“Does your company offer flexible work hours?”
Have you been asked this question by a candidate or by an employee? This type of question is bound to surface, especially since work-life balance is a top priority for the new generation. If you don’t know how you would answer the question, now is your chance to start preparing your response.
What are flexible work arrangements? Here are some of the most common ones:
- Flex-Time: Flexibility in starting and ending times.
- Part-Time: Cutting back both workload and hours.
- Reduced schedule during non-busy season: Increased working hours during your company’s busy season and reduced working hours at other times in the year.
- Job sharing: Two part-time positions share the responsibilities of one full-time position.
- Compressed work-week: regular work week in fewer days, for example, 40 hours in 4 days.
- Telecommuting: working from a location other than the normal workplace, most often refers to working from home.
There is a growing demand for flexibility and it is best to decide in advance how to deal with these requests. While they are often treated on a case-by-case basis, without a clear policy, feelings of favouritism and injustice can be created.
“At companies of all sizes recognized on the 2013 list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, telecommuting and other flexible work options are the norm.”
Source: thestar.com, by Sheryl Smolkin At Work, Published on Sun March 17, 2013
Here are 5 must-haves that should encompass any flexible work arrangement policy:
- Eligibility criteria: Who can request a work arrangement (limited to certain positions, minimum performance standards, etc.) and which arrangements are possible? For example, the receptionist cannot start past 8:30 a.m. so flex-time would not be considered a valid option.
- Approval process: Who will review the employee’s request and what is being analyzed? For example, considerations could include the ease of reassigning certain job tasks, how client service will be affected and the employee’s past job performance.
- Compensation and benefits: How will the employee’s salary and benefits change? For example, when working part-time is their salary prorated? Will they still be eligible for group insurance and other benefits?
- Communication and flexibility: What is expected from an employee who has a flexible work arrangement? For example, when telecommuting, will the employee be required to attend meetings or training sessions in the office? How will their work be monitored?
- Review process: How will the success of the work arrangement be assessed? For example, will the work arrangement be terminated if there is a decline in the level of performance or if clients find that service is suffering?
Although there are multiple variables and elements to study carefully before offering flexible work arrangements, it is usually feasible. At times, there may be additional costs incurred, for instance the need to upgrade IT equipment for telecommuters. Nevertheless, the benefits, such as increased productivity, greater ability to recruit, reduced turnover and absenteeism will outweigh the costs in the long run. Keep in mind that you will always have the right if needed to eliminate these arrangements, unless stipulated differently in an employment contract.
Phased retirement by means of offering a flexible work arrangement is also growing in popularity!
“A Sun Life Financial survey conducted by Ipsos Reid released earlier this year found that 59% of Canadians age 57 to 65 were expecting to gear down to part-time, freelance or other reduced-hour arrangements prior to full retirement.”
Source: Canadian Business, Nov. 21, 2012
While it is greatly advisable to take the time to ensure that your business continues to operate successfully, it is equally important to ensure that your employees are pleased with their work schedules. Flexibility is not only a talent attraction tool but will also engage and retain your most important asset, your employees.
Now you can confidently respond to the next person who asks: “How flexible is your company?”
In the latter part of 2010, 50% of employers were offering part-time options, 44% were offering flex-time and 12% were offering telecommuting.
Source: Statistics Canada, November 15, 2010
HR Connection – Winter 2014
Ask an HR Expert – Conflicts in the Workplace
If you wish to print this issue, you can download the PDF here.