Staggered Time

​An arrangement where employees can vary their daily start and end times to suit their work and personal commitments.

There should be at least a 2-hour window, e.g. starting work between 8am and 10am and correspondingly leaving the office between 5pm and 7pm, for staggered time.

Typically, there is a core time, say 10am till 4pm, during which employees must work. There is usually an accounting period (a week or a month), within which the full number of hours is worked but where the employee has discretion about when these hours are worked. In some cases, excess of deficit hours can be carried over to the next accounting period.

Before implementing staggered time, organisations are advised to review the 4-step model to ensure an effective and sustainable programme.

  • For employees

    A self-assessment may be useful for employees to consider the various aspects involved in ensuring a successful staggered time arrangement.

  • For e​​​mployers
    Multiple factors need to be taken into account when developing a staggered time policy.
    Click here for a sample Staggered Time Checklist of factors to consider.
    Outside the core times, at the beginning or end of each day, are flexible bands when employees may choose when to start and end work. For example:

    The total period in which the organisation is in operation is called the bandwidth. Employers needs to work out the lunch period – start and end times and the maximum and minimum lunch period that can be taken. An employee's hours of attendance are recorded and added up at the end of each settlement period. Before implementing staggered time, management needs to make decisions about the following:

    • ​The core times – usually late morning/mid-day for offices
    • The duration of core times – may be adjusted according to demand/peak periods
    • The duration of the flexible bands – should not be too different for all employees if there is a lack of supervisors

    Employees should also be aware of flexibility limitations such as security issues that may require them to make a compromise on their preferred staggered time schedule. 

If barriers to staggered time cannot be resolved, the organisation/employee may consider other types of flexible work arrangements.

Pilot Study/Trial period

Organisations are encouraged to have a pilot study or a trial period before embarking on the staggered time arrangement. This is especially important if it plans to design a strategy which involves a significant number of employees.

Organisations should consider the number of employees to be involved in the pilot study. At this stage, employees selected are often those with experience. The duration of the trial period also needs to be determined.

Introducing Staggered Time Guidelines and Procedures

Before implementation, the management should meet with the HR team to draft guidelines for employees on staggered time arrangements and their immediate supervisors. Amongst the factors to consider would be non-negotiable elements such as maintaining productivity. Employee concerns should also be addressed in the guidelines.

A sample Flextime (staggered time) Scheduling Guidelines and Procedures may be found here

The following tips for managing flexible working hours may help:

  • Implement a 'roster' system that indicates days and times of work for all employees for planning and scheduling purposes.
  • Ensure that all employees in various teams are aware of employee working non-core hours, if any. This helps to manage workloads and deadlines for each employee.
  • Develop and communicate simple guidelines for employees working irregular and non-core hours.

After implementation, the next step is to evaluate the entire programme. Two key issues to consider throughout this process are:

  • whether the identified business aims/goals are satisfied, and
  • whether the employee needs are met

A staggered time arrangement should be supported if there are no adverse effects to the way the organisation functions. Performance feedback may be sought from immediate supervisors of employees on staggered time and co-workers, where appropriate, in assessing performance and productivity.

To assess the programme's cost effectiveness, another cost-benefit analysis may be conducted. Employers should note that costs incurred by the organisation usually increase in the early phase(s) of implementation. However, these costs are often fixed, e.g. setting up infrastructure to track working hours. In the long run, the potential monetary and qualitative benefits often outweigh the initial costs.