Innovative contractors are attracting good employees by providing flexible hours, shorter work weeks.



My motto has always been, “Make a Good Life, Not Just a Living.” Throughout most of my jobsite working years, contractors worked those traditional five eight-hour days plus overtime, as needed. Those of you who worked those hours will agree that your job was your life, especially when you had to travel long distances or stay at a remote project and got home only on weekends.

I’m not sure when our government moved most of our holidays to Mondays to provide great three-day weekends. But many innovative contractors initiated a four-day work week, 10 hours per day, to give their employees that coveted three-day weekendevery week, with a four-day weekend on those holidays. This was a great opportunity for their employees to make a good life.

Unfortunately, about half of those contractors found these stumbling blocks that convinced them to revert back to the traditional work week:
  1. Some government contracts and local union agreements dictate time and a half for any work hours above eight each day.
  2. General contractors and construction managers demand subtrades be on the job Fridays to receive shipments and keep pace with the other trades.
  3. The 10-hour work day interfered with some employees’ personal commitments with their wives, children, education, sports, etc.
  4. The employees who objected claimed that no human being could work effectively and be productive more than eight hours in one day. Published surveys show that after three continuous weeks of extended overtime, workers were actually performing less than 40 hours of work each week. They did not realize flex-time only changes the time of the day or which days of the week you can work. Under most situations, it eliminates the need for overtime.
  5. Some jobsites have curfews that establish starting time and quitting time. There is no doubt that you must adjust these flex-time options to meet specific jobsite requirements as well as each employee’s personal situation. This is very easy when you have a fab shop available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your employees can perform billable work as make-up time for rainy days or any interference with their flex-time schedule. They can also substitute for another flex-timer and vice-versa.

Some employees will want to continue working the traditional eight-hour work weeks. That is why you offer flex-time options to each employee. When employees select which hours or days suit their personal needs, they are then obligated to make it possible.

In spite of all of this confusion, four 10s is still a blessing for more than half of the contractors who try it. The subtrades who need someone on the job Fridays came up with a simple solution to give their employees the coveted three-day weekend.

They rotated whatever number of employees needed on Friday to work Tuesday to Friday and get Mondays off. You can also do this when the jobsite needs someone Saturday by having Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as your three-day week-end.

But offering four-day work weeks was only the beginning of flex-time options. Today’s innovative contractors are attracting good employees by providing whatever work hours each employee desires with one basic question. “What specific hours would you like to work that will satisfy your personal needs and still get our job done?”

The Three-Day Work Week:In my opinion, the only thing greater than a three-day weekend every week is four-day weekends that send your employees home bragging to their families and friends about their good life. In addition to the recruiting power of your bragging employees, these three 13-hour work days are the most cost-saving, profit-producing option for a contractor.

Here is how it works. Employee A works his three-day week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Employee B then works the same tasks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They can exchange days as needed, along with being available for extra hours on their days off.

You are actually getting 72 hours of work with very little premium-time dollars. We call this three 13s, but your employee really works only three four-hour shifts with two paid 1/2-hour lunch breaks. By using four employees, you can also work the same three 13s to cover 24 hours each day when a project is behind schedule.

Naturally, some situations will require temporary lighting, tents for inclement weather, and innovative scheduling, but your cost savings far exceed any of these requirements.

Our next innovative flex-time option is for employees who must travel to distant projects and be away from their families, except on short weekends. By combining two of your three-day work weeks into one week, your employee needs only one travel expense each way rather than four. Employee A starts on Sunday and Employee B replaces him or her on the following Sunday. Both employees get their full two weeks’ paycheck each week and 26 full weeks at home enjoying that good life.

Contractors who do trenching and utility work alongside busy highways are permitted to work and interfere with traffic only after dark. Your three-day work week is a feasible option on jobs at home and also as six 13s on projects involving travel and overnight stays away from your employees’ good life.

Flex Hours, Work From Home:Do not overlook the flex-time option to work different hours. We have 24 hours each day to select from for whatever you desire to make that good life. These options should also be available to your office employees, as well as the virtual office option where your office employee can work at his or her own home.

Of course, we cannot cover all of your flex-time options, but I do want to tell you, those who are in the service business, to consider what many of your competitors are now doing:

Service Tech A uses your service truck 13 hours each day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at whatever hour of the day he chooses. (Many customers need after-hour service.) Service Tech B uses that same truck, which costs you about $50,000 to $100,000 fully stocked with proper tools and materials, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You are now getting two weeks’ use of your truck and service techs each week.

Although all of these fantastic flex-time options are new and experimental to our contractors, other industries have been using them successfully for many years:
  • Fireman work 24 hours on and 48 hours off.
  • Intensive-care nurses work 12 hours with a second nurse working the other 12 hours. They can change shifts to once again provide that good life.
  • Workers on oil rigs out at sea do the same.

All of these options will attract and retain all of the good employees you need.

In a future columns we will go into detail with all of the cost-saving and profit-producing aspects you will enjoy by providing these “good life” options for your employees. Run with the winners!