Flexible work options pay off

Are your employees feeling stressed-out, overworked and underappreciated?

Try this simple remedy: let them decide when they will show up for work.

The School of Medicine's Office of Architecture and Facilities Management did, and it found that letting employees schedule themselves made the work flow better and improved morale to boot.

Roughly one-quarter of the office's 60 full-time-equivalent staff operate on flexible work schedules, including all of the salaried staff. Erin Wieand, the office's director of management and analysis, herself works from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily so that she can take her daughter Madeleine to after-school activities.

Flexible hours work for Erin Wieand, her daughter Madeline, and her office.

Photo by Candace diCarlo

While the office is officially open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., employees may come in earlier, as Wieand does, or later as their needs dictate.

"This is a very demanding, high-stress environment," she said. "Anything you can do to show your staff that you care about them as human beings goes a long way."

Aside from the security guards, who can obtain "flexibility" by requesting different shifts as slots open, Architecture and Facilities Management staff can design their own workweeks, provided that they put in a full 40-hour workweek and that the office has sufficient staff during the 8-to-5 time period.

Wieand's boss, Associate Vice President Steven Wiesenthal, was an early adopter of flexible work options when he took over the merged architecture and facilities-management offices five years ago. According to Wieand, though, flexwork only took off within the past two or three years as employees became comfortable with the new boss' management style.

Flexwork has also proved to be a useful problem-solving tool. "If we see a lateness problem [with an employee], along with a warning, we will ask the person 'Would you like to change your hours?'," she said.

"Nine times out of 10, when a person's hours change, the lateness problem disappears."

And the overall effect on the office? "The employees feel more productive, and they're on time more. I know I feel better - knowing that the boss allows flexibility makes me more loyal and better able to meet the needs of the job," she said.

Next issue: How flexible work options aid employees.

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Originally published on January 28, 1999