B.C. company bests flexible working with five-hour workday

Forget the standard eight-hour workday. An employer in Victoria lets employees work in the office for only five hours a day.

Employees at digital marketing agency RingPartner Inc. must be in the office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but they’re free to decide where, when and how they’ll work the rest of the workday. While they still technically have to work beyond those 20 hours because their weekly salaries are based on 40 hours, the company is focused on employee results more than anything, says Sarah Gulbrandsen, vice-president of client operations.

“It’s basically a policy that allows people to still get their work done, but doesn’t require them to be sitting at their desk all day long to do it.”

Read: Flipping the conversation about benefits

The company rolled out the policy five months ago in order to attract and retain talent, says Gulbrandsen, noting the program is a great way to motivate employees to get their work done.

For one, it promotes work-life balance for employees, such as parents with young children, she says, referring to one mother on staff who drops her kids off at daycare every day at 7:30 a.m. “She will then go back home, log into the computer for a couple of hours. . .. Whereas [at her previous job] she was rushing her kids off to daycare. She was barely getting any time to even brush her teeth,” says Gulbrandsen.

Some employees have also taken advantage of the policy during the summer by leaving work early to spend their afternoons on the beach, adds Gulbrandsen.

Read: Workers would take pay cut, reduced vacation to work flexibly: survey

She notes while the policy is certainly appealing, the company took precautions by testing the policy for a month for rolling it out. After finding no dip in company revenue and higher morale among employees, management decided to make the policy permanent, although it did introduce some guidelines.

“We didn’t just want to launch it to people’s discretion. We told them if you’re going to work from home 8 to 9:30, you need to put on your calendar the phone you can be reached at,” says Gulbrandsen, noting the company emphasized the importance of open communication among employees.

Read: Demand for flexible working expected to grow: survey

“That’s why this program has been working so well for us,” she says. “As long as everyone is communicating on a regular basis and we’re trusting that people are getting their work done — and our numbers are showing they are — then it’s working.”

Almost all employees, including management, have taken advantage of the policy, says Gulbrandsen, although there are still some people who only use the provision on an as-needed basis. “Some people still prefer to take a traditional eight-hour workday and that’s OK, knowing they have the ability to flex their time when they want to.”