Nine-to-five is so last Tuesday: flexitime is the way to work


Nine-to-five is so last Tuesday: flexitime is the way to work

From better productivity to bigger profits, working remotely is becoming a no-brainer for companies

Senior reporter

The days of clocking in at 9am and leaving at 5pm are out the window in some sectors of SA’s working world.
With technology revolutionising the workplace, working from home, on the go and negotiating working times are becoming accepted alternatives in the workplace.
“The concept of flexitime is gaining traction in SA. Our law can be interpreted to make provision for flexitime as it does not regulate the time within which an employee is required to work but rather only provides a maximum number of hours for which employees may be required to work.
“With technological advances that allow for meetings to be conducted remotely and work to be completed from virtually anywhere in the world, flexitime is becoming workable alternative for SA companies,” said Fiona Leppan, a director in law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s employment practice.
“I have seen local businesses becoming much more aware of international trends like flexi hours. Because of tough trading conditions companies are starting to realise how effective flexi hours can be to help reduce operating costs, as there is no need to have so many employees in one location.”
According to Leppan, the use of flexitime is popular with the sales, banking and professional services industries.
“This is because these industries are generally reliant on portable technology such as laptops and cellular phones, as opposed to, for example, the manufacturing industry which requires employees to operate largely immovable equipment,” she said.
Leppan said the law allows for employers to effectively use flexitime within the employment relationship.
“When regulating the conduct of employees who work using flexitime, it is important for employers to set out clear and measurable performance assessment criteria as well as acceptable conduct of employees who are working on flexitime.
“Employers may, in their employment contracts, reserve the right to withdraw an employee's ability to work flexitime should the employee fail to reach the required performance outcome/ target.
“Employers should guard against guaranteeing flexitime as a condition of employment, but rather as a discretional privilege,” Leppan added.
Financial institutions such as Absa have a flexi working hour option.
“Flexi working hour options have been in place for a number of years and can be useful in helping to create a great place to work for employees,” an Absa spokesperson said.
“The programme was established as one of the mechanisms we use to help people to manage aspects of their lives that can compete with traditional working hours.
“Flexi working options create a platform for colleagues and managers to engage around different work preferences or availability. The programme depends on the nature of the role that one occupies. There are other roles that, by their very nature, will not be suitable for such.”
Vodacom is also following suit.
“Vodacom supports a flexible working policy as part of our employee value proposition which allows managers to implement flexible work arrangements, where appropriate, for eligible employees,” a spokesperson said.
“Vodacom strives to provide a level of flexibility to cater for the personal circumstances and preferences of our diverse employees in order to find a greater balance between their professional and personal lives.”
Nicky Hurlimann, the employee experience and enablement head at FNB, said the institution did not have a formal policy.
“We have however made flexible working arrangements available to certain business areas over the past few years. We are in the process of putting a framework together to help guide decisions that businesses make in response to the changing world of work, and the need to consider this more formally as part of our employee value proposition.”
Flexitime benefits
• An increase in productivity, because employees will be permitted to work when they are the most productive;
• The morale of employees may be boosted knowing that their employer trusts them enough not to exercise stringent control over their work hours. Trust is a key component of a healthy employment relationship;
• A shift in the focus of time-based measurements of productivity to one of output-based measurements may increase overall profits. A control that an employer can implement to keep track of employees who work flexitime is to have clearly defined performance goals;
• Allow for a more effective use of time. For example, if employees are permitted to work from home during peak traffic times and commute to work when traffic is not as high – or not commute at all – employees may have more productive hours, not to mention the elimination of undue stress and fatigue associated with peak-hour traffic;
• Companies may save on the costs associated with maintaining an offices space that is allocated and dedicated to one person. “Hot desks”, which allow employees to simply plug into the company’s system when they are at the company’s premises, as opposed to dedicated offices for employees, may be more cost-effective for companies.

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