Alternative working options

During the month of Ramadan, companies in this region have altered their working hours as required by the UAE labour law. Providing flexible options doesn’t have to stop after Eid and more and more companies are implementing new working hours. Providing many benefits for the agile organisation and the employee, organisations can choose from implementing one or a mixture of alternative working schedules. Here’s our selection of the most successful options:

Flexitime

Flexitime is the most common approach. The company decides its core working hours (e.g. 10 am – 2 pm) during which all employees must be at work. The employee can then choose their start and finish times, provided they’ll have worked the contractually agreed hours.

For example, an employee working 8 hours and taking a lunch break of 1 hour may start at 7 am, work during the core working hours between 10 am and 2 pm and finish at 4 pm. Another employee with the same working time and lunch break may start their work at 9:30 am, work during the core working hours between 10 am and 2 pm and finish at 5:30 pm.

One drawback of core working hours is that they may not provide enough overlap with international subsidiaries or clients. Employees would then be required to adjust their flexible start and finish time to accommodate such meetings, if no common time within the core hours can be found.

Enabling employees to work when they feel the freshest (e.g. morning person vs night owl), the consequent increased productivity and the increased engagement and job satisfaction are just a few benefits of flexitime the company can receive from the employee.

Compressed work week

Some companies in this region have started offering a compressed work week. As such, the employee works their regular weekly hours (e.g. 40 hours), however, over 4 instead of 5 working days. In this example, the employee would work 10 hours on 4 working days. This approach is very popular for employees dealing with countries outside this region. They’d work Monday to Thursday and with the extended working day, have more overlap with the different time zones.

Another option is the 9/80 schedule. Employees maintain their weekly working hours, in this case 40, and work 9 instead of 10 days in a fortnight. Here, staff would work 9 hours each day and would receive the 10th working day off. This could be working Sunday to Thursday and Sunday to Wednesday of the following week. For practical reasons, offices without 24/7 operations may choose to provide this option Sunday to Thursday (week 1) and Monday to Thursday (week 2).

Although longer working days may influence the employee’s productivity, it’s important to educate the employee on finding their personal energy curve and incorporating it as much as possible. For example, an employee may be the morning person and activities requiring their full attention should be worked on during the morning (their energy peak). An employee who’s more the night owl may prefer to work on these activities in the afternoon.

The organisation should enable employees working compressed work weeks to take breaks and allow the employee to re-energise. This can be a quick walk around the building, weather permitting, a break to get more water to re-hydrate or a stretching exercise, especially for employees sitting the whole day.

Working from home

While some companies have already established a formal working from home policy, many businesses are reluctant to offer this option. There’s the perception of providing the employee with an extra day off. To overcome such general misconceptions, companies can introduce working from home for special projects.

Employees requiring to concentrate on an activity can appreciate the quiet at home, provided they are separated from family or other distractions. Employers can help prepare their staff on creating a home office or a dedicated work area and with modern means of technology, employees won’t be cut off from their office and team members.

For employees working regularly from home (e.g. remote employees), the organisation will need to properly equip the work area (e.g. laptop, phone, headset). Ideally, the company offers local dial in numbers if the employee will spend a substantial amount of time on telecons to keep the costs low. Being able to see their manager and team members on a camera can also increase engagement and enhance the feeling of being part of a team, despite their remote location.

Managers can agree with their employees specific tasks and/or results to be achieved while working from home. Managers could then review these upon the employee’s return to the office. This approach has proven productive and allows trust to be established despite manager and employee are not in the same office building.

Part-time

Working reduced hours is a common concept across the world. It has shown to be very effective for employees returning to work (e.g. working parents) who don’t want to or can’t commit to a full-time role as well as for employees transitioning out of the workforce. Part-time employees are generally seen as highly motivated and more efficient, given the limited time they have to complete their tasks.

In this region, part-time is not widely spread. As a result, many employers are missing out on a large talent pool, well capable of tackling the challenges of the job. Some organisations overestimate the work required and are looking for full-time employees only. At a closer review of the tasks and responsibilities, some jobs could be performed on a part-time basis.

From an employer’s perspective, the reluctance to offer part-time work stems from the need to provide the same benefits (e.g. visa costs, medical insurance) as for a full-time employee. Companies are hesitant to provide this option which may take up a full headcount without considering the true needs and efficiencies received in return. For such companies, providing temporary part-time to employees returning from maternity leave, for example, may be a good alternative.

Working in a different time zone

Being in a region which differs from the Western working week, some companies are offering their staff to work in the time zone of the country they support. For example, an employee looks after the UK market which is 3 hours (4 hours in the winter time) behind the UAE. The individual would start and finish like their counterparts in the UK. This way, the support is given without any delays to the client in the UK.

For the employee, this different working schedule generally results in less time commuting, less stress and work overtime as they are working alongside their counterparts abroad and a higher job satisfaction. It also allows the employee to arrange local appointments (e.g. doctor) without having to take time off.

Should the time zones be too far apart (e.g. Los Angeles is 13 hours behind Dubai), the organisation will need to consider the impacts of an employee working at night, the legal restrictions on juveniles and women working at night and all health and safety requirements. In such extreme time differences, a company may decide not to provide this alternative working schedule.

Time off in lieu (TOIL)

Employees working on projects may put in long hours ensuring the deadline will be met. Even if a project is of a specific duration only, these times can be very challenging and exhausting for the employee. To receive the most during such intense times, companies should not only look at keeping morale high but also identify how to re-energise the employee.

Providing time off in lieu (TOIL) during a short-term project (e.g. under 4 weeks) may not be an option. In such cases, the organisation can already before or during the project communicate how TOIL can be taken upon completion of the project.

For long-term projects, companies should enable employees to take leave or TOIL. Rules will need to be established early on and communicated to the project members. This way, the smooth continuation of the project won’t be impacted by an individual taking a week off. Organisations should also decide how the employee would be available during a week off, if at all. After all, the purpose of time off is to revitalise and come back refreshed.

Employees working with countries outside this region may effectively work Sunday to Thursday plus Friday to accommodate the other work schedule. For these employees, time off in lieu will need to be given or be paid overtime as outlined in the labour law.

Are you unhappy with the lack of flexibility your current work schedules are providing your organisation? Are you in doubt which approach works best for your company? Contact us and find out how we can help you identify and implement the most appropriate alternative working options for your company and culture.

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