Nothing telegraphs how much you trust your employees than the freedom to set their own hours.
And that's exactly what I do in my own company.
With the exception of my customer service staff, which needs to maintain specific hours, my employees have flexible work hours, all year long.
David G. Javitch, an organizational psychologist, leadership specialist and president of Javitch Associates in Newton, Mass., describes flextime as providing options. For example, employees can chose to come into the office any time from 7 am to 4 pm as opposed to the traditional 9 to 5 or work 40 hours in four days instead of five.
I take it even further. While the options Javitch explains are an improvement on the 40-hour grind, they don't offer employees true autonomy in scheduling.
My employees have complete control over their personal schedules.
How Self Scheduling Works
How does self scheduling or “self-managed working time” (SMWT) work? For me, it works quite well.
First, my staff is almost entirely remote. Of our 29-person team, only five use a local office. This means I don’t have to worry about coordinating office needs on a traditional schedule.
Second, I base employee assessment entirely on work performance. This means the input of hours and how an employee organizes them doesn’t really matter to me, as long as they are continuing to improve and producing excellent work product.
4 Benefits of Working Whenever
After reading Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, I discovered telecommuting not only benefited my employees, but it also my company.
I could never cover all the benefits of this arrangement in a single article, but here are four of the major ones.
1. It Keeps Staff Happy
The ability to telecommute brings joy to my staff.
In regular feedback from staff, employees describe the freedom to set their own hours as an important factor in their overall job satisfaction.
They can achieve a better work-life balance with their personal schedule, and also feel more respected and trusted by the company. Granting this autonomy to my staff sends a message: I trust you and I know you’re capable of handling this responsibility.
So what are the implications of a happier staff? Happier employees are more productive, which is ultimately good for the bottom line.
Happy employees feel more invested in the company and prouder of their work, which can positively affect retention rates.
Happy employees also tend to be healthier, which means less sick (and unproductive) time off.
2. It Saves the Company Money
When your employees make their own schedules, they can work from home. This can reduce — and sometimes eliminate — the overhead cost of office space.
Space is expensive, but rent isn’t the only factor: Think electricity, Wi-Fi, water, heating and cooling. Those costs add up every month.
When global accounting firm BDO opened a New York City office, the company reduced its office space requirements from 237 square feet per person to 188 feet per person with flexible scheduling, thus saving the company between $1 and $1.5 million annually.
Flexible schedules mean more employees can work from home, and office cost-savings are no joke.
3. It Has No Negative Affect on Performance
A German study that examined the impact of SMWT on employee effort found a “large and significant association between SMWT and extra working time.”
Employees are not inclined to slack off when they aren’t watching the clock. On the contrary: they generally work more.
I’ve seen this data reflected with our company. Because my employees enjoy the perk of creating their own schedules, no one has abused the privilege.
The primary factor on which all employees should be judged is their work performance. I don't care if you check Facebook at work or adjust your hours to suit your lifestyle as long as you complete your work and complete it well.
To ensure ongoing employment, staff members should meet their goals and display continuing signs of improvement.
Many business owners fear their staff won't be as accountable when they are self-scheduled. I think this fear is one of the greatest barriers for companies shifting to this arrangement. This is where work performance assessment becomes integral to success.
A competent manager or boss can tell whether an employee is doing their job without guarding the office door.
I monitor my staff’s output very carefully and pay attention to their growth and improvement. As long as employees continue to provide an excellent and steadily improving product, I trust them to set their own hours and to complete their work in an efficient and timely manner.
4. It Can Support Company Values
While it’s clear that this is a financially sound arrangement for my company, that’s not entirely what this is about.
Our company's mission is to help people build successful businesses online so that they can escape the 9 to 5 grind and enjoy flexibility and freedom in their lives. We want that for our staff, too.
Keeping staff happy and joyful is one of our major values, and one of the ways in which we do that is with self-scheduling. We practice what we preach.
Trust the Team You Build
It’s come up multiple times already, but I’ll say it again: This arrangement is, above all, rooted in trust.
For a company to be successful while allowing team members to create their own schedules, the manager or CEO must truly trust them. This means hiring requires an extreme level of selectiveness and attention.
A functional, flexible team is contingent on my ability to trust a candidate, because like most CEOs, I can’t afford to spend time worrying about whether or not they’ll do their job.
Consider All Options
There are financial, organizational and cultural benefits to allowing your staff to schedule themselves. However, not every company will have this option. There are a number of businesses that must maintain specific hours.
To provide good customer service, some staff members are required to have a permanent schedule, regardless of the industry.
Ultimately, flextime and self-scheduling are business-specific choices.
Business owners should make a habit of asking themselves what they can do to improve the lives of their employees and, ultimately, the productivity of the company. If flextime or self-scheduling are possible options, I encourage you to consider them.
Title image by Chris Lawton
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