As the thermometer rises, so should employers’ (and managers’) tolerance for flex time
By Todd Humber
Summer in Canada is too short. At least, it feels far too short and perception, as we all know, is reality.
When the mercury rises, so too does the desire for employees to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Staff gaze longingly out the window when there’s not a cloud in the sky and the thermometer is pushing 30C.
To assist in fighting this natural distraction, many organizations offer summer perks. Employees, clearly, want flexibility in their schedules, especially during the summer months. In fact, flexible schedules and leaving work early on Fridays are the most coveted summer perks, according to a survey of 377 workers conducted by OfficeTeam.
Of course, not every organization can jump on the flex-time bandwagon. When I was in university, I spent my summers toiling on the line at Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ont., building minivans.
It was a great summer job but, when the line started rolling, workers had to be at their stations, tools in hand and ready to go. Flex work schedules in that environment would be a disaster.
But for many workers, coming in early and leaving early (or staying late to bank hours) is feasible. But employers haven’t exactly caught flex-time fever. Less than one-quarter (23 per cent) of the 150 HR managers surveyed by OfficeTeam said their company offers flex schedules during the summer, and 20 per cent said staff are allowed to leave early on Fridays.
It’s surprising flex time hasn’t caught on to a greater degree than that. After all, flex time costs nothing and the benefits are huge.
Giving employees the freedom to shift their start time makes for happy, productive employees. They still get their work done, yet can make it home in time to take their kids to soccer. Or they can get a jump on the weekend. Or perhaps just have more time to run errands and more time to spend at home.
Organizations, and managers in particular, have to abandon the notion that workers have to be sitting in their chairs, at a specific time and under the thumb of supervision, in order to be productive. As more companies adopt flexible philosophies – a trend that is only going to gain steam – more organizations will have to jump on the bandwagon.
But merely jumping on the bandwagon isn’t enough. All managers and supervisors need to be trained on the benefits of flex time. Too many organizations that have embraced flex time on a corporate level still face pockets of resistance from managers who don’t buy into the philosophy.
That can breed resentment as employees who report to different managers have very different experiences. Being forced to punch the clock and sit in your cubicle while your neighbor, who has a more progressive manager, is able to come and go via flex time, is a recipe for disengagement.
And disengagement is not a recipe employers should be grilling up during the all-too-brief summer months.
Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.