Do You Recommend Flexible Hours as Your Employees' Schedule?

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Reader Question:

I have read some of your articles and was wondering if you have done or read any research on working hours. Let me set the stage. We are a healthcare web development company with about 60 employees, of which 55 work in our office. We feel it is important to have teams working together in the office to produce the best productivity, and only sales people work from home.

My partners and I have been wrestling with what is the best work schedule for our employees. Our current working schedule is 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. with an hour for lunch. We have gotten some concern from employees who prefer coming in earlier so they can get home by the dinner hour, 6 p.m.

It has also been expressed that an hour for lunch is not necessary, and a half hour would suffice. Finally, we have gotten requests for flexible hours. We have looked at 8 - 5, 8:30 - 5, 8:30 - 5:15, etc.

We are considering our options and I have two questions for you based on your experience.

  • We have pondered if you have done a study or read of a study that demonstrates whether employee productivity decreases more between 5 - 6 p.m. vs. 4 - 5 p.m.?
  • Is there any evidence that employees are more productive and happier if they get home at the dinner hour?
  • Are flexible hours a better fit than having set hours?

Dear Tom:

I don't have a particular study to refer you to, but I can tell you how I view the world based on 40 years of research and studying best practices. I will also share that I have a company with my husband, high tech, where everything is done in teams.

We have somewhere between 250 and 300 employees. I've read everything that I can find about flex schedules and their impact on employers and employees.

We believe in offering a flexible workplace because, going forward, that is how you will be able to recruit the best talent. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages in a knowledge workplace. We ask staff to be at work for core hours from around 9-3 so the teamwork can happen. But, we allow them to start at 6, 7, 8 or 9.

We ask that they work 40 hours at least and that they commit to a schedule so team members and managers know when they are in. So, Mary might work 7 - 4 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday so she can pick her kids up from the school bus.

But, on Tuesday and Thursday, her husband picks them up, so she works 8 - 5 p.m.

I have some remote employees who live all over the world who telework 100% of the time. These are generally people who worked at our company and a life event caused them to move.

They were people we valued and trusted and everyone is highly committed to making this work. If they live within a two hour drive, they are expected to come in a couple of days a week. This works for some jobs, not all.

I also have employees who telework a couple of days a week. All employees can work from home if they have a contractor or delivery, etc. Bad weather is also an acceptable reason to work from home. We are in the process of writing our telework policy but I believe that we will end up with almost every employee working from home up to two days a week.

I absolutely believe that our flexibility is retaining employees and attracting great talent.

People are more productive when they can stress less about family and life needs. Our staff is learning how to manage this flexibility. We also have a goal setting process for each job so that employees and managers know whether the work is being accomplished.

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Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.