A Good Argument for Flextime
By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL
“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” – Sir Richard Branson
In our post-pandemic work environment, flexible schedules and remote work are expected perks for many working people. There are fewer and fewer reasons to maintain a strict 9-5 schedule during the day, especially with the freedom most people enjoyed under lockdown. As the old post World War I song says, “How Ya Gonna keep ’em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?”
In fact, many businesses have abandoned their office space completely, and ordered just about everyone to work remotely. While this practice creates issues when there are distractions at home, there is now a resulting boom in remote workplace rentals for the sake of peace and quiet. In the environment of freedom from the constraints of the typical office, workers revolt when this freedom is taken away, or not offered in the first place.
Such is the case of Bob, a long-time client with aging, fragile parents, who shares care responsibilities with his four siblings, some of whom are far flung. Recently laid off from a previous job, Bob finally found a new position in his chosen field. He didn’t think to ask for flextime at the outset, because his parents had not deteriorated to the point of needing 24/7 care. Now, however, the parents require assistance for dressing, eating, getting ready for bed, and other essential life needs. Even though they are in assisted living, Bob and his family continue to dedicate themselves to caring for their elderly parents daily. This schedule requires Bob to be the caretaker several nights a week, making his day much longer than his eight-hour work schedule. He is often exhausted in the mornings and can’t make the eight o’clock official start time. On occasion, he leaves work earlier than the standard five o’clock end of workday to assist with his parents’ dinner schedule. He has communicated his concerns to his supervisor via email and has received no relief.
He’s tried to make up his time on Saturday mornings, noting that his supervisor is also in the office on Saturday morning and sees him there, however, she does not recognize his time on the weekends as time made up. She insists, also via email, that he make up the time during the week. She asks that he come in earlier during regular hours or stay later to make up his time. But the physical and mental toll of being a caretaker of aged parents makes it impossible for Bob to do so. Now, Bob is afraid he may lose his new job because he can’t keep up with the company’s standard work hours.
I suggested to Bob that he find time on the boss’s schedule to speak face to face about his conundrum. The supervisor is reacting with standard, policy-oriented answers hidden by the shield of email, rather than seeing the human need behind the request. She can’t see the personal price Bob is paying trying to keep up with his job and carry out his duty to his ailing parents. His job is not a remote position, and that was made clear with his offer. However, as in anyone’s life, circumstances change. To receive the flextime he desires, Bob must make the necessity of caring for his parents unambiguous to his boss. Otherwise, Bob will either burn out, lose his job, or quit.
According to Indeed, offering a flexible work schedule attracts better employees, retains them longer, and generates a higher rate of employee engagement and morale. A recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine titled “Not Offering Flextime? You’re in Trouble” says it all. Bob’s supervisor is apparently out of step with the latest HR and management thinking about flextime, but it’s also up to Bob to assert the urgency of his situation face to face to get the relief he desires.
“Flexible schedules benefit both the employer and employee in numerous ways. And though it may represent a massive shift in how you’ve done things before, embracing flexible scheduling now will help you succeed in the future.” – FlexJobs
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