Will the Virtual Office Flexible Working Lifestyle Soon Become Law? San Francisco Is Debating It

Posted on 01/11/2018

Although recent studies have found that working from a virtual office can make employees happier, healthier, and more productive, lawmakers and industry policy shapers have by and large kept silent on the issue. However, the advent of the virtual office has so revolutionized the world of work that local policymakers in San Francisco, California recently considered a groundbreaking new bill that could play a large part in bringing virtual office arrangements into the mainstream.

The San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance: What You Need to Know

Under the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, employees who have children or are designated guardians or caretakers would be given the legal right to request that employers implement scheduling and work accommodations. This also means employees who care for elderly relatives or ill spouses would be able to request a more flexible employment arrangement. Eligible employees would have the legal right to ask employers for a different starting time, a part-time schedule, a partial year schedule, a telecommuting arrangement, or a more consistent schedule. The ordinance creates a formal request process for employees, but does not apply to businesses with fewer than twenty staff members.

Employers' Obligations Under the New Law

The new law mandates that upon receiving an employee request for a flexible schedule or telecommuting arrangement, the employer is legally obligated to give serious consideration to the request. The employer must participate in a meeting with the employee to discuss the request within twenty-one days of receiving it. Upon making a decision, the employer must provide the employee with a written response. If the employer declines the request, that employer is legally obligated to demonstrate that approving the request would cause undue hardship to the business. Business owners are obligated to inform their employees about the ordinance as soon as it goes into effect. Employers who fail to comply with the new law could be fined up to fifty dollars per day that they are in violation for every employee whose request was not treated properly.

Future Implications for Industry and the Local Economy

IBM recently surveyed 42,000 employees in 79 countries, and found that among employees who considered leaving the company, a lack of work-life balance was the second most popular reason for wanting to leave. After instituting a flex time policy, Eli Lilly found that employee performance remained the same, yet employee satisfaction increased. A study by the Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom discovered that remote workers and workers with flexible schedules worked harder and more efficiently than those without, and also reported lower levels of stress and higher levels of job satisfaction. These findings are typical of most studies on the subjects of remote work and flextime. These results also hold implications for industry and the San Francisco economy. The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance could likely increase job satisfaction, reduce workplace stress, and result in gains in job performance. As researchers continue to prove the benefits of virtual offices and flexible work arrangements, more and more companies and governments will look to institute flexwork policies like the one being implemented in San Francisco. The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2014.
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