Changing working patterns to suit employees can make work more engaging for employees, and cost less than paying above and beyond to get them to stay in their jobs.
I read an article recently about how in 2008, the Governor of Utah made a four-day week mandatory for 18,000 out of the 25,000 public sector workers in his state. Because of the financial crisis the state was low on funds and the governor thought this would be a good way to save money.
Amazingly, it worked. The public soon got used to some government buildings and services not being open for one day a week and the public sector workers liked having another day to spend with the family. Moving to four-day week did mean that some people had to work later or longer hours, but still they reported being more productive and having a better time at home and work.
While moving to a four-day week might not feasible for all companies, tilting towards flexitime and job sharing might be an answer to increasing costs and decreasing output. Giving people the chance to come in later – so they can avoid getting stuck in a stuffy and sweaty tube train – or leave earlier – so they can get an extra hour to read their kids a bedtime story – might make all the difference to an employee’s happiness, loyalty and productivity.
According to a 16,000 respondent poll in 2012 for Regus, the office-space company, 72% of global businesses said flexiworking improved productivity. Some 68% said staff were bringing in more money and 63% said staff felt more motivated and that flexiwork is a ‘key talent retention tool’.
In its report ‘Flexible Working’, Unison lists some common types of flexitime arrangements:
The government defines a part-time worker as someone working fewer than 30 hours per week (with an associated reduction in pay).
Changing hours that helps the worker, but the work still gets done.
Two people share the responsibilities and pay of a full-time job. Unison says this works at all levels, from junior staff all the way up to chief executives.
Instead of working for 40 hours over a week, you could work for 3.5 days doing 11 or 12 hours each day.
You have to work a certain number of hours per year, but when you work is figured out between you and your employer, based on the busiest times for the business.
I’d argue that businesses already do many of these things, or at least have experience of them. Annualised hours might sound a bit complex, but I think it’s similar to the idea that everyone takes time off for a summer holiday and we all go home for Christmas. The public understands that companies will have staff away during these periods – especially for office jobs. When we do go on holiday, often someone will take over some of our responsibilities while we’re away. Isn’t that a form of job sharing?
And anyone that’s had to go for a dentist’s appointment – and so will be coming in late and working a little later – has already had an informal flexitime arrangement with a firm.
Of course any sort of flexitime and flexiworking agreement needs to be considered carefully before being put into action. It would be wise to have a series of meetings where staff and management can discuss options and trial periods, but also figure out how to handle things like communication and accountability.
If your flexi-experiment isn’t handled carefully, it might not have the best test results. This will make it harder to present a business case for it in the long run, and you may be losing out on benefits to your company and staff.