In other parts of the world, this seems like a phenomenon large corporations and even small businesses are enabling. It’s not as easy as it sounds. In our experience of the Malaysian context, with flexible working hours, come flexible “results” as well. This could bode well for employers or not.
The environment also attracts more working women now. But their circumstances are slightly different from the male counterparts, because they need to nurture young children and look after a growing family.
When I say flexible working hours, this also means that workers can work from home, and come in to work anytime. Does that suit our working ways and culture?
Let’s take a step back. Why do flexible working hours work when it does?
What makes it work is firstly a sense of ownership. I believe that when the suitable people are enabled to work whenever they want, they actually work harder! (I should go look in a mirror just about now). And there are some people, who try their very level best to work a whole lot less! I think an assessment of the person’s performance prior to allowing flexible hours, should really be taken into consideration.
Suitable people with flexible working hours, can end up working harder. It’s about who they are and whether they have a sense of ownership with your company.
Secondly, there’s a proper system for accountability in place. The simplest sense of accountability is about having performance measures and deliverables in place.
These deliverables are not questionable, i.e. “great customer service and be an awesome team player”, but instead deliverables like “5 articles per week” or “10 new qualified leads a month”. Many companies lack that, which is why they need to see their employees every day, X hours a day.
Thirdly, it also takes a real shift in mindset for the CEO and its leaders. Getting our heads around not seeing our employees and now getting them to work from home, and still deliver is quite a shift. I think most CEOs feel fearful that they do not know what their employees are doing, and a great amount of trust is being given.
So, do flexible working hours work for the Asian company?
I think a lot needs changing. This is a humble opinion, and I really think only several types of positions can be flexible. For instance, positions where performance can be ring-fenced to specific performance, like database input, so performance is considered on the amount of database submitted and input daily or weekly.
Positions that are management type and handle other employees, flexible work hours makes it difficult for these management type positions to work with subordinates.
But if I were a programmer for instance, and my work does not rely on working closely with all my team members, then flexible working hours or even working from home, will not be an issue. I just need to deliver when I say I will.
I believe it does, and frankly, I believe it works for certain people who have proven they can do good work. It’s hard (as an employer) to give away such a privilege, to someone they hardly know. Even when a new employee begins work and in office 8 hours a day, there can still be a mis-match, let alone not see that work-from-home employee.
Employees also need to see that your employers are giving you a Privilege of flexible working hours, which is based on a lot of Trust.
There are also some employers who are extreme, and try to squeeze as much time, blood and sweat out of employees as they can. Some employers are extreme in giving high amounts of penalty for arriving to work 10 minutes late.
When the employer doesn’t say anything, they start coming in 30 mins late. Then again, they probably have lack of sleep because they were at the office till 12am. Where does one draw the line?
I am not saying all is on the employer. Some employees take advantage of their employers and since they can work from home, they end up running all other kinds of businesses (on the payroll of their boss, mind you), and they fail to deliver what they are being paid to.
Of course there are regulations and policies, which state that you cannot take up jobs elsewhere while working with your current employer. But who’s to really know?
Are we ready to move into that sort of working culture? Both employers and employees need to enable that together. It’s not just an announcement by the employer, and “kazaam”, we all live happily ever after.
This is a trust based move, and may not apply to everyone. Like I said, it’s quite a privilege, and employees who have flexible working hours garner a great amount of understanding from their supervisors, and should not take advantage of it.
A flexible working arrangement can work for certain employees can only work, if they are used to getting things done, without your close supervision or micro management.
And employers should first ensure an accountable working environment, with or without you being in the business. If things in the company move only because of you or when you are around, then a flexible working environment will cause more harm than benefits, at this juncture.
Hope you enjoyed my 2 cents. Your thoughts and experience into this matter, are very much welcome.
That’s worth thinking about.
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