Small and growing businesses depend on attracting and retaining quality personnel, but the cost of standard employee “perks” such as health insurance, fitness club memberships or a pension, may be out of reach for smaller enterprises. Does this mean that small businesses have to settle for that employee whose primary qualification is breathing? Not necessarily.
People judge two things as almost equivalent: money and time. Small businesses have the elasticity to offer new hires flextime, job sharing or an alternate schedule that many large corporations can’t. Time perks don’t increase overhead expenses and can create a winning situation for employer and employee alike. Flextime can help startups build a great team of motivated employees and may help retain valuable human resources when other, more highly capitalized companies come a-courting.
YOUR MONEY AND YOUR LIFE
Men and women today are seeking a way to balance work and life, and flextime or job sharing allows employees to schedule around family or personal priorities without sacrificing job time. Single parents especially appreciate this kind of scheduling, as it allows them to work full or close-to-full time and then be home when their children return from school. Scheduling that allows parents more time in which to interact with their children helps maintain strong family ties, which studies have shown over the long run results in an employee with a better attitude who is more productive. It may also help cut down on child-related absences, many of which are a child’s way of dealing with abandonment issues.
And what about those recurring appointments: dentist, doctor, or other professional? A flexible schedule allows employees to book time during what would be the professional’s normal workday without taking time off. In short, a flexible schedule can result in lowered absenteeism, which should make any employer happy.
Flextime can maximize productivity by ensuring that periods with the greatest workflow are adequately staffed while minimizing the total number of people employed. For example, if the greatest amount of business takes place during traditional lunch breaks(11 am to 1 pm), staggering start times for some staffers from 8 am to 10 am or noon ensures that there will always be someone ready to take customers who won’t have to interrupt a transaction to go to lunch.
Flextime also decreases the need for overtime. Certain businesses (printing comes to mind) are deadline-driven and highly dependent on receiving correct information or files from customers. If the sales staff has made a deadline promise but production discovers
that the files submitted don’t work, production either has to work overtime if the customer submits corrected files late in the day, or the deadline is missed so there is no overtime, a solution that antagonizes the customer and potentially loses future business.
A flextime schedule, however, will also ensure that someone will be around after hours to receive files, produce product or at least set up the job so early risers can produce the job and meet the customer’s needs. Business no longer an 8 to 5 proposition, so staffing should reflect changes in the workplace in a way that is cost efficient, maximizes customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction as well.
Flextime may help decrease tardiness. Even the most conscientious employee may arrive late more than once due to rush hour traffic tie-ups that extend an already-lengthy commute time. Altering an employee’s start time allows them to miss rush hour traffic, and can cut commute time by several minutes per day.
There are some downsides to offering flexible schedules to employees. The primary one: the personality of the employer is the greatest challenge. Other potential problem areas relate to employee training and accountability.
Employees participating in a flextime program will need to have initial training that is adequate to allow them to work independently for part of the day. This means the person doing the training must know their job thoroughly and have the communication skills necessary to perform a top-notch teaching job. If an organization lacks personnel capable of performing training, the owner may want to develop and implement a training program. If the business owner is similarly handicapped, then offering flexible schedules may not be an option.
Flextime requires employees to be capable of self-management and be trustworthy. Although traditional schedules permit employees to waste considerable amounts of time in many cases, socializing with their immediate supervisors, flextime increases opportunity for chatting on the phone, shopping on the internet, or using company time for activities other than work. Clearly stating and measuring objectives and work output for employees working unsupervised would build accountability into the system and create incentives not to cheat.
Finally, employers with control issues will find that flextime makes him or her as anxious as a basketful of kittens at a canary farm. Every hour an employee is left alone and unsupervised creates discomfort, and the owner begins to obsess that “something bad” is going on regardless of evidence to the contrary. Flextime does involve creating a system of accountability and improving communication within the workplace. Employers who can’t “let go” often find communication difficult. These same people obtain internal rewards from micromanaging people in their charge. Offering employees the ability to self-manage would, literally, drive these people crazy.
Flextime, job sharing or allowing for an alternate schedule may not be a panacea for a struggling business, but offering employees the opportunity to manage their own time can improve morale, work output and quality, and ultimately the company’s bottom line.