by Ruth Mayhew
Work-life balance and flexible workplace scheduling are concepts many human resources practitioners consider when they’re searching for options to improve job satisfaction, engagement and productivity. Shifts in workforce demographics, such as dual-earner households and increasing family and personal obligations, underscore the need for flexibility, notes Cecilia Rouse, member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in the March 2010 article “The Economics of Workplace Flexibility.” HR interprets flextime a number of different ways to improve the workplace and accommodate change.
HR uses flextime to refer to alternative or flexible work schedules. Effective use of flextime accommodates employees’ needs by providing scheduling options without compromising the company’s ability to meet business needs. Factors that HR considers in creating flextime policies are planning and logistics, employee accountability and performance and technology solutions. In most cases, alternative work schedules must be monitored closely by management to ensure consistent application of the employer’s flextime policy. Staffing and business needs should determine how many different flextime options are provided to employees.
Sliding Work Schedule
A sliding work schedule is difficult to manage because employees’ start times and end times can change daily. For example, employees might have the option to start anytime between 7 and 9 a.m., meaning an eight-hour workday ends between 4 and 6 p.m. if the employee takes an hour for lunch. Employees who take 30 minutes for lunch could leave as early as 3:30 p.m. This option works well with reliable workers who are unlikely to abuse the privilege of coming in late whenever they need to or reporting to work early so they can leave before the normal business rush.
A compressed work schedule is another variation of flextime. This permits employees to complete a work week in fewer than the typical five days. For example, four 10-hour days is a common form of flextime. Rather than working a 40-hour week Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., employees can work Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., or another combination of hours that produces a 10-hour workday. For many businesses, it’s difficult managing an entire workforce on compressed schedules, but staggered schedules can ensure adequate coverage.
Consistent management is key to an effective flextime policy. HR sets guidelines for alternative scheduling and provides department supervisors with training on how to manage teams with varied schedules. In addition, HR measures how alternative workplace options affect job satisfaction and employee retention. HR also is responsible for the record-keeping by accurately tracking employees’ work schedules to ensure accurate payroll, especially if it’s a small business where payroll is manually processed.