Flexible Work Hours / Flexitime / Flex time / Flexible Time? - CA Financial Appointments #CAblog

You probably knew what I was talking about after reading the first term in this title. Could you identify which one is technically right though? No, you can’t. You may think one is more technically correct than the other but no, it’s not. Different countries, different companies, different researchers all use them interchangeably and with different nuances. And it’s an apt metaphor for the concept as a whole. So what is flexible time at work?

We’ve recently implemented a new flexible time policy at CA Financial Appointments and through my experience thereof and general knowledge, I thought the concept was quite black and white. The more I read different policies, research and personal experiences, I realised it wasn’t quite all that simple. 

The Different Forms of Flexible Time

There are different approaches and each company finds its own unique way that works best for it. Flexible work arrangements as a whole can refer to flexibility around start and end times, the amount of time in the office, the location where work is done, the amount of time spent working, etc. It can refer to anything that steps outside of the standard 08:00 – 17:00 workday that’s spent at your workstation. 

For us at CA Financial Appointments, flexible time means that we have instigated core hours. This is a section of the day where employees need to be in the office but how long they get there before that core time is up to them. It’s a simple concept: employees choose when they come into the office and they leave the office 8 hours later, ensuring that they arrive by the time the core hours start.

That’s probably the most common way of managing flexible time but it’s not the only way: 

  • You can have a flexible time policy whereby an employee can apply to amend their working hours on a specific day or for a specific period. 
  • You can have a flexible time policy whereby an employee can start and finish whenever – without the constraints of core hours. 
  • You can have a flexible time policy whereby employees don’t have to be in the office for 40 hours a week but still complete 40 hours of work a week.
  • You can have a flexible time policy whereby employees aren’t kept to 40 hours a week at all but simply kept to completing their work.
  • You can have a flexible time policy whereby employees work longer for 4 days a week to get a 3 day weekend.
  • You can have…
  • You can have… 
  • You can have…

There just isn’t a “technically right” way. It’s about your team, your company and what your company delivers. Regardless of the technicalities, flexible time has proven advantages for both employees and employers that are well publicised. But it remains a daunting policy for employers to implement.

Management’s Perspective On Flexible Time

As our Operations Director, Brendon Lezar, aptly explains: “We see it not only as a “nice to have” but as an important “need to have” in today’s business world. Let’s face it, if your business is populated by individuals who aren’t serious about their job, achieving their deliverables or adding value where required, then it’s those individuals who need to be dealt with. The implementation of a policy should not be held back for fear of those individuals manipulating it or becoming a detriment the business in any way, shape or form. I think the primary concern which many business owners harbour is precisely this – how do I know that the business is not going to lose out if we implement this policy? How can I be certain that people are still delivering what is required and expected of them?

The truth of the matter is that with the age of digital technology and communication being where it is today, people are probably working longer and harder than they were 10 years ago. The option to be online is always there. When a crisis unfolds you are always able to manage it – no matter whether you’re home or at your desk. Though our flexible time still largely requires the same amount of time in office, it is a start towards a shift in business owners’ thinking from a “time in office” based approach towards an “output” based approach.

Employees’ Experience of Flexible Time

So what is it like to work under this new policy we’ve implemented?

“I appreciate being able to use these early and late starts to either drop my kids at school in the morning or attend their swimming lessons which I was not able to do previously. I think, generally, productivity can only improve as people’s mindsets will be improved as a result of working hours that make their lives as simple as possible. Time will tell, it’s a little early to work this out.”

Cathy Symmonds

“For me as a public transport user, flexible working hours have drastically reduced the stress of my morning commute as I don’t have to worry as much about delays that are beyond my control. My quality of life is greatly improved by this. Flexible working hours have enabled me to live further away from work with no consequence. “

Devon Grenfell

“On a “parent availability” front, the opportunity for our team members to attend a swimming practice at 4 pm or to get to a soccer or netball match is huge. It’s something I have personally felt hugely guilty about, (not being able to go to my kids sporting events – ever!). My son is incredibly sporty and I’m yet to watch him play one game of soccer, rugby, or cricket since he started primary school 4 years ago. Having the opportunity to change this by starting my day at 7 am so I can get to kick-off at 3:30 pm is something I’m definitely going to do in term 4 and 2020.”

Brendon Lezar

“Being able to come in an hour earlier has made an immense difference to my daily commute. As we know, Cape Town’s traffic is getting worse and worse and with being able to come into work earlier I’m saving 25/30 minutes each way. The extra hour or so a day is great and has the big plus of being able to pick up our new puppy from day-care a lot earlier. Besides the time saving, that feeling of wasting time in traffic has been eased.”

Robynn Paton-Leske

The Challenges

Of course, no concept is without its downfalls. We expected that finding a balance of people doing late/early shifts to ensure that at least one person is here for the standard 08:00 – 17:00 hours would be a challenge. So far we’ve had one day where this was the case but we had individuals willing to step in and it was quickly resolved. Another aspect, especially in terms of those using public transport, is that we were usually lenient with being late because it was out of their control – now they’re never really late so that does now inevitably get worked in. The other clear downfall for those members of staff who have a bit more of a Type-A personality is that they at times find themselves coming in to work at 07:00 and rather than leaving at 15:00 as they’re intended to, they just work all the way through.  

When discussing this blog with my colleagues the factors they liked and had made a positive impact rushed towards me while I had to go hunting for the negatives. I think that really shows the essence of these types of policies. 

There are always going to be downfalls, especially when you have employees you don’t trust or you aren’t clear on what your policy is, but a well-functioning team shouldn’t have those troubles.  “So yes, in summary, I see it as a need-to-have in today’s business world. If you cannot trust your team to make the best of this type of policy and use it to the advantage of your business, then perhaps it’s the individuals you’ve hired into your business as opposed to the policies you have within your business that need a closer look.”

“So yes, in summary, I see it as a need-to-have in today’s business world. If you cannot trust your team to make the best of this type of policy and use it to the advantage of your business, then perhaps it’s the individuals you’ve hired into your business as opposed to the policies you have within your business that need a closer look.”

Brendon Lezar

Written by Reseach Controller, Maraine Bassonmaraine@ca.co.za

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