In the cusp of changing organizational cultures, the most important aspect of employees these days is the office work timings. Due to the evolving nature of work, a lot many companies have been following a lenient schedule about when employees can report to work and they only decide when to leave. However, there are still organizations which harp on the strict timing of 9-5 work culture. While the flexibility to come to work has its own benefits, one cannot ignore the fact that there are many who take this as an excuse to come late at work.
Typically, there are two types of organizations, one which allows employees to come at any time as long as you finish your work/project on time, attend meetings through dial-in a common number, take Work-From-Home options, and take leaves as per their own schedules. The companies only demand is: Work should be finished on time.
Challenge: People take undue advantage of this, and sometimes lack at their work activity.
Two, the traditional workplace: They are very strict about office timings. If it's 9 am to 6pm, these organizations give extensive importance to this. Any kind of work from home option is not there. Employees have to be physically present at the meetings. How many hours you put in at work is also measured by the attendance metric.
Challenge: Since Millennials are joining work, the need to shift to a more flexible timing becomes a necessity since Millennials have a different aptitude: finishing work is more important than hours. Working mothers need flexible work timings than most, and for them adhering to strict timings might be a problem.
So how do organizations manage their policies regarding the issue? Let’s explore.
For organizations like SAP, Coverfox, Kronos Incorporated, EMC flexibility is the key. At SAP India, in order to handle their diverse workforce which include fresh out of college grads to mature talent who has been with the company for several years, the company believes in empowering their employees to choose from when they would want to do their work. They have the option to work from home, work part-time or go on sabbatical leave. “At SAP we don’t track employee attendance or clock the number of hours they work. We have flexible work timings, which mean employees can choose the number of hours they want to work and the location of work to meet their deliverables. We trust our employees to give their best and in turn we’ve been rewarded by a workforce that’s passionate about delivering products and solutions that meet the needs of our customers,” said Vlasta Dusil, Head HR, SAP India.
Coverfox, the insurance broking firm is an advocate of flexible timings and since it's a startup it becomes difficult to impose any strict timelines. Ruchi Deepak, Head of Human Resources – Coverfox.com said, “We are not too particular about the time an employee enters or exits the office. While we suggest that all employees come into office by 10, we leave it to their discretion.”
Kronos Incorporated provides flexibility to employees to work with their managers on their schedules and work life balance. Rajiv Burman, Senior Director and Head Human Resources APAC, Kronos India, “We encourage managers to ensure that employees can work from home, alter the work timings etc to balance their needs. Our offices have regular work hours and each team has projects and deadlines. The manager in each team works with employees to ensure that we can deliver on business needs and also provide flexibility to employees around work hours and schedules.”
There are organizations like AHA Taxi, Endurance International group which believes in the mix of both traditional and flexible work timings. For Endurance International Group, empowering its employees with the ‘right to choose’ option is the key. According to Lavita Nathani, Director-HR at the company, “We consider our employees as highly mature and accountable and hence have opted for a mix of flexible and traditional system when it comes to work timings. Every individual as well as teams are given the freedom to decide on their own in-times. These timings are chosen by employees themselves based on what would help them generate the highest creativity, team-work, collaboration and productivity. We expect individuals to be rigorous in their work-ethic by themselves and do not "police" anyone."
While Meera Girdhar, Head of Human Resources – AHA Taxis who also follow the mix of both, said, “We request our employees to be in office for meetings. However our operations team is usually in office or in field depending on their work profile. For other functions like HR and Tech we follow a flexible approach, our employees have the choice to work from home when they can manage it using computer and mobile.”
In the sea of flexibility, Parle Agro is one such company which adheres to the traditional work timings. The office timing is from 8.30 to 5pm. And the company doesn’t encourage late sitting. “The work timings at Parle Agro have been setup to suit the needs and requirements of all the employees making it convenient for them to pursue their hobbies, interests and allowing them adequate time with their families. Considering this scenario, we have not faced any particular challenge in the current system. In fact, employees appreciate the office timings that the organization has set up for it allows them to spend quality time pursuing their passions,” said Parag Page, Vice President, HR – Parle Agro.
According to SAP India, one of the major challenges employees across companies face in all major cities in India is time loss due to increasing density of traffic. To reduce the burden of using personal transport, SAP like most other large companies provides transportation for employee commute. While commuting is taken care of, Coverfox at times faces challenges while coordinating meetings between functions. It becomes a task due to the different times that employees come to office. However, this is usually solved by pre planning, but risk cannot be written off.
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Virtual collaboration, reducing the need for employees to travel, video conferencing, Skype for business communications, latest personal gadgets and applications help employees to be able to work from any location. Pallavi Kapoor, Head HR- India & SAARC at EMC said, “EMC is a sales driven organization where majority of the employees are at field. Every employee is technically enabled which makes it easier for them to connect and collaborate.”
What happens when employees take advantage
Organizations are usually strict when it comes to non-performance. However, the employees are not ousted at the very first instant. But the company usually looks into the reason for taking lax and if reasons are found justified then the employee is not reprimanded of his/her action. However, most of the companies believe that delivering the required work is the most important aspect than any – whether one works from home or attends office everyday. “Our core philosophy is that we are a people company in the technology business and therefore have a strong orientation to customer. Our people are professionals who do not take undue advantage of this flexibility and focus on quality of work than rigid work hours,” says Pallavi Kapoor of EMC.
Vlasta Dusil of SAP India said, “Our culture is based on trust and transparency and therefore we don’t have to deal with issues related to misuse of policies. Also, through a process of continuous engagement and assessment, policy misuse can be avoided. When you make your own rules, the need to break them rarely arises. It is a testament to the high level of trust we have in our organization.” Meera Girdhar at AHA Taxis said, “Our team leaders and department heads are usually able to resolve any such issues with their subordinates/employee in an amicable manner. We are always supportive of genuine cases, in case of severe lapses we like to talk it out with the employees to understand their concerns and see what best can be done to resolve the situation.”