How To Introduce A Flex Time Policy
There is no legal requirement for employers to give employees time off to watch major sporting events such as the World Cup and UEFA European Championship or the Olympic Games. Those who operate flexible working practices may introduce a temporary adjustment to the rules to allows employees to work around the events that they want to watch and make up lost time later. Whereas those who don’t have a formal flexible working policy may introduce a temporary flex time policy to accommodate key sporting events and allow employees to make time up later.
If you are considering introducing a flex time policy then introducing it on a temporary basis during the World Cup tournament, will allow you to have a practice run that you can then either make a permanent arrangement, adjust the rules and extend the scheme for a further month or couple of months or end the scheme.
In this post, I discuss how to create a flex time policy and highlight the benefits and challenges. I also share a sample flex time policy to help you get started quickly.
What is Flex Time?
Flex time is a way to redesign or restructure traditional work schedules so the employee works daily hours different from the contracted or standard hours. It doesn’t reduce the number of hours employees work but allows them to work longer or shorter days with the average over the period equalling their standard working week.
Flex time allows employees the freedom to decide the start and end times of their working day provided they follow the rules of the flex time policy. This flexible arrangement doesn’t reduce the number of hours employees work but sets a minimum work hour limit.
Flex time allows an employee to fulfil a variety of personal needs, including family responsibilities, routine health appointments, educational activities, wellness activities and volunteering without any lost working time. This type of scheduling is flexible enough to be used on an ongoing or as required basis.
Flex Time Options
A typical Flex Time Arrangement is where the employee is free to set their own working hours within limits established by management. This type of arrangement usually contains the following components.
- Core Period — the hours in a workday when all staff are needed, e.g., 10am to 12noon and 2pm to 3.30pm, when meetings are likely to be scheduled, customer contact is heaviest, etc.
- Bandwidth — the hours during which managers allow flexible scheduling (includes the core period). It defines the earliest time employees may arrive and the latest time they may leave, e.g. 7am to 7pm.
- Flexible Hours — these are the hours an employee chooses to work and can vary from day to day.
- Negative and Positive Balances – these are the limits on working time that you allow an employee to either be in positive or negative balance at any time in each recording period. This is usually equivalent to the normal working day of a full-time employee e.g. 7 hours or 7.5 hours. Some Companies stipulate a maximum negative but allow unlimited positive balances, be careful here though as I’ve seen employees who are leaving been owed 100+ hours in flex time. The positive or negative balance at the end of the recording period is carried over to be the starting balance of the next recording period.
- Recording Period – this is the recording period that the employee can accrue additional hours or go into a negative balance e.g. calendar month or 4-week periods are most common.
- Days Off – these are the number of whole days off the employee can take in a period, you may want to limit that number or leave it flexible.
Some employees may work hours that suit them to fit around childcare arrangements and other family commitments but still work their contracted hours each week i.e. 35 hours. Others may work extra time during the recording period so they accrue enough to take a day off to make a long weekend or to 4 days of holiday to make a week. Allowing a negative balance in hours helps employees manage emergencies that crop up such as a car problems or problems with childcare arrangements.
Flex Time working schedules do not affect the accrual of holiday entitlement as would formal flexible working arrangements agreed under the statutory procedures.
Once agreed your Flex Time Policy can be used on a permanent or temporary basis, e.g. to make up missed time.
Benefits of a Flex Time Policy
Introducing a Flex time policy brings several advantages to both businesses and employees, such as:
- Extended Trading Hours
Since employees start work at different times, the chances of the business premises being open longer are higher.
For instance, one employee might start working at 8am and leave at 4pm, whilst another employee may come in to work at 10am and stay till 6.30pm. This way, the job is covered from 8am till 6.30pm when employees work on a flex schedule.
- Increased Competitive Edge
Advertising your Flex Time Policy will make your vacancies more attractive to applicants and can increase the pool of qualified job applicants. The Flex Time Policy will also help retain key employees because they can adjust their hours to meet personal needs instead of having to use leave. Studies show that increasing numbers of employees have turned down “better” job offers (more money) in favour of a less rigid working environment.
- Increased Employee Satisfaction
According to a report from CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development), 55% of employees said that the ability to have a work-life balance is very important to them.
Traditional working hours can make things difficult for employees who have to manage unavoidable personal obligations, such as dropping children at or collecting children from school, during the same time.
Agreeing to a flex time system can help your employees manage work and other tasks such that neither are compromised.
By travelling outside peak hours, employees will experience reduced traffic congestion so their commute to and from work will be quicker.
Instead of working 35 hours per week with a normal working pattern of 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday your employee can work 10am to 6pm on three days a week so they can drop their children at school first, then work 8am to 4pm the remaining two days so they can pick the children up after school.
Another week they may work 8am to 6pm Monday to Thursday (36 hours) and have Friday off and carry the extra hour forward, the following week they might have Monday off and work 8am to 6pm Tuesday to Friday. They would then have a positive balance of two hours to use in another week.
This way, you can increase employee morale and retention and decrease absenteeism.
- Improved Employee Attendance Record
In a survey conducted by Flexjobs, 84% of working parents considered work flexibility very important.
Your employees can find it hard to maintain a work life balance with the traditional work arrangement. They may not be able to make time for important things like a doctor’s appointment, picking up their children from school, etc., which could happen during work hours.
For example, flex time will allow your employees to drop their children at school when they miss their bus or visit a doctor who is only available in the morning and join work after the appointment. Employees with poor sleeping patterns will also be able to set their own start times and you will take advantage of their peak times.
This way, flex time can increase employee satisfaction as it reduces stress due to the juggling of responsibilities. Additionally, this may help your employees start work at a later time rather than taking a sick day. You also do not lose productivity due to ‘down time.
- Streamlined Workflow
Flex time enables you to schedule the workforce according to the workload so you prevent idle and down time.
For example, if the peak times for workload is between 8am and 11am, you can create a flex time schedule that ensures all employees are present during the busiest work hours and are flexible for the remainder of the day.
Additionally, it’ll increase the team’s output as all employees contribute to their fullest potential.
Employees will schedule their time more effectively. For example, meetings, visits and phone calls can be scheduled during core hours. More “quiet” time can be created to tackle work requiring concentration. The result is better time management practices.
- Reduced Overtime
Your employees can modify their work schedule so that they’re present at peak times or when they are needed so they don’t have to work overtime.
For example, if a client requests a meeting at 4pm your employee can choose to work 10am to 6pm instead if 9am to 5pm.
Challenges of a Flex Time Policy
Though a flex time policy has several benefits, implementing an effective flexible schedule can be difficult.
Let’s look at a few of its challenges:
In a flexible work schedule, you may not be able to supervise employees who work during non-traditional work hours.
For example, if you work 9am to 5pm and a member of your team works 10am to 6pm, you may not be able to monitor them after you leave the office. The employee can misuse flex time by leaving early or browsing social media or the internet instead of working.
Flex time can make team collaboration difficult since employees may come to work at different times.
You can avoid this by scheduling work for employees such that they can attend training, meetings, and other necessary events during their work time.
Additionally, flex time can also reduce the efficiency of team communication. This can be solved by using specialized communication tools like Microsoft Teams.
How to Create a Flex Time Policy
Firstly, and most importantly you need to consider your company’s operational needs, nature of the work, staffing patterns etc.
Secondly, if you decide flex time is feasible, consult your employees to determine their take on implementing a flex time policy.
This will help you create a flex time policy that’s both business- and employee-friendly.
Setting The Rules Of Your Flex Time Policy
Here are a few factors you must include in the policy to maintain employee performance and avoid tardiness:
Not every employee will be eligible as not every job lends itself to flex time. It will depend on the nature of the job and the business needs of the work unit.
For example, a flex time policy may not be practical where employee’s presence is critical during standard working hours such as shift workers or those who work alone, and no cover is available. Similarly, employees who interact with clients or provide a service to colleagues such as canteen or cleaning staff may need to come to the workplace at their scheduled start time, whereas admin and office-based staff will be more flexible.
So, if you can only approve a flex time policy for some employees, you must clearly explain the reasons why certain employees won’t be able to participate in the flex time scheme.
You may also exclude employees with an identified and documented performance problem from the flex time policy. If so, this should be clearly stated in the flexx time policy and the employee should be reminded that they will be excluded from the flex time policy in the letter confirming the performance problem.
Setting a section for acceptable flex time hours in your policy can prevent an eligible employee from checking in and out of work whenever they feel like it.
You can include the following in this section:
- Explain core hours – the duration during which employees must be present in the office to improve team collaboration i.e. 10am – 11.30am and 2pm to 3.30pm.
- The minimum number of hours a full-time staff member should work in a week or workday i.e. 28 and 4.
- When they can start and finish work i.e. the earliest start time is 7am and the latest finish time is 7pm.
- The maximum negative or positive hours an employee can accrue i.e. if they reached 7 negative hours, they would have to make some of that time up immediately
- By setting criteria, you can let your employees know what’s acceptable in your firm’s flexible work timings and how the employee is expected to work.
Preventing Misuse of Policy
A flex time employee may become lazy and misuse the flex time policy. In such cases, you may observe a quick decrease in their productivity or incorrect timesheets.
You can prevent this by monitoring your employees regularly, reviewing timesheets, having face-to-face check-ins, etc. You can also give them regular feedback to motivate them to work and keep them engaged.
In case of any misuse, your policy should permit you to immediately terminate the employee’s eligibility to flex time benefits.
Have a trial run to test one or more options for a few months. Address issues as they come up and be prepared to make some adjustments along the way.
By creating a transparent flex time policy, you can also avoid spending time answering your employees’ queries regarding work flexibility.