The competition to find, hire and retain quality employees is increasingly stiff, and enterprising employers continually find new ways to attract the best and brightest candidates.
Some companies are shifting from the traditional 9-5 work day and personal time off policies toward flextime off, with the hopes of achieving a mutually beneficial arrangement that will improve employee productivity and creativity. Policies vary by company, industry and employer, but FTO is an emerging trend aimed at reducing the stress and burnout of employees in an array of workplace settings.
Some companies have even gone as far as offering unlimited time off, taking the concept a step further. As the number of employers that offer the benefit grows, HR managers and experts will glean lessons about what works and what does not. Anecdotal tales and expert advice offer a glimpse into the potential success and failure of FTO policies.
Project: Worldwide Offers Unlimited Time Off
Independent, employee-owned advertising agency Project: Worldwide has nixed the traditional accrual of personal days off, according to an Adweek article. CEO Robert Vallee Jr. says the only limit on time off is “reasonableness,” as deadlines must still be met and work must still get done.
"In an entrepreneurial company, you want a results-driven culture of trust. You want to find the right people, and it's important to give them the right choices to blend work and life," he says. According to data from the Society of Human Resource Management, just 2% of companies in the U.S. opt to use FTO, and only a handful of ad agencies adopted the FTO policy. One manager at SHRM says it’s important for a company to communicate with its employees the “standards of performance” expected of them if a company plans to successfully move forward with the policy.
Not every company sees FTO as the right fit, though. Laura Agostini, chief talent officer at JWT, said it stuck with traditional time off, augmented with additional “all-agency” days off. "I don't like talking so much about work/life balance as much as how work/life fits our employees' range of lifestyles," she says. "I almost feel FTO is not as equitable. If I'm a team member and I see someone else on the team taking a lot of time off, how do I feel?"
What’s the Winning Formula?
There is a wide range of ways to offer FTO. Each company has its own set of expectations and every employer communicates those expectations differently. Further, every employee reacts differently to FTO policies and the culture they create.
“An Ernst & Young survey concluded that one in 10 workers in the US have ‘suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule,’" according to an article from Daily Life. Some employees that take advantage of FTO policies are made to “feel like slackers." The participation rate of flex scheduling is low, around 12%, due to the stigma of not being in the office, according to one study.
However, researchers at the University of Minnesota and MIT found that workers who control their schedule may have “lower levels of stress, psychological distress, burnout, and higher job satisfaction,” and conducted a study in the IT department of Fortune 500 company to learn how employees are impacted by different time-off policies.
The article also noted current workplace culture still has characteristics of a time decades ago when men worked and had wives at home. With changes in the family dynamic and responsibilities, employees run the risk of burnout and illness if time-off benefits do not evolve.