Going flexi-time can be tricky, say experts

Going flexi-time can be tricky, say experts

BOSSES are keen to make changes at the workplace to help their staff better manage work and personal demands but introducing such flexi-time arrangements can be tricky, say experts.

A company has to harness technology, build a culture of trust and set up a robust system of assessing workers' performance that does not penalise those on flexi-work, they add.

A recent survey commissioned by The Straits Times and work-life integration advocacy group Employer Alliance showed that some companies could use a tip or two on how to make the system work for them.

The survey conducted by Degree Census Consultancy was detailed in a Straits Times report last Saturday.

It took in responses from 1,000 employees and 500 employers and found that more than 80 per cent of bosses supported initiatives that would help their staff better manage their work and personal or family demands.

But 65 per cent were also concerned about running the business efficiently while addressing their staff's work-life needs.

And 56 per cent added that they would worry about whether employees on a flexi-work arrangement such as teleworking were really getting the job done.

Having a robust appraisal system would help in such cases, noted Ms Tan Wei Leng, the South-east Asia head of marketing at video-conferencing firm Polycom.

Her company trusts staff to work from home and on flexi-work schemes because everyone knows what is expected of them, she said.

"You need to be detailed and transparent about the targets to set your staff so that everyone is on the same page."

Managers set clear targets in talks with staff at the start of the year and then review the situation at the half-year mark.

Staff also have to regularly update their bosses on their work, even if it is through instant messaging and video calls.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan noted that the absence of proper target-setting and performance appraisal is what causes supervisors at many local firms to rely on face time as a proxy for whether an employee is working hard or not.

But having such a structure in place is not enough. Arguably, the more important step is to foster a culture of trust so that employees feel confident about tapping flexi-work and will not worry that their supervisors will mark them down for it.

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