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How To Set Your Own Work Hours And Lose Weight

How would you like to throw your time card out the window, get your floor supervisor out of your hair and make your own hours? It's not a trick question. As featured in the Workday That Wouldn't Die, that's exactly what union employees of Alcoa Packaging Machinery outside Denver, CO, did when the company converted from a traditional top-down managed operation to a High-Performance Work Organization (HPWO). It's a fancy name for a more collaborative working partnership between management and employees that draws on more employee participation and self-management.

At Alcoa, like many high performance companies, flexible work hours is one perk for employees of the new model. Workers essentially set their own hours. So what's in it for the employer? With flextime and the company's many other new operating systems, Alcoa has reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

Here's how flextime works at Alcoa:

Flextime in manufacturing workplaces may seem counterintuitive. After all, don’t the machines have to be manned 24-7? But at Alcoa, which operates on a two-shift schedule, communication and cooperation among co-workers is the shop secret to making flexible hours work. On first shift, for example, small teams of workers huddle every Monday morning to map out weekly orders and demands along with people's personal schedules. Childcare and other family commitments, along with afternoon golf games and bingo night at the Lion's Club, get factored into the department's elaborate schedule every week. Sound too complicated? Well, so far, the system has accommodated both work and personal needs. At Alcoa, people do clock about 40 to 44-hour workweeks; it's just not the same schedule every week.

But can my company convert?

Did you know? The maker of the Hog motorcycle, Harley-Davidson, is a HPWO.

Some of the most successful HPWOs are in manufacturing settings where the employees are organized. But the underlying principles can translate to workplaces across industries. To learn more about high performance and other new management systems in the workplace, check out resources from Livelyhood's sixth installment, Carpool to Nirvana, by clicking on the Previous Shows button at the top of the screen.

By Kelly Whalen

Lurking Solutions

Almost one-third of full time workers (27.6%) have flexible work schedules and 23% of full-time manufacturing workers have flex schedules. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, BLS, May 1997

Twenty-two percent of U.S. companies offer some type of job sharing. 2000 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management in Alexandria, VA

Twenty-seven percent of U.S. companies offer options such as compressed workweeks and 26% offer telecommuting. Ibid.

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