ASSOCIATES (vol. 4, no. 3, March 1998) - associates.ucr.edu
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*FLEXTIME FROM THE PARAPROFESSIONAL'S POINT OF VIEW* by Kathy Aufman and Billie Towns Library Associates Baylor University Billie_Towns@baylor.edu The luxury of flextime can provide several benefits for workers. However, it is not feasible in every situation. We work in the Catalog Department of the main library of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Because we are not part of a public services area, we are allowed to work on flextime. There are several positive aspects, as well as some negative aspects. In an attempt to shed light on a benefit that others may be able to employ in their work environment, we offer the following comments concerning an easy way to keep staff motivated, morale high, and perhaps one of the greatest benefits a position could possess -- flextime. Although a set schedule is recommended, the head of our department is very understanding and allows her staff to make necessary changes in their schedules to accommodate attending classes, seminars, or other types of professional development and personal activities. As part of our benefit package, we accrue a certain number of hours of vacation, disability, and personal time throughout the year. We are allowed to use any of our accrued time, assuming that the request for its use is approved. So that staff do not have to use disability or personal time in order to get paid for the time missed for doctor appointments, meetings with teachers or professors, or other personal appointments that may arise, our department head will also allow us to work outside our usual schedule to make up that time. Usually, the time has to be worked during the time that the library is open even if the department is closed. For those of us who are able to connect to our on-line system from home, we are allowed to work from home provided that we have work that can be transported easily. With so many people in our department, most taking advantage of the flexible work schedule, our department is almost always covered before and after the normal posted "open" hours of 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday. Some people come to work at 7:00 a.m., others stay as late as 6:00 p.m., and some work periodically on Saturday mornings. A staff member is usually accessible to assist other departments if a problem does arise which requires input or action from the catalog department. All of the people in our department consider flextime as a benefit and accept it very gratefully. Knowing that one will be able to work outside a set schedule provides a sense of stability, which improves the morale of the department -- thus providing a productive and efficient work place. As with any work schedule, there are problems and disadvantages with the system. Since Friday is the day most employees opt to make a shortened work day, there can be a problem having the department staffed until closing time of this day. In our dept., we keep a Friday list with all employees being assigned a Friday on which they are required to stay until 5:00 p.m. One person is responsible for creating and maintaining this list, in which staff are alphabetically assigned to chronological Fridays. If someone wants to change his or her assigned Friday, that person is responsible for finding another staff member to switch with and post it on the department's calendar. This is usually only a problem during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, since many people take their vacation during this time. With the number of staff in our department, we are only required to work one Friday every three months. Most become spoiled to getting off early on Fridays and feel unsettled on their Fridays to work. We usually take our accumulated time off on Thursday, but it is not the same as being off on Friday. Because we are human, we often forget that it is a privilege for us to have flextime. Probably the biggest problem with flextime is the misunderstanding that can come from other departments, which often results in resentment toward technical services. Since the technical services departments do not have to staff service desks, we are allowed the luxury of flextime. The public service departments are required to be available to serve the public at various times and, therefore, are not able to implement flextime, thus leading to misunderstandings and jealousy. They can be critical of us and believe that we don't always work as much as they do. This reflects their unfamiliarity with the operations of our department as well as the general functions for which we are responsible. Those of us who have the ability to work a flexible schedule believe that it is the answer to our prayers. We feel that we are part of a team effort and we are motivated to do the best job possible. Our morale is high because we are trusted enough to work without close supervision or without having to be watched like children. The department is always staffed during posted open hours, our output of work is high, and our work environment is a pleasant one. We realize that flextime cannot be used in all departments, but where it can be utilized, we suggest you give it a try.