Money & Business

In DC, Flexible Work Policies Help Associations Deal With Disruption

By / Aug 6, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

This week’s visit by dozens of African leaders is a reminder that in Washington, DC, major international events are a part of everyday life—and so are major traffic headaches. Associations in the region have embraced flexible work arrangements that keep business running as usual.

No matter whether it’s an unexpected derecho, a forecasted blizzard, or a planned political summit, associations in the Washington, DC, area are used to disruptions that can tie up the city. And they’ve become big proponents of flexible workplace policies.

When you’re located in DC … we have lots of disruptions, and they just become kind of the course of our business activity. So we do what we can to adjust and make the best of it.

This week, President Obama is hosting leaders from 40 African nations in the capital city for the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The event has created a traffic nightmare for daily commuters due to rolling street closures and motorcades running around town. The Office of Personnel Management even issued a warning to federal workers in the region about “significant disruptions” in their daily commutes and urged agencies to “consider the use of telework to keep the government operating normally while helping to minimize traffic congestion during the summit.”

A partial street closure on Wednesday made the headquarters of the American Pharmacists Association and the National Academy of Sciences—less than a block apart—accessible only on foot.

“We were open for business in terms of our employees coming and going,” said Elizabeth Keyes, APhA’s COO. “We had known about this for a couple of weeks and had been preparing our staff for the event. Basically what we did was follow the federal government with their telework policy for federal employees. We do have teleworking policies here at the association, so most of our employees worked from home or they elected to take the day as a vacation day.”

Having time to prepare also allowed APhA to communicate with members about the event, Keyes said.

“We let folks know how to get in touch in the event that they couldn’t reach the person that they were looking for, but our phones were covered and emails were checked, so there should have been no disruption of service for our members,” she said. “When you’re located in DC—and particularly where we’re located here among the monuments along the National Mall—we have lots of disruptions, and they just become kind of the course of our business activity. So we do what we can to adjust and make the best of it.”

Not every job at APhA is amenable to a flex schedule, though, said Keyes. In that case, clear communication with the employee is key.

“We’ve gone through and really looked at the different requirements from our staff and the requirements of the positions and are trying to be as flexible as possible with our employees,” she said. “A lot of it is just making sure that everyone [is] on the same page when it comes to expectations, workload, accomplishments, and getting the necessary work done at the end of the day.”

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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