How to Make Workplace Flexibility Work

MIT’s Sloan School of Management crafted their perfect work-flex program with a process that engaged all employees … and some telepresence robots, too.


MIT’s Sloan School of Management introduced a remote work pilot program in late 2014 for all 35 employees of the Executive Education program. Over the years, various employees had inquired about flexibility and some had set up their own arrangements, but there had never been any official program in place. Associate Dean Peter Hirst, who heads the program, decided to take an approach of involving the entire department in figuring out what kinds of flexibility were needed and how it would be implemented.

Their first step was to identify the major pain points. By talking to employees they found that the grueling Boston commute was a major source of stress for almost everyone, and that cutting the number of commute days would be a huge benefit in terms of making employees happier and less stressed, and in cutting down the time they spend in traffic.

Working collaboratively, they tested a flex-time program where  everyone is encouraged to work remotely two to three days per week; Wednesdays are “work in the office if you physically can” days; and every meeting must be capable of being run virtually. To accomplish this they looked into a variety of technologies, ultimately adding iPad robots that allow remote workers to join meetings and have virtual conversations with co-workers.


For more on how MIT makes flexibility work, check out episode 1 of the OpenWork podcast.