Flexibility a Desired Trait in Employers
“Money makes the world go around,” according to the popular song Money from the musical Cabaret. Perhaps. However, numerous studies indicate that money is not the be-all and end-all for even cash-strapped employees these days. According to a report from the Workplace Flexibility 2010 group at Georgetown Law, “Today, making ends meet is not just about money. It’s also about time.”
In her article, What Employees Want More Than a Raise in 2012, Forbes staff writer Meghan Casserly says that, “Coming out of the economic downturn, it seems priorities have shifted away from the dollars and cents of paychecks and towards more intangible elements of work.” What are some of those intangibles? Freedom and flexibility.
In his article, 8 Things Your Employees Need Most, Jeff Haden, author of numerous books on business, says that the #1 thing that employees need from their employers is freedom. “Whenever possible, give your employees the freedom to work the way they work best,” he says. Issie Lapowsky, a reporter at Inc. magazine, echoes this sentiment in her article 10 Things Employees Want Most by saying, “In addition to deciding how they work, the experts say employees also appreciate having a say over when they work.”
Why are these intangibles so important today? According to the Workplace Flexibility 2010 group, it’s because both parents work in over two-thirds of households today and 18% of working parents are single parents. So, they say, “it’s about getting children off to school or child care, trying to arrange back-up child care when plans fall through, taking the car to the mechanic…caring for an elderly parent, keeping a doctor’s appointment, attending a class to learn new job skills, and going to a parent-teacher conference. It’s about doing all of these things, and still getting a job done.”
So, some flexibility from employers is appreciated in order for employees to handle the countless other duties life brings with it. While employers should not be expected to allow employees to come and go as they please, they can do the following to be more flexible:
• Create an alternative workweek schedule that allows hourly employees to work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period without having to be paid overtime. The advantage to employees is that they could work, for example, four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days each week, which would allow them one business day to take care of their personal business. Because there are strict guidelines that employers must follow to establish a legal alternative workweek (including filing certain paperwork with the State), employers wanting to do so should consult legal counsel.
• Allow flexible schedules in which employees may start the workday earlier or later than their colleagues. For example, an employee could work from 8:30 – 5:30 instead of 8:00 – 5:00 in order to take care of family obligations in the mornings. With flexible schedules, employees still work 8-hour days and are paid overtime for all work in excess of eight hours. Unlike alternative workweek schedules, flexible schedules may be implemented at any time without having to file paperwork with the State.
• Allow make-up time, which consists of hourly employees submitting a written request to work over eight hours one day in order to take time off another day during the same workweek without earning overtime. The employee may not work over 11 hours in one day or 40 hours that week to make up the time off.
Employers should establish a formal process for considering employee requests for flexibility that ensures consistency in order to avoid discrimination claims.
And, employers who don’t see the value in being flexible with their employees might consider these words by martial artist Bruce Lee: “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”