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Dear Workforce How Do We Get Flex Schedules in HR

September 7, 2011

Dear Flexibility-Deprived:

Missing from your question is any serious business rationale. For example: Do you need service coverage from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.? If so, you could propose a 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule, overlapping with a 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. That would enable customers to reach HR during business hours, while your team could rotate the benefit of departing early with the benefit of starting later.

As a former head of HR at an S&P 500 company for 20 years, I found that flextime could not be distributed identically among research scientists, manufacturing assemblers, building maintenance mechanics and so on. The best way to analyze and propose flextime is to start with business needs and then back into the benefits for the people who work these flexible hours.

Since there is no formal policy, but rather just a practice, it seems that your company isn't big on rules and policies and tolerates a fair bit of improvisation out of local supervisors and managers. If that seems right to you, you might approach it this way:

  1. Forget about the most-exotic flextime alternatives, like 4x10 weeks, three-day weeks and so on. Start with a business problem that has a natural, rational link to a flextime solution. HR is a service department, and typically needs to be available during all the company's daytime business hours.

  2. Come up with the most concrete business rationale you can. Think of some ugly problem your customers complain about that might be addressed by a conservative use of flextime.

  3. Do your research to be absolutely sure that nothing in your proposal violates or fudges any FLSA or applicable state laws regarding pay for nonexempts.

  4. Rather than box in your VP of HR with a formal memo, ask to meet briefly after you have a business rationale. That enables you to find out if your boss is receptive. If so, you then can ask if a memo is necessary, or whether you can simply implement flextime as other departments have done.

Our HR department had a guideline: We would not claim the first or most extreme benefits from a given policy innovation for ourselves. HR is visible to all employees in the company. If you have a practice of taking care of your own first and best, it will breed resentment among the troops in other departments that don't have their hands on the levers of power. Start with a business problem and limit your self-interest. You will build more respect for the HR function than if HR is seen as routinely maximizing benefits for its own employees.

SOURCE: Harold Fethe, organizational consultant, St. Augustine, Florida, June 23, 2008.

LEARN MORE: Flexible schedules and other alternative arrangements are gaining ground within corporations, in part because of skyrocketing gas prices.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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