Flexi hours- Remedy or comedy

Spending time on the road during peak hours  is not a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka, especially for those in Colombo and its suburbs.

Travelling to workplaces and schools is a daily battle, faced by thousands of commuters in the city. Numerous traffic plans and road renovation activities over the years have failed to address traffic requirements.

The government in order to reduce the traffic congestion in some of the major locations in the Colombo City, has come up with a solution in the form of ‘flexi-hours’.

Accordingly, public sector employees can report to work between 7am to 10am and leave office between 3pm to 6pm, based on the time they reported to work. Even though this system has been implemented on a trial basis in Colombo, the government is currently looking at the practicality of such a measure in the long run.

Meanwhile, the private sector while welcoming the move, have also expressed their openness to adopt the strategy depending on the nature of the business.

Banking sector
The banking sector in Sri Lanka is one of the key sectors looking at implementing flexi hours for the benefit of its customers and employees.

In  recent times, several banks operating in the country have implemented this in the form of night time banking, holiday banking. Some also provide 24 hour service. These, however, are mostly in the urban areas where public concentration is higher and where commercial activities are at its peak.

“Most banks anyway provide evening banking or late evening banking as systems improve and off-line time and batch run times have been shortened. In addition, most banks in Sri Lanka offer Saturday and Sunday banking,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hatton National Bank (HNB) Jonathan Alles said.

“Now to do this, it is imperative that we do introduce flexi-hours. This is not only for the purposes of providing customer convenience within manageable working hours for staff, but also to address the multiple challenges and requirements of the staff themselves,” he added.

Alles pointed out that the welfare of bank employees be given priority when implementing such a system. “Members of the staff have their families and there are ladies with newborns who should be looked after. We need to be cognizant of all this when we develop human resource strategies going forward,” he said.

Beneficial for women
This concept is likely to benefit the women in particular by providing them with more opportunities. “In particular, if we are sincere and genuine about promoting women entrepreneurship and increase employment for women in Sri Lanka, we need to look at it seriously,” said Alles.

He also pointed out that  implementing such flexible working hours would provide employees, particularly women, to manage their office work from home. “We need to go beyond flexi hours and even allow  connectivity with all the technology available. I’m not discriminating between male and female. It’s beneficial for all parties as long as it is done within the necessary regulations,” he said.

Managing Director, Chevron Lubricants Lanka PLC, Kishu Gomes speaking to Weekend Nation said the move was welcome, adding that the private sector could utilise the system depending on their type of business.

“The concept of flexible hours will not suit certain businesses. Some places would demand its employees and workers to be at work between 8.30am to 5.30pm while some places would not,” Gomes pointed out.

“However, it should be implemented in a manner it does not affect the productivity,” he added.

Speaking of the implementation of flexible hours within the government sector, Gomes pointed out that the focus should also be on improving the quality of its service to the public.

He pointed out that the public sector had received flack due to the lethargic nature in which they carried out their services to the public. “It is good that such a move is considered and taken quite seriously. However, it should not be done at the expense of the efficiency of the public sector. I personally think that this system would be disastrous for the public sector,” he said.

He further added that implementing the system without a schedule would result in employees misusing the facility. “The government has to also be mindful of the fact that there could be issues related to work supervision if there are employees coming in at various times,” he added.

Government to study data
The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development is currently in the process of collecting data and information from public sector institutions for their views. “We have got the details from these institutions. We will now study their reports and data, hold discussions with them and implement the system from next year,” Secretary to the Ministry, Nihal Rupasinghe told Weekend Nation last week.

He said that the government would look at how the system would be implemented without affecting the work schedule and the efficiency of the public sector.

(Published in the Nation on November 19, 2016)


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