Flex-Time: Why Your Company Should Offer It

A couple of generations ago, you could have a “Father-Knows-Best,” 9 to 5 schedule at an office or factory job, complete with a two-martini happy hour and still attract the best talent.

Those days are no more – due to a combination of factors:
• Women are now graduating from college and attaining masters’ degrees at higher rates than men.
• A higher percentage of women is now either working or seeking to reenter the workforce than past generations.
• Women are now engaged in demanding professions outside of traditional female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing.
• Women are increasingly entrepreneurial.
• The price of a desirable 3-bedroom home in the suburbs in a school district has now been bid so high it takes two incomes to pay for it.

This means that the pressure to balance career and family life is that much more intense than in previous years. Businesses can no longer expect men to shoulder a rigid, inflexible shift, plus all required overtime, because today’s men are more likely to be married to women who themselves have demanding careers in their own rite – or who are small business owners.

To retain the top talent – the very people with the most options – it’s now necessary to give them some flexibility to solve scheduling problems, arrange for timely child care pickup, and be able solve small problems that arise as independently as possible.

If they can’t solve those problems one way or another, something is going to give. And the employer will ultimately pay the price, either in reduced productivity, increased turnover as good, desirable employees with families or other outside interests find opportunities offering them greater flexibility elsewhere, or both.

Consider: If you aren’t offering some form of flex-time or telecommuting, other employers are leaving you in the dust.

The Family and Work Institute’s 2012 Survey of Employers found that the percentage of employers who offered flex-time or allowed employees to change clock-in and clock-out times increased from 66 percent in 2005 to 77 percent in 2012.

The number of employers who allowed employees to take personal time off during the day to take care of family issues without docking pay increased from 77 percent in 2005 to 87 percent in 2012.

The number of employers who occasionally allowed workers to do their jobs from home exploded, from 34 percent in 2005 to 63 percent in 2012.

Additionally, another study from Cranfield School of Management found that workers who were granted more flexibility actually put in more hours than workers on a strict clock. They also reported greater work intensity, greater productivity, lower stress levels and greater company loyalty.

It seems that you have to give a little to get a lot.

How much? A recent study by Brigham Young University of 24,000 IBM workers indicates that those granted substantial flex-time wind up putting in as much as two days’ worth of extra hours, compared to workers who don’t.

Now, employers need to go into flex-time understanding labor laws. You need a crystal clear understanding of exempt vs. non-exempt employers and salary rules versus wage and hour laws. Otherwise, you could find employees racking up hours – even overtime hours – without a way to account for their activities at work. Flex time is easier with salaried employees, because there’s simply no need to keep tabs on their hours. They receive the same salary each week no matter how many hours they work, provided they show up at least one day. But technology allows employers to keep tabs even on hourly workers working from home or outside the office. oDesk.com, for example, offers a “clock” function: Workers log in and start the clock running. The timer records their hours; the employer automatically receives a screen shot of their computer every ten minutes to help maintain accountability and keep workers on task.

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