Introducing Staggered Time for the First Time?
Learn how to implement staggered time successfully.
In the local work landscape, staggered working hours is a familiar form of flexible work. For employers, this flexible work arrangement (FWA) can aid in extending operating hours as well as talent recruitment and retention1.
In times of crises and critical events such as the COVID-19 situation, it can also form part of a company’s business continuity plan. Where telecommuting is not a viable option for employees in job functions that require physical presence such as handling specific equipment on-site and frontline roles, staggered working hours can help to reduce close contact at work while still ensuring that operations proceed as smoothly as possible.
Here, we address 3 common misconceptions about staggered working hours and recommend solutions for employers:
"My employees will start and end work whenever they want - impossible to monitor!"
Staggered working hours require well-defined flexible time bands. Rather than having employees set their own start and end times arbitrarily, employers will need to have a discussion with their staff and decide on a few specific start and end time options that everyone can choose from.
When determining these flexible bands, employers should consider:
- Public transportation schedules
- Health, safety and security issues for working outside of normal hours
- Other extenuating factors which affect employees such as the opening hours of schools, childcare or elder-care facilities
- Operational requirements such as business operating hours and customer service operation hours, amongst others
- Contractual obligations under the Employment Act
Once the flexible time bands have been decided on, employees will need to choose a specific start and end time to adhere to for a fixed period, which can be reviewed and updated regularly (e.g. on a quarterly or bi-annual basis). With this in place, supervisors will know when and how they can reach team members.
"Communicating as a team is difficult with everyone working different hours."
A key principle for the successful implementation of staggered hours is to set core hours for the workforce. Core hours are a pre-determined period of time within specific days that employees will be required to be fully contactable, either in the office or while working remotely. Companies that are new to flexible working may opt to set daily core hours where employees can be available for meetings and check-ins with team members and supervisors.
When setting the core hours for the workforce, employers should consider:
- Whether regular meetings with internal and external stakeholders need to be held on specific days or times; for example, a client may request a standing meeting on Monday mornings for project updates to facilitate work for the rest of the week
- Whether face-to-face meetings are needed, or if virtual meetings via videoconferencing will suffice
- What a reasonable duration would be for the core hours, such as a four- or five-hour band of time
Supervisors may utilise collaboration tools such as online calendars and task managers as well as audio and video conferencing to facilitate efficient and transparent collaboration and project management even as team members have different work start and end times.
"If some employees are allowed to come in later than the usual start time, it may appear to be favouritism."
In order to implement staggered working hours effectively, we recommend that employers embark on the initiative in a transparent manner that fosters greater trust with employers. Implementation of a clear policy and guidelines helps to,
- Set the behavioural expectations of employees who will familiarise themselves with how and when they can utilise staggered working hours. For example, employees will need to adhere to the agreed upon start and end times, to fulfil their standard working hours each day
- Encourage employees to clarify their doubts or queries on various aspects such as eligibility criteria, performance management, and the application process, with their supervisors or HR
- Enable supervisors, who will be aware of how to manage their teams on staggered working hours, such as ensuring there is enough manpower to meet the operational needs
When implementing FWAs, employers should expect to pilot the initiative, monitor outcomes and refine practices along the way. Staggered working hours are no different. Employers may first assess their suitability by using a checklist, and gather regular feedback from employees at all levels of the organisation to get a balanced view of how well staggered hours has been received and specific changes that may be needed along before formalising the policy.
- Advisory on Safe Distancing Measures at the Workplace
- Sample Policy for Telecommuting
- Know Your Employment Obligations in Light of COVID-19
- Employment Obligations in Light of COVID-19 - Managing Excess Manpower
For more resources and tools on implementing staggered time and other FWAs, visit tafep.sg.
1 MRSD, MOM. Conditions of Employment 2018.