When We Work

The following is intended as an elaboration on the topic of work hours as given in job descriptions:

In general, working hours are flexible, as circumstances allow. The primary constraint is availability for sufficient interaction with management, fellow support staff, and clients. The latter is especially important if the incumbent is designated as a "Point of Contact" for a CSCF client.

Staff may occasionally be required to work beyond normal business hours to resolve emergencies, or test and deploy changes in the production environment.

None of what follows is intended to imply unnecessary constraints on when work is accomplished. It is intended to address the default working schedule; not special cases (e.g. furnace repair, dental appointment, ...).

It is not intended to address the general concept of "flextime", which governs work hours across multiple days, rather it discusses the acceptable variations in daily work hours.

To be effective and fair, our choice of work times must consider

  • University business hours
  • University flextime guidelines
  • the CSCF service model
  • the working hours of the majority of our clients
  • the working hours of supervisors
  • the working hours of CSCF colleagues
  • the need to perform certain work outside of typical business hours
  • visibility

Why Standard Hours

University business hours are generally accepted to be 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. As such, our clients can reasonably expect our help during those hours.

The University flextime guidelines claim standard core hours of 9:00 AM to 12 noon and 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM. If followed rigorously, that imposes significant constraints as well.

While how a service is provided isn't necessarily specific to an individual, it often is, given the "Point of Contact" model that is fundamental to our service model.

Some situations require a quick response, they can't wait for the responsible/capable person to arrive. The absence of that person places an unfair burden onto other staff, reducing their ability to meet their own obligations.

Those engaged in management and supervision unavoidably work close to standard hours in order to maximize overlap with multiple staff. That's a two-way obligation, with the implication that staff schedules can't vary too much from the standard, in order to allow sufficient opportunities to work with their supervisor.

As is often said of many activities, we must not only do the right thing, we must be seen to do the right thing. A work schedule that rarely seems to be a full day is "bad optics".

One of the reasons for CSCF offices being together, rather than spread out across CS (as some have proposed), is to facilitate collaboration and general interaction among staff, in the belief that that produces better results. Given that most staff work comparatively standard hours, that suggests that staff schedules can't vary too much from the standard, if that interaction is to happen effectively.

Why Non-standard Hours

Given that some of our clients work outside of standard business hours, it is beneficial to provide as wide a range of service hours as possible, provided that it's obvious that we're available then. For example, in the past there have been requests for staff to be available before the start of classes (8:30) to handle unforeseen problems. Some classes (mid-term tests) can run in the evening, which can result in requests for support then. The widest variation in client working schedules is for students and faculty. In most cases the variations are that of starting later and working later. There are also CS staff who have a non-standard schedule, typically starting earlier.

Furthermore, it is understood that deviations from the norm are both expected, and in some cases required. As the job descriptions say:

Staff may occasionally be required to work beyond normal business hours to resolve emergencies, or test and deploy changes in the production environment.

An additional argument for flexible time is the observation that people can be most productive with a specific schedule. Causes can range from traffic patterns to and from work to family pressures. Historical precedent has shown that a significantly later start time can work in very special cases. It doesn't work if too many people engage in early or late times. And it must be constrained by the factors given above.

And finally, CSCF can't expect people to be flexible about their work if CSCF isn't in turn flexible. E.g. notwithstanding the HR guidelines, there has also been a directive to administrative staff to provide service during lunch hours.

Discussion

The above suggests that the default work schedule shouldn't vary too significantly from standard business hours, the variation being tempered by the nature of the work and client relationships. It also suggests that a convincing argument is required for significant variations; and hence requires management approval.

There isn't a schedule that stands out from others for the optimal default. And we can expect this to vary. If too many people take advantage of it, we could be in danger of a degradation of service.

A default schedule isn't a guarantee. It is expected that the schedule will be modified to accommodate required events (e.g. staff meetings).

When working non-standard hours, being visibly available, i.e. as one would hope to be during regular hours, is advantageous.

Having and following documented guidelines should improve the perception of fairness of the approach.

Conclusion

Deviation from standard business hours requires management approval. It is expected that the above factors will be balanced in each situation to arrive at a reasonable outcome. This may change over time as circumstances change.

Until otherwise ruled by HR, it is recommended that the default "bandwidth" (to use HR's term) be a starting time no later than 10:00AM, and a departure time no earlier than 3:00PM. This is a starting point for discussion and determination of an appropriate work schedule.

References

Topic revision: r6 - 2015-11-13 - OmarNafees
 
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