Do you still think your small business couldn’t possibly function if you offered your employees flexible work hours? Do you believe your staffers need to be at their desks 9 to 5, or they couldn’t do their jobs effectively? Then you’ll want to know about a growing trend: Companies are increasingly offering even low-level or hourly workers flexibility that used to be available only to white-collar employees.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on this trend and took a look at how factory workers, retail clerks, food service employees and customer service call centers are starting to offer flexible hours to suit their employees’ schedules.
Typically, hourly workers haven’t had a lot of flexibility in their work arrangements. They often find out their week’s schedule just a few days in advance, forcing them to scramble to handle child-care arrangements, doctors’ appointments or other events. One study cited in the article says nearly half of hourly workers have “little or no” control of their schedules.
Why are companies making the change? It’s not entirely altruistic, of course. Offering flexibility helps reduce absenteeism and turnover among employees who can’t fit an inflexible job schedule into their other responsibilities. I think we’d all agree that having to replace a worker and train a new employee is something we’d all like to avoid, costing us time, effort and money.
There’s another clear reason I see for offering hourly workers flexible arrangements: It can help alleviate resentment that builds if some of your employees are allowed flexibility or even remote work options while others are not. Inevitably, in any business there are some jobs that can be done at home (typically white-collar) while others (retail clerk, assembly line) can’t. If you can’t offer these employees the option to work at home, letting them set flexible hours to suit their needs is a nice way to make up for it.
If flexible work truly doesn’t work for your hourly employees, other options that employers are using include offering short increments of paid time off. One company in the article offered as little as 15 minute segments), enabling employees to deal with doctors’ appointments or children’s school plays without having to take the full day off.
You can also offer more lead time on scheduling so employees can plan better knowing what hours they’ll be working in the coming month.
Companies cited in the article say they’ve found more employee engagement, greater loyalty and almost zero turnover among employees who have the option of flexible scheduling. And as someone who offered my staff flexibility for years (even before it was in vogue), I can vouch for the same.
You may not like the idea of flexibility, but the reality is that with two-income families and a 24/7 economy, your approach to how employees work needs to keep pace with the times. If it doesn’t, you’re losing loyalty, losing employees and, ultimately, losing money. And nobody wants to do that.