DILEMMA: Valued staff want to work flexible hours but I prefer to have a full office. I am also worried that flexitime will adversely affect the close team spirit in my company.
ISSUES: Is this a case of a control freak sweatshop owner seeking justification, or a genuinely concerned progressive team-builder? Before embarking on flexitime, consider your management style as a leader and whether it is appropriate for this stage of development. There may well be some 'letting go' to do. Be honest too about the the team's current spirit. What is it dependent upon?
The major arguments for flexitime are that you can employ people you couldn't employ otherwise, or increase staff motivation through choice and reducing domestic pressure. I haven't found any proof that flexitime achieves this. Most of us are more concerned with people meeting their objectives than with how many hours they work. Many people work in a virtual environment these days and find other ways to feel a part of a 'community'. The size, nature and work ethic of the business clearly affects the practicality of adopting flexible working.
With conventional flexitime you have to know how many hours you work. So beware the danger that it can turn people who have no idea how many hours they work, and are perfectly content to for it be that way, into compulsive clock watchers. Beware also of the demotivating effect on committed staff who watch their less committed colleagues saving up 10 minutes here or there.
But most of all remember the customer. How will you ensure service is not damaged? Look for ways in which flexi-hours can improve improve customer care. It could help extend service hours.
- If it means you can employ people you couldn't otherwise and it helps the company evolve, then the extra logistical and administrative burden of flexitime may be worth it.
- Use technology as part of the team glue. Get a good e-mail system and consider giving people access to your computer network from home.
- If you trust your staff, try flexi-hours without logging them.
- Don't tolerate abusers and make sure you know how to spot whether the new hours are working or not.
- Remember flexitime doesn't have to be for ever - you can always go back to your old hours if it doesn't work out.
Patrick Dunne works with 3i.