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Leaving Work at 5:30

Staff April 19, 2012 This blog was written by a member of Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP). ATP is Arlington County’s business-to-business transportation consulting team, specializing in transportation demand management for employers, multi-family residential communities, commercial properties, hotels and schools.

Recently, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made waves by admitting that she leaves work at 5:30 every evening, to have dinner with her family. Although she has been doing this for seven years, she said that she’s only been comfortable publicly saying so for the last two.  In a business world where working long hours is an unspoken rule, and coworkers frown at those who leave early (that is, on time), this announcement is making many question what are and what are not “normal” working hours, and why it is frequently women who suffer the most from attempting flexible work schedules.

 A flexible work schedule is something other than the traditional “9 to 5” Monday through Friday, 8-hour daily schedule, which actually is 9 to 5:30 or 9 to 6pm, depending on policies on lunch breaks.  A flextime schedule allows employees the options of changing their starting and ending times for each workday, although they usually require a core period in which all the employees are present, for departmental or company meetings, to deal with customers, and similar. This could mean that some staff works 8-4, 10-6, or some variation thereof.

Other flexible work schedule options include a compressed work week and staggered work hours.  Compressed work weeks are either the 4/40 schedule, in which employees work four ten-hour days, with the fifth day off, or the 9/80 schedule, in which employees work their usual number of hours in a two-week pay period in nine days and the tenth day is a day off.

Another options are staggered work hour programs that stagger employees' starting and ending times by 15-minute to two-hour ranges. The main purpose behind this program is to shift some people out of the peak commuting period in order to relieve traffic congestion and reduce the amount of time individuals are stuck in traffic.

There is ample research proving that allowing employees to slightly adjust the hours they work leads to better productivity, less absenteeism, reduced stress, higher company commitment and morale, and allows greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling doctor’s appointments and the like. There is also research proving that family dinners, regardless of the meal, are critical in positively impacting teens. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that teens who “infrequently” eat dinner with their families are more likely to try drugs than teens who regularly eat dinner with their parents. So allowing employees to slightly adjust their working hours, allowing them to spend time with their families and loved ones (regardless of marital and familial status), improves their productivity and leads to healthier young people – what can be so awful about that?

Do you work a flex schedule of some sort? Do you feel that it increases your productivity? Or do your coworkers glare at you when you slink out at 6pm, hoping to make it to soccer practice, ballet lessons or dinner with your significant other on time for once?  What is the corporate culture like regarding hours worked during the week?

Elizabeth A. Floyd is a Business Development Manager and enjoys her flexible work schedule.


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