Flex-time is no longer a new concept. Most tech-based companies offer some freedom regarding when and where their employees work. However, flex-time is far from widely accepted and often poorly implemented. For example, many employers say they offer flexible work schedules but their employees are still unhappy with their schedules. This happens when the flexibility in flex-time is defined from the management as opposed to the employees. Additionally, taking flex-time is still often viewed negatively when it is taken specifically to meet personal needs.
This is a shame, because flex-time is one of the major solutions to accommodating and celebrating workplace diversity.
Flex-Time Allows Employees to Celebrate Different Holidays
I started thinking about flex-time last week because it was a major Bulgarian holiday. March 3rd is Liberation Day in Bulgaria, when Bulgarians celebrate liberation from Ottoman rule. As such, it is considered a national holiday and most offices are closed. Being a foreigner, I am happy for the four day weekend, but I do not have as much reason to celebrate the holiday as my Bulgarian co-workers. For this reason, I am more likely to want to work on the 3rd of March and save that time off for another holiday that may have more personal significance to me, such as the fourth of July.
Flex-time, and more specifically, a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) accommodates the various religious, social, and cultural holidays your employees may celebrate throughout the year. Perhaps more importantly, it allows your employees to keep working over holidays they do not celebrate, which can keep your international clients satisfied. This is critical in the EU, where workplaces are often managed by people from one country, located in a second country, and staffed with people from various backgrounds. However, it is also becoming more important in the United States as cultural and social diversity continues to expand.
Flex-Time Supports Employees With Various Familial Obligations
It is common for employees to ask for better parental leave. In Bulgaria, parental leave can be considered amazing, with maternity benefits lasting two years and paternity benefits also recognized. Even so, this does not address the needs that many employees have. Familial obligations often include caring for older children or supporting elderly relatives. This is not addressed by a parental leave plan, but it can easily be addressed by ROWE flex-time.
Perhaps even more importantly, ROWE flex-time does not require that employees reveal that they are leaving work for personal reasons. As long as an employee continues to provide valuable performance for their company, they are free to care for their family in any way they see fit without being criticized for being too involved with their family or not dedicated to their work. In this way, ROWE flex-time gets rid of the need to state WHY an employee is working from home or the local coffee shop and instead focuses on the benefits of allowing an employee to have that freedom.
Flex-Time Meets Various Physical and Psychological Needs
Not every employee can be successful in the 9-5 environment, and certainly not everyone can be successful in the 8-6 environment that the modern world often asks of employees. Nikola works best at night. 10pm-3am are his peak performance hours. I shift my schedule every month to have 2-3 days free for complications with my period.
Asking Nikola to work 9-5 would greatly reduce his productivity. Asking me to work during my period would make both me and my co-workers miserable.
However, an employee should not have to reveal their personal physical or psychological needs in order to work a different schedule or in a different location. A ROWE flex-time approach gives employees the respect they deserve by trusting them to make their own decisions about their mental and physical health and still meet their required performance output.
Unfortunately, flex-time is a foreign concept in Bulgaria. When starting a business and creating work contracts, a rigid work schedule is required to complete the official paperwork. Additionally, holiday schedules are determined by the government as opposed to individual firms. However, as a small company, we are lucky that we are able to offer flex-time to our employees when they need it. At the moment, we still require our employees to be located in Gabrovo, but we often allow them to work from home or shift their work hours as they see fit. It is an intentional decision that we hope to continue to implement as we grow.