Business Needs to Bend a Little? Maybe Flex Time Is the Answer
A well-managed flexible workplace can increase your ability to attract, recruit and retain qualified employees.According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), worker shortfall will reach 10 million by 2006. Coupled with the fact that worker replacement due to turnover can cost up to half a position’s annual compensation, workplace satisfaction becomes a critical business issue affecting productivity and profitability.
BLS figures also reveal almost 70 percent of single women and 55 percent of single men head families with children, and almost 75 percent of married families with children have both parents working. Thus, according to recent national polls conducted by the Employment Policy Foundation, not surprisingly 65 percent of Americans favor changes that would allow for more flexible work schedules.
Surveys over the past five years have also shown that most working people, regardless of generation, seek the following:
1. An ability to balance work and outside life
2. Meaningfulness in their work
3. Trust among fellow employees
4. Good relationships with their supervisors or managers, preferably with mentoring
Pay, position, advancement and other job-related satisfiers trail behind these top four.Therefore, to address employee work/life balance and to reduce turnover, many firms provide flexible working arrangements.
Flex Time Defined
The term “flex time” has more than one meaning (and application):
This arrangement can be part-time employment, job sharing and/or telecommuting.
Flex Schedule (Fixed):
Here management and employee pre-select agreed upon starting and quitting times.
Flex Schedule (Varied):
Starting times vary within flexible work schedules in this option.
Here the length of the workday varies, with the employee present during pre-set core hours for each day, with 40+ hours worked per week.
On this plan, the employee works different total weekly hours and/or days, provided 80 hours bi-weekly are worked.
The length of workday and workweek vary in this arrangement. Core hours are pre-designated during an 80-hour biweekly workweek.
This option has a couple of different setups—
Employees work 10 hours a day, four days a week, with pre-set starting and quitting times.
Employees work nine-hour days for eight workdays, then one eight-hour workday during a biweekly pay period, with pre-set starting and quitting times.
Constructing a Flex Time Program
Several strategies help in constructing and maintaining a successful flex time program:
Although a flex-time program has advantages, your employees may not see them or they may even prefer the current work schedule(s). Ask.
If there is interest, have a cross-section of employees develop a proposal that includes type of program, eligibility and participation requirements.
Review the employee draft and analyze its potential impact.
Determine if the proposed plan “fits” your company. How would it affect production schedules, management staff and your business? Is the plan too flexible? Are core hours sufficient? Does the plan provide too much employee control over work hours? Would it give the company flexibility to expand or reduce work hours as needed?
Ensure employee understanding and acceptance.
Once an acceptable program is developed, ensure that there is a method to obtain participating employee “buy in.” Written documentation to participate in the program should be required, outlining the reason(s) the employee is requesting a particular schedule. This documentation should clearly spell out the employee and employer’s duties, to prevent future misunderstandings and to provide the company with supporting documentation in the event employee counseling and/or termination for attendance reasons is required.
Advertise and reinforce.
Make absolutely certain that each and every employee understands the program and how it works as well as the increased responsibility that the participating employee has to fellow employees and the company. Make absolutely certain that management staff understands and is trained to administer the program correctly, as it requires increased people management flexibility. Periodically, through newsletters, employee meetings and supervisor one-on-ones, review the program with employees to reinforce the company’s commitment to work/life issues. Consistent communication will also support increased employee retention efforts. Last, make sure that everyone understands that flex time is a benefit, not a right, and emphasize the program during recruiting efforts.
Periodically review and adjust.
Never assume that “if it isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed.” As with any policy, procedure or program, periodic review of effectiveness in light of employee satisfaction, turnover, productivity, profitability and competition is critical. Make adjustments as needed in a timely fashion and communicate any changes to employees clearly, with supporting reasons.
A well-crafted and managed flexible workplace can result in an increased ability to attract, recruit and retain qualified employees, with significant returns on a company’s overall human capital investment.
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