If you are seeking to be an employer of choice, also look at options that could be offered throughout the year.
Q: We are trying to figure out a good approach to letting people have more flexibility in the summer, while not creating an administrative nightmare (or too much latitude). What do you suggest as an approach?
A: Match your approach to the needs and preferences of all involved.
First of all, figure out your goal. Is there a specific unmet need that you are trying to address? For example, is a perception that your company is rigid impeding staff recruitment or retention? Are you trying to compensate for limitations on compensation through flexibility?
If you just have a general “want to do the right thing” motivation, be sure you understand what your employees actually want. There is nothing more discouraging than to offer a perk that lands with a thud.
For example, you may think that letting people work extra hours on certain days so they can leave early on Fridays is an employee-centered policy. Too often, though, people may have work-imposed restrictions that don’t make the departure feasible. This then leads to disappointed employees.
This can be avoided by getting employee input. If flexibility is something they have been asking for, get some details about what they would like rather than guessing.
You also have to manage your company’s needs. If you need coverage during all business hours for some departments, be sure your summer flex policy takes that into account.
Then put a manageable plan into place. It may be as simple as just letting people know that they can take an early day a few times a summer, workload permitting. If coverage needs to be ensured, there should be proactive communication with their manager. If people fill out time sheets, figure out how they should complete it for flex time out.
If your company is larger or more complex, you may need to be more formal. From a practical perspective, you may be a bit late from a planning perspective, so maybe you want to find a simple approach while you think through something more comprehensive for next year.
Also keep in mind that you could be opening a can of worms. Some departments have more built in flexibility while others have more rigid deadlines and structure. For example, in a finance group, end-of-month close times are strictly dictated. Be sure you can be equitable, cost-neutral for your company (assuming that’s a priority), and consistent with any collective bargaining agreements.
Now, about those who may abuse the flexibility. Rather than limit rewards for good performers, take a direct and constructive approach to managing someone who has performance issues.
Taking a broader step back, consider how this desire for flexibility could be extended. If you are seeking to be an employer of choice, look at options that could be offered throughout the year.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.