Church Staffing Debate: Office Time v. Flex Time


Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has recently made headlines with her directive that Yahoo workers will no longer be able to telecommute, but need to show up at the Yahoo office instead. As you can imagine, this edict got mixed reactions across the business world. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, called it, “a retro move which takes all kinds of guts. I commend her for her guts.”

Yahoo has been a troubled company, and sometimes it takes bold moves to change a culture and to move a company forward. As the CEO, Mayer’s first priority is not worker happiness for Yahoo’s 11,500 employees, it is to help Yahoo regain corporate health and achieve its goals. Harvard studies have found that despite the IT revolution, business leaders still spend 80% of their time in face-to-face meetings.

Pastors who are responsible for church staffing face these same issues. In my own experience as a Senior Pastor, I sometimes struggled with some staff members who were not disciplined about putting in face time at the office. I did not want “desk jockeys,” but I did want to see them in the office hallways occasionally. I sometimes told the staff that I wanted them all rolling in by a certain time in the morning, unless they had a job-related appointment away from the church campus. I would even dialogue about these matters with my Leadership Team, a team made up of very savvy business professionals. They would ask me, “Are you more concerned about production and performance or about office discipline?” As I got older (and hopefully wiser!) I probably mellowed a little more on this, but I’m not sure it is an either/or. It can be a both/and.

It has been well stated that in great organizations some tensions need to be managed—not eliminated.  In the church staffing world, we see it in a number of ways: grace v. truth, attactional v. missional, good stewardship v. excellence, family v. work. Those tensions will always be there, and if there is no tension it has probably slid too far to one side.

The tension between office time and flex time will always be a challenge for leaders in business and pastors who oversee church staffing, but there are several big principles that come into play for pastors and church staff.

The first is this: accountability. Every leader wants those he leads to be accountable. If you are not in the office, does anyone know where you are? Do your administrative assistants know where you are? It is embarrassing for those answering phones to have to tell callers that they don’t know where you are or when to expect you back. The members of the church are also watching you and notice the habits of staff members. When they drive by the church on their way to work, they notice which staff cars are already in the parking lot.

The second principle is this: performance buys freedom. When a staff person is really performing well, those supervising them will most likely give more freedom and flexibility. If performance is marginal, the staff person should not be surprised when the leader is not all that excited about granting more freedom or flexibility.

A third principle is this: as a leader, you have to model what you want from the staff.  This is huge! If Marissa Mayer says that Yahoo workers can no longer work at home, but she works at home to be with her newborn infant, I don’t think that is going to go over well at Yahoo. If a leader wants his or her staff to have accountability and discipline in his schedule, then the leader must model it as well.

As a Lead Pastor or Executive Pastor how do you manage the tension between office presence and flex time when it comes to church staffing?