Flextime is one of the hottest, most sought-after benefits that today's applicants want. It's defined as allowing employees to complete their 40-hour work week on a time frame of their choice instead of the typical 9:00 to 5:00, five days a week schedule. Job sharing – where two employees coordinate their schedules to perform one job title – is another form of flextime. There are flextime disadvantages, but each negative has a viable solution.
Taking Advantage of the Freedom
Businesses that haven't offered employees flextime options often state what they believe is one of the biggest problems with flextime. They fear that some employees – maybe even most – will take unfair advantage of the flexibility they're offered by keeping scattered hours, being unreachable and ultimately being less productive than employees who work on-site for the entire workday.
It's true that some employees aren't cut out for flexible schedules that leave them working on their own at times. However, if you know your employees, you know which ones need more supervision to have the motivation to get work done.
Solution: Monitor each employee's progress to see whether work is getting done or not and discuss the problem with anyone using flextime to slack off.
Communicating Can Be Difficult
When employees are not all in the office at the same time, it can be difficult to arrange meetings, training sessions, presentations and other forms of in-person communication. This is frustrating for everyone, especially at first, and can make you wonder why you decided to offer flextime at all. Trying to know everyone's flex schedule, which can change from week to week, is next to impossible.
Solution: Set a block of time when everyone needs to be in the office during the middle of the day. Most flextime employees come in later in the morning or leave earlier in the afternoon to avoid commuting traffic or to drop off and pick up kids. Let everyone know that they need to be in the office during certain hours, perhaps between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and that's the time to schedule in-person meetings.
Coordinating Schedules Burdens HR
Adopting flextime does take more effort by human resource professionals initially as they explain to employees the rules and how it works. HR will need to keep information on each employee's typical schedule and create a process for employees to notify HR if their schedule changes.
However, if your HR department head has spent any time interviewing applicants, he knows how important flextime has become. Chances are that he's been asked about it again and again and will be eager and proud to say that the company offers flextime.
Solution: Make employees responsible for updating their schedules as needed on a prominently placed white board and insist that everyone check the board for information on co-workers' schedules. This eliminates the problem of employees continually interrupting HR to ask when co-workers will be in.
Job Sharing Causes Delays
Just as it takes a little time to pick up where you left off working the day before, two workers who share a job need time to assess what the other worker accomplished in her absence. This can cause some delay because it takes more time than if she was just picking up her own work again since she's trying to understand another person's thought process and work.
Solution: The delays should shorten as the two workers become accustomed to each other's work style. To help keep delays to a minimum, make up a communication form that each worker can leave for the other, filling in brief notes on what she did, any problems or considerations and what's next.
Compressed Week Increases Flextime Disadvantages
Some employees may want to use flextime to compress their work week into four 10-hour days Monday through Thursday to have a three-day weekend every week. Compressed work week advantages and disadvantages are easy to see. Three-day weekends give employees more family time and relaxation time. However, having an employee who is never in the office on Fridays can cause problems for others.
Solution: Stipulate that if something important comes up on a Friday, those who are off must be available for a conference call. You could also make this a summer-only option and not allow Friday meetings in the summer.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.