Lets Talk: Flexitime
with Jen Sayer, People Experience Manager at ScreenCloud
23rd Aug 2021
What is the one benefit you’d like to highlight at ScreenCloud?
We’d like to shine a spotlight on our practices around flexitime, including unlimited annual leave.
What is it exactly?
Our flexitime policy (and the associated practices and cultural norms the policy enables) means our employees have ultimate flexibility around their hours. They can start early or late, finish early or late, take an extended lunch break or time out to go to an appointment or deal with any family emergencies. None of us are watching the clock and it’s a case of working in a way that supports a sense of individualised choice. As long as you’re not letting other people down, it’s no problem.
Unlimited annual leave means we set no maximum allocation of holiday per year; you can take what you need to and want to in order to feel suitably rested. Nobody is counting or monitoring the amount of days you take. We do have an internal HR Information System that tracks the data, but the only time we actively look at how much time someone has had off, is when we think they haven’t taken enough! We try to enforce a minimum instead, and our managers are coached and encouraged to do the same, to ensure everyone gets the restorative time they need. . Unlimited annual leave also enables our people to access days off when flexitime isn’t enough, but when feeling like you’re using up holiday allocation might also be frustrating… at ScreenCloud nobody ever has to think “I wish I wasn’t using my holiday for this’. We don’t make unlimited annual leave entirely ‘catch-all’ though… compassionate leave is for example, a time off type that we deliberately keep distinct, so that we can provide the specific support our people may need in those instances.
When was ‘flexitime’ introduced?
It’s actually always been there! Our founders’ introduced flexitime when they set up the company as they really wanted ScreenCloud’s culture to have baked-in flexibility.
Why did the company want to introduce this benefit?
It comes down to our founders wanting to create a culture based on trust and transparency (Trust & Transparency is one of our core values!) They wanted to champion flexibility. Our CEO, for example, is also a fitness coach and he regularly leads Body Pump classes. Mark loves having the flexibility to be able to teach those classes and go to the gym while also being a busy CEO! We are able to easily support childcare and the flexibility to stagger and plan days around personal needs. So it’s all about allowing people to work in a way that works for them and not restricting people within a nine to five.
As we’re a global company, in the UK, the USA and Thailand, we wanted to offer a benefit that was fair to our employees across all locations. We aim for parity by ensuring that whichever hub has the ‘best’ or most comprehensive provision, sets the standard for all other hubs. For example parental bereavement leave is a statutory provision in the UK but not in other hubs, so we make a discretionary choice to provide this globally. Our enhanced parental leave is matched in all our locations. This applies to holiday too.
Whilst the UK’s statutory minimum annual leave provision is 28 days, in Thailand it’s just six days and in the USA there is no legal minimum. While the number of public holidays vary significantly across our London, Belfast, Bangkok and LA hubs, we focus on a minimum that creates this sense of parity. Our unlimited annual leave policy enables us to do this - and is therefore a meaningful benefit for all of our employees.
How has your ‘flexitime’ benefit evolved over time?
Over the years our policies have been honed, developed and reinforced; we update policies regularly, ensure our policies are accessible and ‘self-serve’ (written without loads of unnecessarily overbearing formality) and ScreenCloud’s People team are committed to ensuring wider communication throughout the company; we want to make sure our employees know about these benefits and understand them fully. For example, we highlight different benefits and policy updates in each of our quarterly internal newsletters - surfacing stories from across the business that demonstrate how these initiatives are being accessed, and how they’re positively impactful.
The People team has trained management so that they can manage their teams effectively and encourage them to take full advantage of these benefits.
We also make sure new employees are comfortable using these benefits. It sounds silly, but some people, especially new starters, can experience some anxiety around using flexible benefits such as these ones - the typical counter argument to unlimited annual leave is that having no allocation puts pressure on people to decide what is and isn’t an appropriate amount of time to take off, with the ultimate impact being that people take less holiday overall. We believe that is only the case if a regular conversation around time off isn’t happening, and minimum expectations aren’t being emphasised so we start that conversation from day one. We want all our employees to feel comfortable and confident enough to use these benefits.
What positive impacts have you seen since it was introduced?
Flexitime has a big impact on our company culture. It’s based on trust and that trust is palpable; our culture is supportive and everyone is happy in the knowledge that they can do what they need to do and manage their time in a way that suits them.. Having flexibility seems to release a lot of the stress and anxiety that comes with having to juggle work, which is after all a significant part of life. The idea that people can ‘leave life at the door’ is just wrong. .
One of my colleagues likes to go out for a walk every morning, so she starts a little later. I like to go for a run at lunchtime and I know I can come back home, have a shower and cool down before I start working again. We’ve also got new parents at ScreenCloud, so flexitime allows them to take care of their babies who have unique schedules and sleeping patterns, removing any additional stress and allowing them to work and care for their family.
Why does this benefit matter to your company and your employees?
At ScreenCloud, we’re very mindful that our employees don’t burn themselves out and take a rest when they need it. Flexitime and unlimited annual leave definitely reinforces this attitude and our employees are grateful for it. It’s one thing to have these benefits, but we work hard to actually embed them and encourage our employees to take what they need in order to stay happy and productive. Our employees know that we trust them as well, which has such a great impact on our culture, which in the long-run makes all the difference..
How has this benefit helped towards attracting new talent?
They’ve always had a really positive impact on our recruitment, for sure. Before the pandemic though, work from home, flexitime and unlimited annual leave were quite unusual benefits. I think people have always valued flexibility but with the pandemic, there’s now even more candidates interested in finding a flexible role with better access to individualised balance, and they’re now actively searching for these kinds of opportunities. The fact that these are established ways of working at ScreenCloud certainly helps us.