Flexible working hours present a myriad of advantages for both employer and employee. Through offering flexi-time, telecommuting, job sharing and part-time work options, employers can support and retain staff who might otherwise fail, go absent or resign altogether. Being able to adapt your departmentâ€™s working schedules to meet different needs can improve productivity and drive down absenteeism. But along with its clear benefits, the flexible working time directive does present its own set of challenges. While Yahoo’s Chief Marissa Mayer has recently banned employees from working from home, most bosses are looking for ways to create a more flexible work environment for their employees.
Whether your employees need time away from work for childcare, part-time study or to care for sick relatives, you can avoid employee burnout and all associated repercussions by offering them some flexible options. Sometimes, of course, flexible working is less to do with managing lifeâ€™s specific pressures and more to do with quality of life.
A case in point: Kelloggâ€™s head office in Manchester operates flexi-time during the summer months in order to offer their 660 staff members a valuable Friday afternoon off, as long as their contractual hours have been completed during the week. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Kelloggâ€™s strategy (one of several schemes in their flexible working policy) has cut Friday absenteeism by 10-20%. Steve Tassell, leader of the Anywhere Working team, sums up one school of thought regarding working practices by claiming that these days, â€œWork is no longer a place you go, itâ€™s what you do.â€
Issues with flexibility
Of course, managing a flexible workplace generates HR and management challenges. One risk, interestingly, is presenteeism. The option to telecommute (or work from home) at short notice can often be taken up by colleagues not feeling well enough to come to work. And often the work performed whilst ill at home is substandard. A report by Robertson Cooper, a business psychology company, found that productivity levels for sick staff fell from 75% on a â€˜goodâ€™ day to 55% on â€˜sickâ€™ days.
Other issues can arise when team members operate different hours to one another, sometimes from far-flung locations. Motivation and team spirit in the office can inevitably dwindle when there is no tangible team to work with. In these situations, make full use of your HR programâ€™s social software and messaging systems, and make sure everyone in your team is trained to use it. Good HR software, such as that provided by Cezanne HR, will allow all team members to connect with one another in real time and view information on their colleaguesâ€™ working arrangements, and planned leave of absence.
With access to the bigger picture regarding your staffâ€™s needs, you might also be in a position to stipulate a period in the week for each department to meet and work together. With the right HR programs at your disposal and a workforce trained – and empowered – by the software made available to them, potential issues of space and time can be overcome.
Michael Palmer is an Oxford based, business graduate and writer. His writing covers many subjects, including business, marketing, HR, fitness, and football.