Could Flexible Working Hours Trip Up your Firm?

Posted 16-Dec -2019

In a recent study we conducted among Business Leaders and HR professionals, an interesting finding was that 44 percent of the firms represented offered some sort of flexible working hours. That leaves us with the issue of the remaining 56 percent. Considering the overall findings of the report (flexible hours make a big difference), could these 56 percent of firms be headed for trouble?

After all, employees overwhelmingly want them and firms that offer it have reported better performance even. In fact, employee studies indicate that for the new generation of employees, as many as 90% may consider flexible working as a very important factor when deciding on a job or considering a move. Even public sector services like healthcare in developed markets have found ways to offer their employees flexible hours, as a retention and reward policy. In our own study, 63 percent of corporates opined that productivity spikes when employees work from home. This might be counter-intuitive for some and is a number that compares favorably even with numbers in some other key global markets. On the other hand, you only have to consider the commute time in our biggest cities, or the hazardous conditions for travel because of air pollution, and perhaps the numbers are not so odd after all.

Quite frankly, the impact may not be visible so early on our 56 percent who haven’t offered it. The reasons are many. For one, we have seen many cases in smaller firms where HR has compensated by allowing leaders at mid-levels too, more leeway in allowing Flexi hours, without anything going on record formally. Or even employees finding their own methods to stand in for each other, where the work is completely task led, thus devising their own version of flexible hours, without warning flags going up. All well and good, you would say. Or would you? You don’t need another research study to confirm that given a choice, employees would rather do this with full approval, rather than operate in a market of favours and obligations.

In divisions like HR, where work pressures and volumes can change quickly, firms find it easier to go the gig way, as the contractor or gig worker, in this case, comes with a specific deliverable and time frame that has been agreed to. Small and mid-size firms can see benefits flow especially quickly. For large, yet decentralized firms, it’s the same logic, with the gig worker actually being a much better option, especially in firms that see significant employee turnover too, as in the services sector

Interestingly, the same study indicates that some in the 56 percent do get it. After all, when it comes to work being done, fully 59 percent of the sample expressed an interest in getting the work done, not where it was done. Or how only 30 percent believed that in an 8-hour workday, an employee was productive for 7-8 hours. Yes, 59 percent were clear that employees are usually productive for just about 6 hours, or less.

Of course, with fully 81 percent having tried a gig worker in the past year, it’s not like they haven’t experienced the gig worker yet. So maybe it isn’t the 56 percent which should worry. It could be the final 19 percent hold outs, who don’t have a plan, the inclination, or the desire to attract the best talent for their firms. Will a slowdown out these firms faster? We will be tracking it. Watch out for the results in a future study!

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