A flexible schedule policy could be hugely beneficial for your company. But how does one go about implementing it?
When it comes to employee hours the usual Monday through Friday 9-to-5 has been the standard for what seems like forever. And while it’s pretty much universal in this day and age, that might be its biggest downside, because employees’ lives certainly aren’t.
A lot of us have medical issues, families and other aspects of our personal lives that often conflict with our fixed work schedules. One solution that has been gaining a lot of traction with employers in the recent years is flextime. In this article we are going to explore the pros and cons of adopting flextime and answer some of the most popular questions on how it actually works.
What is flextime?
Flextime is a flexible work hours policy where employees are allowed to choose when their workday starts and ends, as long as they achieve the daily, weekly or monthly hours set by the employer. There are several variations, but the core principle is the same – to provide employees with more freedom and flexibility in making their own work schedule.
Flextime offers employees a real opportunity to find a good balance between their professional and personal lives. Some people have children they need to drop off and pick up at school. Others have classes or a second job. Many rely on public transportation to get to their workplace and heavily depend on train or bus schedules to be there on time.
These and many other things that are usually so difficult to deal with when you’re working the traditional 9 to 5 become a non-issue with flextime.
Flextime is not a perfect solution and has some downsides. Fortunately, they can be mitigated with the right approach.
When you have multiple employees on your team all working different hours communication could take a big hit. To avoid that, as an employer you need to be absolutely clear about the results that you expect from your team, and when you expect them.
Don’t worry about being too strict, because otherwise some employees might get tempted to try to do less work and have more time for slacking off. Which in turn could lead to costly gaps in service and upset your customers.
As an employer you don’t really have to offer flextime to your workers, but it would be a mistake not to try. By offering flextime to those of your employees whose personal needs clash with their regular work hours, you show them how valuable they are to the company and how much you trust them.
Being valued and trusted motivates them to be more dedicated and productive, increases their satisfaction and decreases absenteeism and turnover. It fosters a happier workplace environment overall. One where employees are so grateful for the privilege of having flexible hours, that they tend to be a lot more invested and work harder to hold on to their perfect schedule.
There are quite a few options available to you in terms of how you can approach flextime in your company.
One of the oldest ones is job sharing, where two part-time employees work half hours both comprising one full-time employee. In order to make this one work, all tasks, roles and responsibilities need to be well coordinated and clearly communicated to ensure optimal productivity.
A second option simply allows employees to work different hours, which usually means coming to work earlier (or later) than their colleagues. For example, instead of working 9 AM to 5 PM, employees on flextime can work 8 AM to 4 PM, or 11 AM to 7 PM.
Another option allows employees to alternate between working a four-day week and then a five-day week. Or they can work ten days straight and then have four consecutive days off. Or, they can work four ten-hour days and then have three days off. The possibilities are limited only by what you think can work for your company.
In companies with busy seasons, like accounting firms, for instance, employees can work a lot longer hours than the usual 40 per week during peak periods. But they’re not paid overtime on those extra hours. Instead, they can use this “comp time” to leave early on some days or even take a day off to balance their hours out.
And if the kind of work employees do does not require them to be physically present at the workplace at all times, or if their work environment is too small or noisy, they can work remotely, from the comfort of their home or their favorite coffee shop.
How to make it work
First, make sure that your goals for flextime employees are absolutely clear. They need to be specific and measurable. Agree on the scope of work, the deadline by which it needs to be delivered, and on how the end result will be communicated, so there’s absolutely no ambiguity involved.
Second, ensure that everyone on flextime knows their exact role in the company. Every person must know their own responsibilities, as well as those of other employees. Every person must know exactly who does what and who answers to whom. Otherwise you might end up dealing with a lot of confusion and blame being thrown around.
Third, set some guidelines regarding the frequency and mode of communication that you require from your flextime folk. The amount of control and contact that you want from your employees is entirely up to you and your management style. Some bosses are fine with a phone call or an email, others demand a regular face-to-face meeting. Figure out where you are on that spectrum, and let your employees know.
And finally, establish regular hours for your employees working remotely. Make sure they outline a specific time when they’ll be available via phone or email, and set a period when they need to be physically present at the business location for a certain amount of time. This will make scheduling meetings a lot more convenient, and also have everyone under the same roof which is great for team morale and bonding.
Keeping track of flextime
Tracking flexible hours may sound like a real headache, but it’s really not that difficult. There are literally dozens of different electronic timesheet solutions available. They allow you to easily capture your employee’s work hours (flexible or otherwise), and present that information to you in a digestible and easy-to-read format.
Systems like actiTIME feature a special report designed to provide you with a closer look into your employees’ flextime, and show you how their reported time stacks up against their daily, weekly or monthly hours.
Flextime and overtime
When it comes to overtime, there is no real difference between employees working regular hours and their flextime counterparts. The same rules still apply – if a person works more hours than what they’re required over the course of a single workweek (or a single day, in the case of California), they must be compensated for that extra time.
Offering flextime to your employees could allow them to better balance their lives around work without sacrificing productivity. Being able to work full time without having to worry about any personal issues allows them to focus their efforts on the job. However, flextime is not a perfect solution for every business, so be sure to keep all the pros and cons of flextime in mind if you’re thinking about giving it a shot.