Community Forum – Flex Time
Does your organization do flex time?
Has anyone implemented flex time in an R&D environment? What has worked best for your organization? – Deb Dihel, Director of R&D, ConAgra Foods
Patrice Gausselin, Senior Group Leader Strategy & Analytics Team, Amway R&D
Our core work hours have a flex time schedule to them. Arrive between 7-9am and work until 3:30-5:30pm. We have staff that adjust their schedules based upon meeting and project requirements. Additionally, we offer a summer flex program with two rotations so work is always covered with ample staff. Staff alternate 4 day and 5 day work weeks by working the longer shifts during the 5 day week.
Karen H Milley, Vice President, Research and Development, Consumer Foods Business, The J.M. Smucker Company
We have flex time for all employees to work their 8 hours a day between the hours of 7am and 6pm. Beyond that we allow each manager within R&D to provide compensatory time for employees that have had long hours during plant trials. That is at the manager’s discretion as to how much and when. Some people take a day off every now and then, some take an hour here and there to visit doctors/dentists etc. Seems to work very well that the team knows they have to be working as the timelines require, but they can schedule around personal needs when they are not as crunched. Non exempt submit over time as an alternative.
George Rotter, PX Asset Manager, BP
In our R&D area we have flexible start times (people work 8 hours/day but start anywhere from 6:30AM to 9:30AM). Besides being good for morale, this can increase efficiency when for instance an early and late arriver can tag team an experimental run or series of analyses. You need to be cognizant of working alone issues outside core hours, but there is typically enough data workup or office type tasks which can be done then. It is a simple matter to schedule team meetings etc during core hours to ensure we catch everyone. Professionals used to working until the job is done (rather than watching the clock) will tend to come in anyway if business critical work appears on their “off-time”.
In the past (but not currently) we had optional compressed work weeks which allowed staff to work longer days and get every other Friday off. That had the advantage of reducing our commuting footprint by 10% across the pool of participants. Some pilot plant operators have been on a 4-10 (4 ten hour days/week) schedule as well. Recently we trialed a summer hours program whereby folks got a Friday afternoon off after working 9 hour days M-TH. My experience is that employees like to have options and such approaches are recognized as promoting work-life balance even by those who don’t opt in.
Ronald G. Abbott, Ph.D., Petrochemicals R&D and Facility Manager, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company
We have had flextime for decades, and it has worked well. Employees can start work anytime from 6-9am with supervisor approval, and are then expected to work the appropriate number of hours from there. We also have a 9/80 schedule. Both provide excellent work/family balance and have yielded minimal inconveniences to the organization.
Director of Research and Technology, Specialty Chemical Manufacturer
Since our main location is in the Northeast US we started by offering a “Summer Hours” schedule. This allowed employees to work 9 h each Monday through Thursday and then work ½ day on Friday. There are four or five versions of the program with varying start and end times but the benefit is ½ days on Fridays. This was very popular with our team members so we made it available but still optional for the entire year. For those that prefer a traditional schedule we offer flexibility on start/end times. We have scientists that start at 6 AM and some that start at 9 AM, and end accordingly.
Larry J. Howell, Executive Director, GM R&D Center, IRI Emeritus
We authorized flex time at GM R&D several years before I retired (in 2001). We required everyone to be at work during certain core hours. As I recall, core hours were from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm with the required 8 hours per day. We could over-ride flex time if necessary, for example for running special tests that required members of a work group to be on site for a specified time period. These special cases were worked out at the local level.
This flexibility was respected by the staff and they handled it well. We had very little abuse. I think it was especially beneficial for staff members where both parents worked and there was a need to care for school age children – getting them to and from school, to sporting events, etc.
I don’t believe it had a negative impact on innovation or productivity; perhaps it had a positive impact as it seemed to be very much appreciated.
Portfolio Manager, Global consumer products company
We have flex time in our R&D environment, but it is done by the honor system. If you’ve traveled after 5pm or have to work in the plant into the wee hours of the morning, you are able to either 1.)take the time off the next day, or 2.) save the time for a later date when appropriate. This is only questioned when an associate takes excessive days off. The manager is expected to help manage this within their group of associates.
Jay Otten, Manager, Technology and Innovation, BASF
Our group has done various iterations of flex time for 15-20 years. We have certain core hours but flex +- 2 hours from them. Within the last couple years we also are allowed to work one day from home, but normally it is the staff rather than technicians who do this due to the nature of the work. It has worked very well for us, and does help morale.
John Rovison, FMC Corp.
We do have some flexing within our organization, however, it must be conducted with sufficient overlap of other activities to avoid the tendency for isolation. It works well for us and facilitates scientists with the freedom to conduct multi-day experiments having discrete steps which do not necessarily coincide with a normal workday or workweek. Often, too rigid a schedule can impede flexibility.
Bob Eilerman, Science Leader, Givaudan Flavors
R&D in our organization implemented flex time many years ago. All we insist upon is that everyone is on site between the hours of 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM so they can be available for team meetings, etc.
Stewart Witzeman Ph.D., Director, Eastman Research Division, Eastman Chemical Company
Eastman has had flex time options company-wide for non-operations personnel for over 10 years. This includes a range of possible start times, with employees allowed to start as early as 6 am and some flexibility in work schedule. One of the more popular work schedule options is a ‘four nines and a four’ schedule where one works four-nine hour days and one- 4 hour day. (four ten hour days are not an approved schedule)
Ultimately it is up to the individual group or department to decide if they can make these options available to their personnel and still meet their organizational missions while operating safely. For this reason some of our support organizations and customer facing organizations are not able to accommodate the ‘four nines and a four’ schedule, opting for the more traditional 8 hour day. Whatever the work schedule of a given employee is, business needs may occasionally necessitate their working beyond normally scheduled work hours.
My experience has been that the ‘four nines and a four’ schedule often has advantages for those doing experimental work. This is because the longer days often fit better for running experiments and the shorter day can be used for writing up work, doing literature work and other tasks.
Marlene Hansen, Senior Human Resources Generalist, Energizer
Yes. It has helped form a work-life balance and colleague satisfaction.
Dawn Mason, Group Leader, Adhesives and Polymers Technology, Eastman Chemical
Yes, we have the option of working four 9hr days and one 4 hour day. It has enabled more run time on experiments without schedule disruption than the traditional five 8 hr days. Most folks take that 4 hrs on Friday, but supervision has the option to alter that, if needed. I know of other organizations that prefer four 10s and the off day is different for different people, generally half take Monday and half take Friday.
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