At midnight on New Year's Eve, Citibank plans to make a resolution to give employees more flexibility in work schedules.

As of Jan. 1, each of Citibank's 50,000 U.S. employees can opt to:

* Take time off in one-hour, half-day, or full-day increments.

* Share a job with another employee.

* Compress a 40-hour work-week into three or four days.

* Take advantage of other flexible scheduling arrangements.

Offsetting the Bad News

After more than a year of scary news about downsizing, the Citicorp unit will try to meet the scheduling needs of its remaining employees, while increasing productivity and cutting salary and benefit costs.

The goals of the policy overhaul are:

* To eliminate the 9-to-5 mentality.

* To recognize part-time employees as important parts of the organization.

* To find and legitimize informal, one-on-one, flexible scheduling arrangements between supervisors and employees.

* To get managers thinking flexibly.

"We recognize that, while 99% of our employees will need to work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, we also want to address that 1% who don't have to and don't want to," said Bruce Donatuti, director of human resources policy, program development, and communications at Citibank.

Attracting |Best and Brightest'

"We want to hire the best and the brightest," Mr. Donatuti said, "even if their lifesytle allows them only a part-time work schedule."

Nevertheless, the bank's human resources representatives are working to overcome some serious mental roadblocks to the changes.

First of all, employee morale is low -- a reaction to the layoffs and other cost-cutting moves the organization has made in the past year. What's more, some supervisors aren't buying into the program because they think it will get lost in the shuffle of restructuring.

"A lot of people see these programs as nice to do but not necessary to do," Mr. Donatuti said.

A Logical Next Step

But that's not the feeling of Citibank's top management and human resources planners. They say the policy overhaul is a simple continuation of a trend toward addressing changes in the work force.

Already, Citibank employs a large contingent of part-timers. Its goal is to hire even more. Retail banking, Mr. Donatuti said, is ideally suited for part-timers. Since most customers want to use bank services around lunch time, he said, branches should be fully staffed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Then, when traffic slows down, fewer staff are needed.

It's a win-win situation, Mr. Donatuti said: The bank can serve more customers faster during peak hours while saving money in the slower periods, and employees have more free time to go to school, raise a family, or do anything else they want.

A Plus for Credit Card Unit

The credit card division, meanwhile, may particularly benefit from job sharing, compressed workweeks, and flexible hours (in which an employee works eight hours a day, five days a week, but may vary his work period from the norm, for example, working 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 12 noon to 8 p.m.)

"Our card customers are best reached outside traditional 9-to-5 business hours," Mr. Donatuti said. "Flexible scheduling allows me to allow my people to stagger hours, thus increasing my customer contact hours without adding a second shift."

Citibank is also changing the way it lets employees accrue time off. Under the new policy workers can build up all their time in hours, instead of full days.

More important, employees can take time off in one-hour or half-day increments. This would let a 9-to-5'er leave at 3 p.m., for example, keep an appointment with a child's teacher, instead of having to use a full day.

The bank is also legitimizing sick days taken off to care for a sick child or parent. Employees need no longer lie about being sick themselves.

"Strategies like this help us to improve productivity, since we see less absenteeism," Mr. Donatuti said. "And it shows our commitment to our employees, shows that we recognize and support family-friendly policies."

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