Myths and Realities of the Family-Friendly Workplace {Part 2}

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Flex time was a hot topic of conversation during the recent White House Summit on Working Families. President Obama and the First Lady themselves referenced the subject at the June event, talking about their own experiences working and taking care of young children. Yet face time (strict 9-to-5) remains the gold standard in many places - in some companies, it can be a career ender just to ask about a flexible schedule.

Last week I looked at actual family-friendly supports. Today, we take on what you may think you know about flex time.

4 Myths and Realities of Flex Time

Myth #1: Flexible schedules mean everybody gets to work by remote.

Reality: Don't go shutting down the home office just yet. Flex time isn't giving employees the keys to the kingdom. It isn't carte blanche for the entire company to conduct business at their kitchen table in their PJs. A genuinely flexible schedule starts with a baseline, some basic requirements (everyone in on certain days for staff meetings, for example) and then offers wiggle room so that people can tend to their work and their families.


Myth #2: But if they choose their hours, everyone will take advantage and invest only minimal energy.

Reality: Really? Ask any working parent with a flexible schedule how many hours he or she works and you'll find out they can be the biggest bargains in business. Because in return for the ability to attend soccer games and parent teacher conferences, these people will move heaven and earth to get the job done - and then some. Combined with the child care supports we discussed earlier, you get people who are not only more available for unexpected work demands, they're also more willing and able to volunteer for things not required of the job. As Ellen Galinsky of Families and Work Institute told On Point recently, flex time nets for employers "...people who are well educated and who know their jobs and who give a lot more, because they're really glad that they can have a family and care for their family the way that they want to and continue to provide for their family economically."


Myth #3: But flexible schedule means people make their own rules.

Reality: In genuinely flexible cultures, the biggest rule is the one that everyone abides: getting the job done. And they do it because a) they want to preserve this great perk; b) because they want to pay back their employer, and c) because all those good feelings connects them to the company in a way that makes them want to ensure its success. Some people might abuse the privilege. But they're the exception and any slacking will be quickly evident in their results.


Myth #4: Family-friendly flexibility means rules like absence policies go out the window.

Reality: OK, so you've got an ultra-rigid, zero-tolerance absence policy. What does that get you? Probably people who are so worried about getting to work that they do so when their minds are somewhere else. And what benefit can you possibly gain by firing employees for "absence abuse" because they can't show when they have a child home on a snow day - especially if you haven't offered any assistance (like back-up care) to ensure they can get there? Those kinds of policies create fearful employees...not engaged ones. And when they know they have permission to call out on such occasions, they bend over backwards to avoid it.

In reality, it's self-defeating not take care of your employees. You'd support inanimate assets printers, IT infrastructure, delivery fleets so why wouldn't you invest in preserving your most important assets? Take a look at the FORTUNE list of best companies to work for. It's no accident that the biggest financial success stories turn up on that list year after year. They must be doing something right.  
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About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
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