The term “hybrid workplace” has become increasingly common in recent times. While this is partially due to constraints associated with the recent pandemic, the fact of the matter is that such a trend is largely the result of technological advancements. It is, therefore, no surprise that more flexible working hours for parents are more realistic options than ever before.
While this is great news for employees and young families alike, it can sometimes create challenges for HR departments. What steps can be taken to ensure that the most logical and efficient approaches are taken? How might these decisions impact the business itself?
What types of flexible hourly options are available? These are some of the questions that we will be addressing throughout this article. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Flexible working hours for parents: the different types of plans
We should first begin by noting that there are a host of unique ways in which flexible hours can be implemented. Here are the primary strategies:
- Hours that are staggered
- Part-time schedules
- Compressed hours
- The “flexitime” approach
It can be argued that staggered working hours are the most common for parents. As the name already hints, this type of schedule enables employees to choose when they start, finish and take breaks throughout the day.
Another benefit of this approach is that parents will often be able to avoid peak traffic times; helping to reduce the stress associated with commuting to and from the office.
Other parents may choose to work on a part-time basis. This frequently occurs when a child has recently come into the family, as it will require more attention and schedules have yet to be fully solidified. Of course, HR professionals will have to decide which hours are the most appropriate as well as how reduced shifts may impact salaries.
Compressed hours are yet another option. In this case, work is essential to rearrange into longer weekly “blocks”. For instance, an employee may remain at home for Monday and Tuesday and instead work ten-house shifts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Flexitime is a final approach. Simply stated, parents can choose when they begin and end their workday. They will nonetheless be required to remain at the office for the same number of hours.
One example may include shifting a typical nine-to-five schedule to one which begins at seven o’clock in the morning and terminates at three o’clock in the afternoon.
The main intention of these flexible working hours for parents is to provide a more enriched working environment while simultaneously ensuring that productivity is maintained at optimal levels.
Now that we have learned to appreciate the most common approaches, it is wise to examine how HR professionals can oversee the needs of parents within a contemporary business environment.
Dealing with initial requests
How can an HR department address any requests for a change in working hours? There are several ways in which this process can be streamlined to avoid any possible confusion.
It is first crucial to keep all scheduling policies up to date. After all, it makes little sense to offer an employee an option that is no longer relevant. These very same options should be clear and concise; helping to avoid confusion and miscommunications along the way.
When a request is processed, be sure to explain how a change in working hours may potentially impact the roles and responsibilities of the employee in question. Ensure that co-workers are aware that such changes are taking place in advance.
This will enable them to plan for any possible contingencies (such as fewer sales team members on a specific day of the week). This helps to guarantee that in-house operations will not be jeopardised.
Clarify channels of communication
There are many benefits associated with flexible working hours for parents. They can supervise their child, they will be able to spend more time with their family and if managed properly, they will remain loyal to the company. However, communications can often represent a pitfall.
As the Harvard Business Review stresses, all methods of communication should be clarified from the very beginning. For instance, under what circumstances should an employee contact the office when working from home? What email channels are to be used and what constitutes a parental emergency that may require office leave?
Parents who work from home must be aware of when they need to be available and how frequently they are required to check-in. This is the main reason why modern communication packages such as VoIP systems are often used, as these tools will help to mitigate any issues with staff communication.
Establish a sense of mutual trust
Another issue that often arises when managing flexible working hours for parents involves the simple concept of trust.
After all, employees may not always be present within a physical office. Team leaders and similar stakeholders may sometimes feel as if their generosity is being taken for granted; particularly if employee productivity begins to suffer as a result of a more flexible schedule.
This is when trust comes into play. For instance, it is a well-known fact that one of the keys to becoming a successful manager involves stressing punctuality and expecting this same quality from a subordinate. Unfortunately, flexible working hours may cause some parents to take such opportunities for granted (even if on a subconscious level).
While such actions should be noted and discouraged, it is normally best not to chastise the worker in question. Rather, make it clear that flexibility does not equate to missing important meetings or arriving to work late.
If they are treated with respect, they will begin to trust managers and HR representatives. As a result, they will be more likely to come forward if a scheduling conflict arises.
Clarify any “no-go” situations
This next recommendation stems from the previous section and it deserves closer attention before moving on. Flexibility is a great approach when dealing with new parents. However, there are limits to this level of latitude. Establish the boundaries of such an approach in terms of what is allowed and what is not.
For instance, some parents may feel that a baby who is slightly sick signifies that they can suddenly shift a schedule with no prior notice. Such situations can massively disrupt the in-house efforts of any business. The main issue here is that any type of misunderstanding is generally the result of improper communication.
The best way to avoid these types of conflicts is to create a resource guide that outlines exactly what flexible working hours for parents entail. It is also prudent to encourage employees to come forward with any questions before the shift changes are implemented. A bit of insight will go a long way towards averting any issues.
Supervise timely scheduling reviews
Some HR managers mistakenly believe that flexible working hours will not need to be reviewed due to their malleable nature. However, the fact of the matter is that changing times or workloads could dictate that updated policies must be put into place.
There are likewise instances when parents might need to modify the hours they work at the office and when they perform duties from home (such as when an infant becomes a toddler or a family plans on upgrading to a larger home).
It is best to perform timely reviews and to have employees participate in these question-and-answer sessions. Here are some topics which can be addressed:
- How happy are the workers with their current arrangements?
- Do they feel that extra support is needed when working from home?
- Can methods of communication when working outside of the office be improved?
- What single scheduling change would have the most positive impact on their everyday experiences?
Obtaining this type of honest and open feedback will provide HR managers with the insight required to make any changes at the appropriate times. Employees will also feel that they are being kept “in the loop”; helping to increase their sense of company loyalty and reducing turnover rates.
Create a positive company culture that embraces parenthood
A final challenge that HR professionals will often face when establishing flexible working hours for parents involves how full-time employees perceive such changes. There may even be times when in-house workers become jealous of their parental counterparts. In such a situation, a touch of objective empathy can have a massive impact.
The best way to reduce the chances of such internal conflicts is to celebrate parenthood within the office environment. Share the details of new birth, encourage employees to send gifts to parents and create activities outside of the office to strengthen bonds between workers.
These are some of the very same recommendations which can help to build a sense of teamwork within any professional environment. Let’s remember that human resources involve far more than paperwork alone!
The good news is that most organisations are now beginning to adopt the recommendations mentioned above. The needs of parents will be catered to and the organisation as a whole will continue to enjoy success.
However, HR professionals need to embrace what can only be called a hands-on approach to better appreciate the needs of their employees. This will establish a transparent rapport and ultimately, lead to higher levels of in-house productivity.
Now that hybrid offices are becoming commonplace and thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), flexible working hours for parents and remote employment represent the wave of the future. It pays to remain one step ahead of the curve and the advice outlined throughout this article will certainly help.
About the Author
This article was written by Michael Dinneen of the NYC Nanny Agency NannyCity. NannyCity is a leading agency for nanny services, with locations in both NYC & CT.