NLPES Question of the Month

July 2001

What flexible work schedule options does your office offer, and how important have they been in helping you attract and retain employees?


From: Ethel Detch, Tennessee

A few years ago, our office came up with an "Employee Friendly Workplace" policy that allows employees to select the hours they work each day, ranging from 7:00-3:30 to 9:00-5:30.  We also allow people to work a four-day week as long they get in 37.5 hours per week.  We allow people to work from home with prior approval if they are performing tasks that do not require a physical presence such as report writing or Internet searches.

At various times I have also had people on staff who were Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish and I have allowed them  to "trade" state holidays that have a Christian base such as Good Friday and Christmas  for religious holidays of their choice.

Because we are a "cheap" state government that usually doesn't pay competive salaries,  I have found this feature to be invaluable in recruiting and retaining staff.  I have several very talented people who work here for less pay because we give them greater flexibility to care for children.
 

From: Heather Moritz, Colorado

At the Colorado Office of the State Auditor, we have adopted a number of flexible work schedule and workplace  options.  For example, we allow staff to work flex schedules (i.e., flexible daily start and stop times, as well as flexible daily total work hours) with prior approval from their Team Leader, as long as the schedule does not adversely affect the teamwork audit approach. Staff working on a flex schedule are expected to put in an average of 40 hours a week.  Some staff work nine-hour days and then take off a day every two weeks or they may work ten-hour days and then take a day off each week.  The ten-hour work days are popular with staff assigned to out-of-town audits.

We also allow staff to work part-time schedules to meet various family responsibilities or lifestyle requirements.  A few of our staff with young children have taken advantage of this option.    Part-time schedules must be preapproved by management.  We further require that staff in supervisory positions sufficiently demonstrate that they can meet their management responsibilities if they opt for a part-time schedule.

Finally, we also allow staff to "telecommute" in certain situations, with prior approval from their Team Leader and/or management staff.  Staff who telecommute are expected to be available via phone and e-Mail during normal working hours, just like staff who do not telecommute.  We also expect telecommuting staff to arrange for child/elder care, even though they are working at home.  Lots of staff take advantage of this option, although most do not telecommute all of the time.  For example, many staff prefer to do their report writing at home because there are fewer distractions, so they telecommute.

Overall, I believe that the flexibility that we've built into our workplace has helped us attract and retain excellent staff.
 

From: John Schaff, Utah

In 1997 ULAG adopted a flexible work schedule which allowed employees more freedom to meet their individual needs and improve office productivity.  The "work schedules" shown below allows the employee to select either an 8, 9 or 10 hour working day.  Working either the 9 or 10-hour work-day allows the employee to have one or two weekdays off during the two-week pay period.   Employees are free to choose from any of the 17 work schedules shown below:

Utah Legislative Auditor General's Office
WORK SCHEDULES*

OPTION
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thur
Fri
 
Mon
Tue
Wed
Thur
Fri
                       
A1
8
8
8
8
8
 
8
8
8
8
8
B1
9
9
9
9
4
 
9
9
9
9
4
B2
9
9
9
4
9
 
9
9
9
4
9
B3
9
9
4
9
9
 
9
9
4
9
9
B4
9
4
9
9
9
 
9
4
9
9
9
B5
4
9
9
9
9
 
4
9
9
9
9
C1
9
9
9
9
9
 
9
9
9
8
OFF
C2
9
9
9
9
9
 
9
9
8
OFF
9
C3
9
9
9
9
9
 
9
8
OFF
9
9
C4
9
9
9
9
9
 
8
OFF
9
9
9
C5
9
9
9
9
8
 
OFF
9
9
9
9
D1
10
10
10
10
OFF
 
10
10
10
10
OFF
D2
10
10
10
OFF
10
 
10
10
10
OFF
10
D3
10
10
OFF
10
10
 
10
10
OFF
10
10
D4
10
OFF
10
10
10
 
10
OFF
10
10
10
D5
OFF
10
10
10
10
 
OFF
10
10
10
10
D6
10
10
10
10
OFF
 
OFF
10
10
10
10
* Figures represent number of work hours scheduled for the day and does not include lunch.  

Normal office hours are from 8 am to 5 pm; administrative staff are expected to coordinate their schedules to ensure someone is in the office to greet the public during these hours.  However, employees may elect to work any hours between 6 am and 6 pm.  Working a flexible schedule is not an employee right but a management option.  Consequently, supervisors and staff need to exercise good judgment when using a flexible working schedule to ensure that all team members are working a schedule that allows the team to work together most of the time.

In the four years we have had the flexible work schedule most employees have elected to work either option A-1 or C-1.  Also most employees prefer to start work at either 7:00 or 7:30 am which allows them to avoid the morning traffic.  Once an employee has selected a working schedule he/she then complete an agreement which must be approved by management and formalizes the work schedule.

In addition to flexible work hours, employees may be allowed to work at home when they have enough work to be productive and their work does not require direct contact with either agency personal or audit team members.  Such situations must be approved in advance by the audit supervisor or audit manager.  However, the office has not adopted a telecommuting policy where the employee’s normal work schedule includes one or more work-days spent working at home.
 

From: Paul Bernard, Georgia

Individuals in our office may work 8, 9, or 10 hour days between the hours of 6:30 AM and 6:00 PM.  Under the 9 hour schedule, the individual has one extra day off every two weeks, while under the 10 hour schedule the individual has one extra day off every week.  So far we've been able to allow the individuals to take off whichever day they wish.

In addition, we allow an individual to work part-time and to telework.  So far we have one individual who is working 3/4th time.  Telework is used on a fairly consistent basis and is most often, although not exclusively, used during the drafting or review phases of the audit.

I can't say with any precision how helpful the flexible work schedule options have been in attracting and retaining employees.  However, I can tell you that over 80% of my staff have gone to some type of flex schedule and I've heard nothing but thank-yous from the staff.  So while I can't quantify it, I do know it's one of the important aspects of recruiting and retaining staff.
 

From: Melanie Chesney, Arizona

The Arizona Office of the Auditor General prides itself in being employee- and family-friendly by offering numerous flexible work schedule options.  Frequently employees of our Office cite these flexible schedules as one of the great reasons to work here.  We also let people interviewing for positions with our Office know of these options.

Based on employee feedback, we have increased our  options over the years and now offer the following:
 

  •  Employees can choose to work 4 10-hour days  and have 1 day off each week.
  •  Employees can choose to work 8 9-hour days, 1 8-hour day and have 1 day off during the 2 week pay period.
  •  Telecommuting is available to positions at Auditor II and above.
  •  Employees can choose  their daily work hours but for full-time employees the general rule of thumb is that they arrive by 8:30 AM and do not leave before 4 PM.  Employees have the flexibility on a given day to come in later or leave earlier to accommodate appointments or other personal commitments.
  •  The ability to work part-time is granted to  employees as requested as long as they are performing well.  Employees' part-time schedules range from 20 - 37 hours a week.
  •  For positions at manager level and below, any hours worked in excess of 80 hours per pay period for full-time employees or the number of hours per pay period a part-time employee is scheduled to work are counted as compensatory (comp) time that the employee can use for paid time off at a later date.  Managers can have only 80 hours of comp time in their leave balances.  Positions below the manager level can have more than 80 hours of comp time in their leave balances with Auditor General approval.


From: Sylvia Hensley, California

The California Bureau of State Audits employs the following flexible work schedule options:

Flexible Start:  Employees may choose to start anytime between 7:00 AM and 8:30 AM.  Because of the other options we offer, the stop times vary. However, the earliest stop time is 4:00 PM.

Flexible Lunch Break:  Employees may opt to take either a half-hour or an hour for lunch.

9-8-80 Program:  Under this program, an employee works 8 nine-hour days, 1 eight-hour day, and has every other Friday off during each two-week work period.  (Although some agencies in our state allow employees to choose their day off, we find requiring everyone to take the same day off makes the program easier to manage.)

4 Tens:  While on travel status, an audit team may elect to work 4 ten-hour days instead of a traditional five-day work week.  To take advantage of this option, all team members must agree to work this schedule.

Voluntary Personal Leave Program:  Under this program, employees retain their full-time status but opt to deduct one or two days of pay from their check.  This time is then credited to the employee as voluntary personal leave.  Employees can accrue up to 96 hours of extra personal leave in this program.

Judging from the level of participation, the first three programs listed are especially popular with our employees.  However, because they are offered by most, if not all, agencies in our state, it's difficult to assess their impact on our ability to attract and retain employees.
 

From: Julia North, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau has three flexible schedule options.
 

  • Flexible-time Schedule:  The bureau's standard work schedule consists of ten 8-hour days in each pay period with a work schedule of 7:45-4:30 (including a 45-minute unpaid lunch break).  Staff may submit a written request for a work schedule different from the standard schedule.  Flexible start times are scheduled in 15-minute intervals from 6:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., and flexible stop times are scheduled in 15-minute intervals from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  (Whichever schedule an employee works, each employee must take a 45-minute unpaid lunch break.)  For example, an employee may request a schedule of 7:15-4:00 or 8:30-5:15.
  • Compressed Schedules:  During the summer months (June-August), our office offers two compressed schedule options, and staff may submit a written request for either option.
    • Compressed work schedule option #1: employees work 9-hour days Monday through Thursday each week, and four hours each Friday morning from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    • Compressed work schedule option #2: employees work 9-hour days Monday through Thursday each week, an 8-hour day on the first Friday of the pay period, and have off the Friday after pay day.
  • Part-time Employment:  Full-time employment is strongly encouraged by the bureau.  However, part-time employment is available and is generally limited to 80 percent time with staff working four 8-hour days. The bureau examines requests for part-time employment on a case-by-case basis.


 At this time it is difficult to determine the extent to which these policies have helped in attracting and retaining employees.  However, the policies do seem "popular" given that 83 percent (19 of 23) of non-management program evaluation staff currently utilize one of more of the three options listed above.  Approximately:

  • 57 percent (13 of 23) of non-management program evaluation staff currently work one of the compressed schedules for the summer.
  • 50 percent (5 of 10) of non-management program evaluation staff who do not currently work a compressed schedule work one of the flexible-time schedules (whereby they work a schedule other than 7:45-4:30).
  • 9 percent (2 of 23) of non-management program evaluation staff work part-time.


From: Linda Hagan, Michigan

The Michigan Office of the Auditor General offers its employees all of the flexible work options mentioned in the question of the month (flexible daily start and stop times, compressed work weeks, part-time employment, job-sharing, and a limited amount of telecommuting approved on a case-by-case basis).

We originally implemented our alternative work schedule and reduced work schedule policies in 1992.  Currently, nearly 100% of our staff (audit and support staff) take advantage of a flexible scheduling option.  Our audit crews who are on road assignments normally work the same flexible schedule but members of in-town crews generally are able to select their own schedule which works best for them.

We continue to believe that it is important to be as flexible as possible, within the confines of operational efficiency and effectiveness, when approving alternative work schedules.  For example, this summer, during the closure and reconstruction of the primary expressway into the downtown area, we have extended allowable start and stop times to earlier and later in the day in order to allow our staff the ability to avoid driving during peak congestion periods.   We are convinced that this flexibility is a mutual benefit to the office and our staff.  We are also convinced that this flexibility has been very important in helping us to attract and retain very high caliber staff.  This was recently demonstrated in an independent survey of our staff to which they overwhelmingly responded that our flex time policy was one of the top benefits of working for the Office of the Auditor General.
 

From: Jane Thesing, South Carolina

Since 1993 the SC Legislative Audit Council has had a flex time policy. Each employee must work a minimum of 75 hours in each two week period, but employees, with supervisory approval, can establish their own schedules.  Everyone must work at least 8 out of the 10 work days in the period and the hours worked must be from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.  In practice, many (indeed most employees have some use of flex schedules) employees have taken advantage of flex schedules and we use this option to attract and retain employees; however, we have not done any research on its effects.  We also allow for permanent part-time work; in the past few years we have had 2 employees on a 30 hour week (which allows them to qualify for state benefits).  In general, these policies have been beneficial for staff with no negative effects on job performance.