On Flex Time: Making it Successful

I blogged a bit about flex time in my post On Insomnia, but I’ve been thinking about what makes flex time successful (or not!), and I thought I’d post my thoughts here. This post is about what to do to help make flex time successful (my next will be on what might cause flex time to fail).

  1. Bilateral flexibility. Both the employer and the employee must be flexible. I had an employee once who worked a 4-day 32-hour work week, and did not work on Fridays (when daycare was closed). However, if I ever needed her to come in on a Friday for a large project or emergency, she put her son in back-up care or called on a relative and was there. Likewise, if she ever wanted to trade a Tuesday (or other day) for a Friday, I let her do so as long as the work allowed it. The bilateral flexibility made this arrangement a resounding success.
  2. Core hours. In order to facilitate teamwork (and I’m not sure there are many modern work environments that don’t need teamwork!), core hours are vital. Team members need to know when they can find each other for questions, brainstorming, etc. I held core hours for my last department to 9:30-4:00, which were hours when everyone’s work schedule overlapped. If I were working in a software company, I might set those hours to 11:00-3:00 in order to handle both my night owl programmers and the crazy early birds who need to pick their kids up from school.
  3. Don’t give flex time if the job isn’t flexible. While it’s admirable for all companies to want to grant flex time, sometimes it just isn’t happening. Nursing shifts have to start and end at specific times. Utility trucks have to all roll out at a certain hour. The help desk has to be covered from 8:00 AM-8:00 PM.
  4. Be honest during the recruiting process. If the job isn’t flexible, don’t tell a great candidate that he or she might be able to negotiate it later. Be up-front about expectations during the initial interview in order to recruit and keep great employees (this goes for much more than just flex time).
  5. Don’t only grant flex time to your favorites. If someone in a certain job has flex time, you have to be prepared for everyone else in the same role to ask for it. If you only granted it to one person due to special circumstances, be honest and communicate the circumstances (within reason–don’t disclose private HR issues) to that person’s co-workers.

Stay tuned for my next flex time post on mistakes I’ve seen (not just the flip side of the five best practices above–honest!). I figure it’ll come out next week…