Many of us have been employed for many years at a salary that is expressed in dollars per hour, per week, or per month. We work at jobs to and from which we commute through congested traffic spending one or two hours a day just burning gas. We have to be at work “on time”, and stay until the end of a fixed-length business day, required to “deliver” from seven to eight hours a day.
Employers continue to operate with standard schedules and workplace arrangements as if they are fundamental and rational, effectively buying people’s “time”. But in reality we hire people for what they can do for us, not how much time they spend with us. We want their efforts, their creativity and their skills and experience, to get things done. Where and when they do it, may not matter that much, except that if you offer flexibility in these areas, it can make a big difference to them and to you!
Flexible work schedules and work locations are not new concepts, but they are still unavailable to employees in many companies. However the evidence is that their introduction can be a powerful low or no cost attractor and retainer of high talent people, and improve engagement, productivity and the bottom line.
“Flextime” is a well-known term that refers to a number of “flexible work schedule” programs.
- Some allow people to arrive and depart at varying times during the day within a band of time, (e.g. 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM) if they are present during “core hours”, (e.g. 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM), and work 7 or 8 hours a day, (or 35 to 40 hours a week).
- Some involve “Compressed Schedules” wherein people may choose to work four @ ten hour days per week, taking off Fridays or Mondays.
- Some involve variable lunch hours, (e.g. 30 to 120 minutes) as long as time is made up.
- Some involve “banking time”, wherein extra hours worked can be taken later as paid time off.
“Telework” or “Telecommuting” programs allow people to work somewhere other than in the office, typically by accessing office systems remotely, (usually from home).
The person may work remotely a couple of days a week or on a full time basis. The cost and time savings to the employee can be huge.
Demonstrated benefits of flexible arrangements for employers include;
- better ability to attract and retain talent in a competitive market, positioning as an “Employer of Choice”,
- improved employee engagement, productivity, and bottom line,
- lowered space, and shareable infrastructure costs, (associated with tele-commuting),
- contribution to decreased traffic congestion, energy consumption and pollution, and
- elimination of tardiness, (typically comings and goings are tracked, hard and fast start times don’t exist anymore).
But a flexible policy needs:
- open-minded management, management training and an atmosphere of trust,
- careful planning and ongoing monitoring to ensure productivity and goal attainment are maintained,
- additional policies and procedures and risk management, along with Time and Attendance management systems in larger environments,
- consistency, fairness and equal access, and
- to remain a privilege instead of becoming a right.
Benefits for employees include;
- work-life balance flexibility – ability to vary work schedules to suit personal commitments
- commuting during off-peak traffic times, thus saving on travel time and fuel, or even elimination of commuting time,(telecommuting),
- planning and enjoyment of long weekends, or extra days off etc.
- lower stress, better health and greater job enjoyment,
But employees still need;
- to get the work done, flextime is not a “magic bullet” to reduce stress and pressure, (people typically drive their own stress…),
- to communicate effectively with their supervisors and team mates, (tele-commuters may have problems doing that),
- to agree to use an access card to drive an automated time and attendance management system, so that comings, presence and goings at whatever times of day are recorded and total work hours tracked, and
- to be responsible, accountable and cooperative in supporting their own performance management.
Not every job or every employee can be afforded a flexible working arrangement, being at work for a fixed number of hours every day may simply be the nature of the job. Some amount of interaction with supervisors and co-workers is critical in any job, so typically some days or hours of in-office time will always be required. But the potential benefits of flexible work arrangements are substantial, you should really check it out!
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