Providing Flexible Work Schedules
If you live in Canada, as we do, you know how short the summer season is – especially after the polar vortex we experience last winter. As a self-proclaimed ‘sun worshipper’ there is nothing I love more than a hot, sunny day in the summer. Thousands of Canadians flock to beaches, cottages, camps and patios in the summer to squeeze in as much outdoor time as possible before we need to return to our ‘caves’.
It’s for this reason that providing summer hours or flexible work schedules is a good idea. It allows employees the opportunity to maximize their enjoyment of the warmer weather and results in more engaged and productive employees when they are at the office.
The Benefits of Summer Hours and Flexible Schedules
I once worked at a large pharmaceutical company in the US that had ‘summer’ hours for 6 months a year. From daylight savings time in the Spring to daylight savings time in the Fall, we worked a compressed work week so that we could leave early on Fridays. This was a big perk for me since I was living away from home and it allowed me to either fly home earlier on Friday afternoons or have friends and family come visit me for the weekend. By maximizing my time during the week, I was rewarded with a lighter and more flexible Friday, every Friday, for months. I loved it. At n-gen we have seen this type of flexibility work very well for many of our clients.
While many organizations offer flexible work arrangements, structured summer hours are even more successful because they minimize the guilt many employees say they feel when they leave early on Fridays knowing that their colleagues are still busy at the office. By instituting an early ‘shut down’ policy on Fridays, even if it’s only for July and August, this encourages everyone to reap the benefits. If your business requires 24/7 coverage, it is important to communicate how all employees can benefit from some form of flexibility. Ensure senior leaders adhere to summer hour policies by supporting, encouraging and reinforcing to employees the benefits of a condensed work week and not scheduling any work activities during the ‘shut down’ period of time. Leaders should also, walk the talk by leaving the office early with the rest of the team.
Employees who have even a small degree of flexibility have significantly greater job satisfaction, stronger commitment to their employers and lower levels of stress. When employees feel that their leaders and the organization are invested in their well-being, their engagement levels rise. This translates into employees that:
- expend more discretionary effort, going above and beyond in their roles
- say positive things about the organization publicly and feel emotionally connected to where they work
- accept greater accountability
Every organization needs engaged employees to achieve their results. Employee engagement is the fuel for your business. Summer hours are a great way to get a big bang for your buck. A small adjustment to the work schedule can yield great results.
While many businesses experience a slower season during the summer months, some industries are booming during this time, such as hospitality, retail and sports & entertainment industries. In these cases, it’s important to communicate to employees why it is critical to have everyone working at full tilt during this period of time. Later in the year, when you have a slower period, you can provide greater flexibility.
The options are diverse and should align best to your culture. Most of our clients offer at least one of the following options:
- Flex-time – flexible start and end times
- Reduced time – job sharing or part-year work
- Flex-leaves – time off for extended personal or family time
- Flex-careers – multiple points of entry, exit and re-entry over the course of their career
- Flex-place – employees can work at a different location and at different times than the core business hours
Since there are only a few more weeks in summer, it may be too late for you to implement a formal summer hours policy this year. However, you still have time to encourage your senior leaders to sign off on an early shut down policy for the Friday of Labour Day weekend and for managers to use their discretion in scheduling work on Fridays in August. Let’s get outside and enjoy the sunshine and reward employees for their hard work all year.