I have people who consistently leave early. that creates a problem for other people here. Up to now I’ve turned a blind eye to the issue, knowing that being flexible can help people better deal with the rest of their lives outside of work. But I’m hearing more complaints and questions about why some people get to leave early and others have to stay late. What should I do?

Thoughts of the day: Having a standard set of work hours can make it easier to monitor, but may not give your employees the flexibility they need. Whatever you do, make things fair for everyone. Not everyone needs to work a 40-hour week. Just make sure that pay matches the hours worked. Be open about the choices you’re making so that everyone understands how you arrived at your decisions.

Flexibility is a great perk you can offer, but make sure there are policies in place.

Being flexible about work hours is a perk that you can offer your employees. Use it to your advantage. Take into account things like commuting time, getting kids to school, taking care of family members outside work, personal commitments and pursuits, etc.

Decide on basic policies such as time off for lunch — is it an hour or less? Same for breaks in the morning and afternoon — 15 minutes each? Set up some standard work hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; or 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Discuss with all employees what block of work hours might work best for them.

For new hires, give them 30 days from hire to experiment with their hours; find out what works.

Take into account traffic and commitments outside work so they can figure out their schedule. During the first month, closely monitor arrival and departure times to make sure new employees are putting in a full day of work each day. After 30 days ask new hires to select a work block that they plan to stick with.

Are you willing to be flexible with the 40 hour work week?

Some employees may find it hard to work a full 40 hours, while others may want to work more than 40 hours in order to pick up overtime. Check on rules regarding eligibility for health insurance — most policies require a minimum number of hours be worked each week. Verify that employees working under the minimum are OK not having access to health insurance.

For employees who want to work more than 40 hours in order to increase their pay, decide if they are eligible for overtime or if they should be on a salary that takes into account the increased commitment to working until things are wrapped up for the day. Employees on salary should meet several tests, including: minimum amount of pay; job duties that classify them as exempt including supervising two or more other employees; management responsibility; input into hiring/firing/promotions and assignments of others; control over their workflow; and determining quality and quantity of work to be produced. Check with your labor attorney on FLSA requirements.

Talk with employees about how you arrived at work rules.

In general the more open you can be about the process, the better the acceptance. Instead of hiding why you’re allowing one employee a different set of hours, explain why and be willing to offer similar accommodations to others if they ask. Consistent standards will go a long way to keeping the peace.

If there are issues of needing to arrive early or work late to get work out, ask the team to solve the problem. They can rotate early or late hours, allow some members of the team to come in earlier/later and leave earlier/later. Some team members may be more able to work longer hours than others. Giving the team the flexibility and responsibility to work it out keeps you out of the headlights of being the bad guy when there’s a question about how someone arrived at their work hours.

Looking for a good book?

Try “Unequal Time: Gender, Class, and Family in Employment Schedules,” by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel.