How it All Started
Last summer, FL Fuller Landau (Pvisio by FL’s parent company), a CPA firm of about 110 employees, abolished work schedules. Yep, people can technically work whenever they want, wherever they want. I say “technically” as yes, there are some limitations… More on this later.
So, how does it work? FL’s Managing Partner and Pvisio’s CEO, Michael D. Newton, was feeling audacious and decided to bring flexible work schedules to a whole new level, to ensure the firm was retaining the best talent, even if it meant making certain compromises. Employees were expressing different needs – some wanted to leave early to pick up kids from school, some preferred working from home to avoid the commute and others just wanted to leave early on Fridays to hit the slopes with friends. It became evident to him that no single arrangement was going to suit everyone.
A year into this new flexible work schedule policy there is no doubt that it is a raging success within our organization. Employee engagement has gone up and this policy is consistently rated as the benefit they appreciate the most. Productivity has even slightly risen (naysayers expected it to decrease dramatically).
For a free example of a Flexible Work Schedule policy template you can adapt and include in your policy manual, please fill out the form below:
Key Success Factors of a Flexible Work Schedule Policy
As an HR consultant to both small and large businesses, I asked myself: if a client wanted to reproduce a similar model, what would the success factors be?
1. Planning and communication is key
This policy was not put out on a whim. It was planned and discussed, outside advice was sought and internal stakeholders (such as our management team and IT) were consulted, and the implications for the various employee groups were considered. A first draft of the policy was written by a team of non-HR staff and it was fine-tuned to ensure as much clarity as possible on guidelines and expectations. Meetings and information sessions were held to answer questions and listen to concerns. Issues were addressed quickly.
2. A solid infrastructure to be more flexible
The Flexible Work Schedule policy would never have worked if the firm was still in the age of passing around paper files. While we were already working to become paperless, we also needed to ensure that it was secure for employees to work remotely and that they had the tools they needed to be effective, respond to clients and attend team meetings no matter where they were. An investment in technology was required.
3. Recognize and address the limitations
While the firm still requires a minimum number of hours per week, there is no set rule on when the hours need to be worked. Staff can also work from home as much as they want, with prior consent from their manager.
That said, we’re in the business of serving clients and most of them would prefer not meeting at 9 p.m. on a Saturday – client’s preference obviously trumps ours. The firm needed to ensure that everyone understood that client service is always THE top priority. In other words, the flex hours policy needed to be invisible to clients.
Unfortunately, some positions were, at least partially, excluded from this policy. For example, the receptionist cannot work from home, and it is the same for other positions whose responsibilities require in-office support. Employees who are on probation or who are on development plans are not eligible to work from home as they generally require more face to face training and support.
The bottom line: you need a culture that can support flextime
The main factor that contributed to the successful implementation of this policy within the firm is that there is already a strong culture of trust and accountability: – people do not stop working just because their manager is not looking over their shoulder.
Making this policy work is a collaborative process, requiring everyone’s good judgement and flexibility so that the office runs well and clients (both internal and external) are happy. The team is making great efforts to be accessible and available, responding quickly to calls and e-mails to show they’re available even when they’re not physically present. A flexible working hours policy is, after all, a privilege.
Ultimately, the result is that most people still work from the office most of the time, during regular office hours. There was no huge visible change. The shift that happened, however, is that people feel that their personal and professional lives blend better together, and they feel more engaged overall.
So, what do I suggest to clients? If you want to attract talent in this very tight labor market thinking about flexibility is a must. Every survey lists it as one of the most important elements for today’s workforce. So, while our firm has brought it to one extreme and done it in a way that works in our industry, I would invite companies to look at what is possible to them, even if it makes them a tad uncomfortable at first.
You may be surprised by the result.