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Flex-Time – The myth, policy and pitfalls

Finding employees to abide by a rigid attendance schedule is becoming more difficult as the trend of flex time grows and gains popularity with it’s proven effectiveness. According to the U.S. Employee Workforce report, the number of employees working from home has risen 115 % since 2005, with reports showing higher levels of job satisfaction, reduced levels of burnout, and psychological stress. Flex-time decreases stressful commutes and allows people to care for their families, two priceless benefits that won’t cost your business a cent and will have your employees singing your praises. 

A well-implemented flex-time policy can help your company with staff retention and productivity as long as you address the most pressing concerns upfront and keep the expectation transparent and accountable for all employees and managers. I am going to explain the key ingredients you need to consider to make flex time work for you. 

The Myth

Many employers hesitate to approve flex time and telecommuting because they fundamentally believe that if the employee isn’t onsite, then they aren’t doing their job, but this belief is inaccurate and has been proven false. Often employees with flexible work schedules work more often because they tend to check emails while they are in line at the grocery store or work while they are sick and laying on the couch. 

Even if the nature of your business makes it seem impossible to have flex time – when you look at your business objectively – you may see small windows of work that can flex. Allowing flexible scheduling gives your employees a feeling of trust, responsibility, and freedom, resulting in greater appreciation and loyalty to your company.  

Flex-time Policy

There are no one-size-fits-all policies for flex work, so the best advice I have is to make it simple and easy to understand to minimize confusion and increase success. Allowing too many options for flex work schedules will prove to be too hard to keep up with and can create problems with productivity if no one is around at the same time. 

An easy flex-time program to implement in the beginning is for employees to continue to work their regular schedule with a small degree of freedom to work from home on Fridays or leave early in the event of a personal matter. This will give the employees time to think about whether the arrangement will work for the team and the organization. Another trial bases would be to allow one flex day a month, to begin with, and go from there.

Eligibility guidelines

Not everyone works well without supervision or teamwork, and flex time should not be an automatic benefit to all employees. Creating eligibility guidelines will give employees something to work toward and achieve and will help to avoid blunders with less disciplined employees. The policy should include a description of who is eligible for flex work and under what circumstances. Examples of criteria are; is their position appropriate for flex time, how is their current job performance, do they have proper time management, good attendance record. Make it mandatory that employees must formally request and receive approval from their managers and HR to become eligible for flex work.

Expectations

If the employee proves to be eligible for flex time then you need to determine if they can meet the expectations of adhering to certain expectations for how work will get done outside the office, communications and home-office needs, recording their hours to ensure that all work is on the clock and how to use company devices and networks, so the organization’s proprietary data and intellectual property is protected.  

Make a mandatory 3 – 6 month trial period to assess how well the arrangement is working for the department, business, and the employee. Make sure the employee understands that the company can reverse or change the agreement at any time if the employee is taking unfair advantage or are not contributing their best ability. 

Legal Pitfalls to Avoid

Overtime 

With flex time, it’s more challenging to prove how much overtime an employee has worked, and it’s critical to keep excellent time tracking records. The law tends to lean toward the employee’s recollection of events over the company’s and the Fair Labor Standards Act is there to make sure your exemption classifications are accurate. Your flex-time policy should include that employees must receive approval to work overtime and working without it can result in revoking their flex work agreement. 

Workers’ compensation

Make sure your company’s workers’ compensation policy incorporates flex time and telecommuting employees and make sure to check with your states employment laws. Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state and may make you liable for compensation if an employee is injured out of the office but during their time of employment.

In conclusion, flex work is not as complicated and risky as many untrusting baby boomers think and you can try it out by introducing a few options and rigid requirements and see how it goes. You can always expand your program later or nix it altogether if it proves to be unproductive or too difficult to manage. Making sure employees are adequately educated on flex work policies and investing in communication tools and resources that keep work in-office and out-of-office flowing, will make your program a success and keep your employees satisfied and happy.

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