Employee X is not at work 40 hours each week. For the last several weeks, Employee X has worked roughly 37-37.5 hours each week. Employee X is the primary web developer for each of our companies' websites and has been with us for 3 months.
Some other employees believe this is not fair. Our company has a general 'Get Your 40 Hours In' rule that has worked well for us in the past. The employees that have broached this as being an issue are phone sales and support personnel and other ancillary roles that usually work with only one of our several companies. Without a good explanation, this makes me look like I'm playing favorites. If I take no action, this may sow discord among some of these employees. This could lead to decreased employee performance, employee obstinance, or (unlikely) even some of these employees to leave.
The problem is primarily based on these employees' perception of fairness. The ideal situation would be to get Employee X to show up on time, or at least earlier, so that these other employees will feel as if they're being treated fairly and that their voice is being heard. This may even improve my relationship with these employees going forward.
First attempt to solve the problem
Offer Employee X a $5,000 raise to arrive earlier. This is not a direct pay-for-result kind of offer; rather, Employee X has performed incredibly well over the past 3 months and that fact ties in to the offer. If successful, this would solve the problem with these other employees and, if Employee X accepts, may improve relationship with Employee X (if he thinks raise = increased feeling of perceived value).
Making the offer to Employee X
I met with Employee X and we discussed the issue of him coming in late and not hitting the 40 hour per week expectation. I received the impression from Employee X that he did not feel the 40-hour expectation should necessarily apply to him, although he did mention that he wasn't coming in late just because he could, but rather that in general he has a hard time waking up in the morning. He argued that his output as an employee wasn't simply a function of the number of hours that he was at work. In his opinion, he should not be judged by the number of hours he's at work, but rather the quality of the work he produces and the speed and efficiency at which he produces it. To be sure, Employee X produces work that is well-designed, functions great, and is completed very quickly. He has started and completed several novel projects that, before he arrived, would not have been possible to develop in-house. Some of these projects have even been of Employee X's initial conception while some others would not have been as successful without Employee X's guidance and research as the project progressed. Within 3 months, some of his projects have already created real, quantifiable value for our companies. I definitely do not want to lose Employee X as an employee.
Unfortunately, the issue was not resolved during our meeting. Several topics were discussed, including:
Possibly coming in earlier but also leaving earlier. As a manager this situation would be easier to explain to other employees. Employee X claimed that the reason why he generally arrives later is physiologically-motivated - he just has a much harder time waking up in the morning, even if he goes to bed at an appropriate time.
As mentioned above, Employee X doesn't believe the hard 40-hour limit makes sense for his position. He claims there are times where he is at work where he doesn't have something to do due to a project being inadequately specced or having other limitations to progressing on the project that are out of his control. He claims that being at work during these times can be frustrating. I'll be the first to admit that my project management skills could be improved and said I'd work at getting better in that respect.
Employee X brought up the idea of occasionally working remotely as a possible solution. However, due to my own experience in outside sales, I have strong feelings about remote work (mainly, that a better name would be remotely not-working). I tried to tie in the idea that working more (i.e., 40 hours) would make him more money (the $5k raise), but he didn't seem to buy it. He didn't feel the comparison between outside sales and salaried remote work was fair.
I would greatly appreciate it if I could hear from other experienced managers about how they might approach this situation. I am hoping that we can figure out a solution where all parties win. Thanks for any and all input!