“Standard response time” has recently become a hot button phrase in HR and management spheres, largely due to the rise of digital communication devices and an age of constant connectivity. When customers can reach a business at all hours of the day, every day of the week, how quickly should the company respond to every query, complaint, or social media comment? And just as important, how quickly should employees be expected to respond to queries and requests from managers and coworkers?
Since answers vary across the board, the debate on this question isn’t likely to end any time soon. But one thing seems clear: companies can benefit greatly by clarifying expected response times, and turning these expectations into a clear and written—rather than implied and unwritten—aspect of company culture. Exempt employees should know exactly when they are and are not expected to be available, and non-exempt employees must be paid for the time they spend off the clock but connected to the workplace.
Workers also need to know when it’s time to disconnect. Vacations and personal time are critical to productivity, and an unwritten policy can lead to resentment between those who do and don’t disconnect appropriately. Nothing kills morale faster than a culture in which connected employees are considered suck-ups and the disconnected are viewed as slackers.
The Goals of an Effective Response Time Policy
Regardless of the expected response time for any given company, an effective response time policy should accomplish a few universal goals:
1. The policy should clarify expectations for work conducted outside of business hours for each employee and each position. This expectation should be included the employee’s job description and should be clarified in writing for the employee before she begins her first day of work.
2. The policy should let employees who are traveling on business know how often they will be expected to check in. Once a day? Five times a day? Once a week?
3. The policy should clearly disconnect the company from an employee on vacation, and leave no doubts or concerns that her job may be in jeopardy if she becomes inaccessible. If vacationing employees can be contacted for emergencies, this term should be defined.
4. The policy should generate a way to measure non-standard work hours for non-exempt employees and compensate them for these hours.
5. The policy should clarify exactly who is responsible for responding to the needs of clients and vendors during non-work hours.
For more information on what a standard response time policy should entail and how to establish a functional policy in your own workplace, contact the NC staffing and management experts at PSU.