Flexi-Time has been a buzzword in recruitment and HR worlds for quite some time. For businesses, the benefits have been shown in numerous research papers and studies. But despite its positives, it can be difficult to convince some employees to make the switch.
The positive impact that flexi-time has is well-documented. A 2014 study by the collaborative software developers, PGI, looked at the way that telecommuting was affecting the workplace. In their State of Telecommuting report, 69% of companies that offered flexi-time hours through telecommuting initiatives said they experienced lower absenteeism. Meanwhile, 82% of telecommuters claiming the ability to work remotely (from home) meant they experienced lower stress.
Other research has shown that the idea of remote working was something that employees were attracted by, with 51% of UK employees who took part in Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Survey 2017 saying they wanted more flexible work options.
The 2015 Women In The Workplace study found that, regardless of gender, employees were generally reluctant to take up employee programs. While most participating companies did offer programs, over 90% of employees believed taking extended family leave would hurt their position at work. When it came to working from home, the figures were higher but still representative of the minority, with 45% of women and 38% of men opting to do so.
So why is there such reluctance to take up flexi-time opportunities (and others) that employers are offering? And what can employers do to encourage a greater take-up rate?
Reasons For Reluctance
In Australia, the New South Wales governments’ Behavioural Insights Unit sought to find an answer to this problem. It worked with the state’s Transport Department, whose Travel Choices program tries to encourage businesses to promote flexible work arrangements so as to lessen pressure during commuter rush hour. It discovered 3 principal barriers.
- Not Socially Acceptable – Even when a company introduces a flexi-time policy, there can be some suspicion over what the consequences might be if an employee breaks from the traditional 9-5 schedule. Even when employees were offered ‘broadband hours’ (between 7am and 7 pm), participants had to deal with comments and half-jokes from colleagues who saw them arrive at work later or leave earlier.
- Fears Over Managers’ Acceptance – Many participants said they feared being negatively judged by their managers if they ask for flexi-time.
- Individual Routines & Life Styles – Commuting is part of the daily routine for most workers, one that gets the day moving in a dependable way. Even though the monotony might be disliked, people actually feel uncomfortable with changing a routine that is established.
How To Change The Culture
The Behavioural Insights Unit took the factors that they learned and devised a number of ways that a company can more actively promote a flexible work schedule. These cost little to nothing, and required relatively little time to address, making the action highly cost and time effective.
- Alter Default Calendars Settings
- Encourage The Example
- Add A Competitive Element
Most professionals will schedule meetings according to programs like Microsoft Outlook. These calendars have default settings that presume people are only available for meetings between 9am and 5pm. By simply changing these default setting, the availability range can be extended or compressed, allowing employees to avoid early or late meetings and come into work later or earlier.
With some employees, the chief fear is how management would react to them asking for flexi-time hours when managers always stuck by the traditional schedule. Employees tend to mimic the patterns set by their superiors. By encouraging management to adopt flexible work hours, employees would feel more comfortable adopting it themselves.
In the 8 companies that took part in the Unit’s research project, most encouraged a healthy inter-team rivalry. This competitiveness is used as a motivational force to drive a team towards better results. The Unit introduced a competition where teams won points for arriving or leaving out of peak times or for adopting part-time or telecommuting working initiatives. A leader board was published regularly, and prizes were on offer to the most flexible-orientated team.
Types of Flexible Work Initiatives
There are several models of flexibility a company can adopt, and right one is dependent on the demands a particular company (or indeed department) is faced with.
- Fully-remote or partially-remote telecommuting
- Flexible work week schedules, such as a 4-day working week at 10 hours per day instead of the usual 5-day week at 8-hours per day.
- Alternate schedules, such as an 8am to 4 pm, 10am to 6pm or 11am to 7pm working day rather than the usual 9am to 5pm.
- Part-time schedules consisting of fewer than 40 hours per week
- Job Sharing initiatives where 2 employees share the same job within a team, usually a 3-days-on, 2-days-off system alternating between them.
- Results Only Work Environments (ROWE) that establishes payment based on results rather than number of hours worked.