Working with flexibility

25 Jul

Nataly from Work it, Mom! writes a post about women in the workplace and flexible work hours. She refers to a New York Times article about a guide put out by the Labor department that points out that smaller companies are the most likely to be able to deal with flex time and give employees more options in what hours they work.

I run a small business, and I know that I have the ability to set the tone for my company, and dictate the amount of flexibility that my employees have. Palo Alto Software is a very family friendly environment and I pride myself in running a company that focuses on results and not on “face time” in the office.

Before coming to Palo Alto Software I worked at crazy dot-com companies where it was all about face time. It was not about what you did, but about how many hours you spent at the office. This drove me nuts. I am an early riser and like to get to work early. Most of my co-workers did not. By the time they rolled in at 10:00 am I had been at the office for 3 hours — but NO ONE remembered this or cared to know it. So by 7pm I had already worked a 12 hour day, and most of my co-workers had been at the office for maybe 9 hours. I would leave to go home and they would talk about how I was not committed. They would work another 2 hours and then go home — meaning I would work more and yet still get docked because I had less “face time.”

I will tell you I love the PAS philosophy. People come to work and put in 8 solid hours. Then they go home and do whatever it is that makes them relaxed and happy. No one stays for 12 hour days. Yes, some of us inevitably put in time at home to get everything done. But, as a whole, we believe that people who are well rested, who have gone home and re-charged their brains, are more productive at work. We also, of course, try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate any and all of our employees personal/family issues.

This philosophy of work hours has worked out for Palo Alto Software. We are an extremely productive group of people, and our partners and vendors are often surprised at how “few” employees (43 employees) we have in comparison to the amount of work product we put out. The only problem that our managers ever face with this work environment is the occasional wrong hire. In order to give flexibility and in order to let employees deal with scheduling issues in their personal life we hire trustworthy employees. We hire people who keep their word — when they say they are working at home — they truly are.

If, though, you get a person who stretches the truth, and takes advantage of our environment of trust and honesty — the whole philosophy goes out the window. The minute you have an employee that is taking advantage, working fewer hours, “pretending” that he/she is doing work when they are really grocery shopping, or at the dentist, or doing something at home — your whole system gets turned on its head. So what we have done here at PAS is to avoid hiring the employees that need babysitting. We just don’t have time for it. In order to turn out the amazing amount of work product that we do, each person needs to be responsible for their own work hours. Bigger companies have the luxury of hiring lots of middle management to deal with administration crap and to deal with things like time sheets and time cards etc. We don’t.

So the moral of the small business and flexible hours? Nataly correctly identifies that not all small businesses will give you flexibility. So if you want it, keep 2 things in mind:

  1. You need to police your own work hours and be more than fair for your employer.
  2. You need to find an employer that values this type of honesty, and wants to evaluate you on results and work product, not on minutes spent at the office.



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