to our employees as they seek ways to reduce their rising transportation costs,” says Director of Administration Kevin Moody.

The infrastructure technology division of University Technology Services uses AWA year-round and, since its inception, “morale has improved,” says John Ellis, director of infrastructure technology services.
Parking issues and travel time to the office originally drove AWA, but “now the need for it is a little greater,”
Ellis says, citing gas prices and anticipated construction that will take out parking areas.

Division managers use AWA to counter another pressure: “We’re competing in a tight market for highly technical positions… and telecommuting is one of the benefits they expect,” Ellis says.

From a manager’s perspective, a lot of discussion and planning goes into setting up the AWA and more updates are required on a daily basis, but AWAs are “definitely worth it,” Ellis says.

Senior graphic designer Rick Fiala works four days a week from his home in Athens. His contract calls for him to be in the office on Fridays and as required.

High-speed cable and a flat-rate any-time, any-amount phone line with call waiting make remote communication “work really beautifully,” he says.

“There is a certain energy you draw from having people around you,” he notes. “I’m used to being on my own.
But with phone, iChat, e-mail, I don’t feel that alone any more.”

For Lisa Parker, financial aid adviser at Candler School of Theology, the advantages of her compressed workweek “are endless. It helps me to be a better employee because I feel like I have the options to do things during the day. I’m out sick less often. Everything from personal appointments, to lunch with someone I would not normally get to visit, to sleeping in. It is the best of both worlds.”

Parker has been working four 10-hour days, with Wednesdays off, since 2003.

“Every position is different. My challenge was to show my supervisor how things could still flow if I could get the time off,” she says.

When it’s “all hands on deck,” she reverts to the five-day week.

Drawback? “Ten-hour days are not easy,” Parker says.

To learn more about AWA options and policies, visit www.hr.emory.edu/eu/worklife/worklifesupport/awa.html.