In today’s competitive world, flexible schedules are a necessity for companies that want to attract top talent. In fact, 30% of respondents of a FlexJobs survey have reported leaving a job because it did not offer flexible work options. It’s critical to make sure that your company culture supports healthy work habits and practices.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that flexible schedules do have benefits for all parties involved, especially for operating in a 24/7, global environment. Many aspects go into flexible work options, and while some may work for your company, others may not.
The fact remains that businesses and HR professionals will need to understand flexible work schedules and provide these liberties in the workplace if they want to attract and keep their employees.
What Does it Mean to Have a Flexible Work Schedule?
A flexible work schedule is an alternative to the traditional 9–5, Monday-Friday workweek. With a flexible schedule, your employer may allow you to come in early or stay late, leave early or come in late, telecommute, and otherwise take time off during non-traditional hours.
A flexible schedule can also be an excellent option for those with families and people who are disabled that want to have more control over their work hours.
Flexible scheduling enables employees to work when they feel most productive and/or balance both family and professional life. Employees also often report greater job satisfaction when given options in how and where they complete assigned tasks.
Common Misconceptions About Flexible Work Schedules
Some people may think that a flexible schedule means only working from home. This is false. Although working from home or remotely may be part of a flexible schedule, there are many other ways to provide more flexible work hours.
For example, you may be able to negotiate with your employer to have longer lunch breaks, start their workday a little later, work during non-traditional hours (e.g., weekends), or work extra hours to take time off later.
One popular option is to allow employees to work from home as much as possible but still come into the office once per week to put in face time with colleagues.
Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding about providing a flexible work schedule is that it will decrease employee productivity. This has proven to be false and quite the opposite for those clinging to a traditional 9–5 work schedule.
Aside from increased productivity, flexible work schedules provide many more benefits for both employees and employers.
How Can Businesses Benefit From Flexible Work Schedules?
There are several reasons why companies should provide flexible work schedules. Companies should know that these will not only benefit the employee but the company as a whole. Employees strongly desire a good work-life balance, and providing flexible work hours does just this while providing even more benefits.
- Employee Retention: Providing flexible work schedules can help create a more positive work environment by allowing employees to balance their personal and professional lives. Employee retention rates are higher with flexible work schedules because employees enjoy the flexibility and autonomy they offer.
- Increases Talent Acquisition: Organizations want to attract quality talent. To do so, they need to offer amenities that will make the company more attractive to prospective employees. One attractive amenity is the option of flexible work hours. Companies have seen success with this type of arrangement because most employees are grateful for its flexibility.
- Improves Productivity: With flexible work options, employees can work where and when they are most productive. They also tend to feel more creative and encouraged to be innovative. Providing flexible schedules can also boost morale because employees will feel more satisfied in their job - reducing procrastination and improving productivity.
- More Diverse Employees: A diverse workforce has a whole host of benefits for both the company and the employees. Employees that come from different backgrounds and cultures will have different perspectives, which will improve problem-solving and decision-making processes. Providing flexible work options not only attracts and retains talented employees but a diverse pool of talented candidates.
- Environmentally Friendly: Remote work and flexible hours, while enticing to employees, are environmentally friendly. If more employees work from home, that means no commute to the office — reducing fossil fuel emissions. Additionally, flexible work hours could help take the pressure off the commute to the office, giving employees the option of catching more environmentally friendly rides to work such as the bus or ridesharing.
5 Drawbacks of Flexible Scheduling
Although flexible scheduling has its fair share of benefits, it also has some drawbacks associated with it. We have discussed some of these below:
1) Flexible scheduling can often lead to decreased productivity as employees take advantage of the relaxed rules and use it as an opportunity to slack off
Although there is data suggesting that flexible scheduling might be better for productivity, common sense dictates that if employees are given the opportunity to work fewer hours, they will likely take it.
This can often lead to a decrease in productivity as employees use the relaxed rules to their advantage and slack off.
2) Allowing flexible scheduling can be difficult to manage from an employer standpoint
If not managed properly, flexible scheduling can quickly become a logistical nightmare for employers.
With different employees working different hours on different days, it can be difficult to keep track of who is working when and who is available to do what. This can lead to confusion and frustration on both the part of the employer and the employee.
3) It can be hard to maintain a sense of camaraderie within the workplace when employees are working different hours
One of the benefits of traditional work hours is that it allows for employees to bond with one another during breaks and after work.
When employees are working different hours, it can be difficult to maintain that sense of camaraderie. This can lead to a feeling of isolation among employees and can make it harder for them to work together effectively.
4) Flexible scheduling can often lead to employees working more hours than they would like
While flexible scheduling is supposed to give employees the ability to control their own hours, in reality, it often leads to employees working more hours than they would like.
This is because employers often take advantage of the flexibility by requiring employees to work longer hours or to be available at all hours of the day.
5) It can be difficult to maintain a work/life balance when employees are working flexible hours
One of the main benefits of flexible scheduling is that it allows employees to better balance their work and personal lives.
However, this is not always the case. If employees are required to be available at all hours of the day or if they are working long hours, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work/life balance. This can lead to burnout and resentment among employees.
Examples of Flexible Work Schedules
A flexible work schedule does not mean exclusively working from home. Many companies can still provide flexible work options without offering remote work. If you are concerned your company does not have the capacity for flexible schedules, consider some of the following options to tailor to your company culture.
- Flex Time: Sometimes, flex time means working longer or shorter hours. Sometimes it just means having the option to trade shifts with a colleague so that you can be in charge of when and how many hours you work. It can also include being able to come into the office for meetings and telecommuting from home the rest of the workday. Whatever the case, employees will need to be able to punch in and out as their hours allow.
- Reduced Hours/Part-time: Reduced employee hours means that an employee is working less time than a full-time employee. This is typically seen in the form of working part-time.
- Working Remotely: Working remotely means that you work from home or another designated workspace away from the office where the work environment is more comfortable, flexible, and accessible.
- Job Sharing: Job sharing is an alternative work arrangement in which two or more employees share a single full-time job, functioning as team members with reduced or part-time hours.
- Banked Hours: Banked hours are hours that an employee has saved and can use for some other purpose in the future. Employees can clock on to work extra hours during a specific time, banking them to take time off elsewhere without sacrificing wages.
- Leaves and Sabbaticals: A leave or sabbatical, in an employment sense, refers to taking time off and away from employment. This is usually done to fulfill the needs and obligations of family caregiving when no other form of flexible work arrangements can be made available. Additionally, an employee may want to explore other opportunities and refresh themselves both mentally and/or physically without fear of losing pay or having their job threatened if they don’t return after a set amount of time (usually one year).
Flexible Scheduling Case Studies
Flexible scheduling is a term that encompasses a lot of different types of arrangements. Some common examples include telecommuting, flextime, job sharing, and compressed work weeks - as discussed above.
A number of industry leaders have engaged in flexible scheduling in order to improve productivity, collaboration, and a number of other reasons as discussed in the benefits of flexible scheduling above.
Let’s browse through these industry leaders’ practices to see exactly what they’ve done, and why they’ve chosen to do such a thing:
IBM has a remote working program called “IBM Connections” which allows employees to telecommute up to 80% of the time.
This is beneficial for IBM as it saves on office space and reduces carbon emissions from employee travel. It also means that IBM can hire the best talent from anywhere in the world, without having to worry about them relocating.
Google has a number of policies in place that allow employees to have a flexible schedule. For example, they have “unlimited time off” which allows employees to take as much vacation as they want, whenever they want.
They also have “flexible work hours” which means that employees can start and finish work whenever suits them, as long as they complete their daily quota of hours.
Deloitte has a “results-only work environment” (ROWE) which means that employees are only judged on their results, and not on the number of hours they work.
This encourages employees to focus on getting their work done efficiently, rather than spending time in the office for the sake of it.
KPMG has a “family-friendly” policy which gives employees the option to work from home, start and finish work at flexible times, and take extended leave for family reasons.
This helps KPMG attract and retain female employees, who are often the primary carers for children.
5. Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young has a “virtual work” policy which allows employees to work from home or from any location with an internet connection.
This reduces office costs, and allows them to hire the best talent from anywhere in the world.
As you can see, there are a number of different ways in which companies can provide flexible scheduling.
It’s important to note that not all of these policies will work for every company, and you should tailor your approach to fit the needs of your business.
When is Flexible Scheduling a Good Idea
Here are 5 situations where flexible scheduling for a company is an excellent option to consider:
1. If the company is results based
There are some companies where the work that needs to be done is completely results based. This can happen in a sales role, for example.
In these types of cases, it may not necessarily matter when the work gets done, as long as the results are achieved by the end of the day, week, or month.
2. If the company has employees in different time zones
With our current technology, it’s easier than ever to have team members in different time zones. This means that someone in the United States could be working with someone in Australia, and they may never see each other face-to-face.
In these cases, it can be beneficial to have a flexible schedule so that employees can work when it’s convenient for them and their team members, regardless of what time zone they’re in.
3. If the company has employees with different schedules
Some companies have employees with different schedules due to outside commitments, such as school or caring for a family member.
A flexible schedule here ensures that employees can work around their other commitments.
4. If the company wants to promote work-life balance
A key element of a good work-life balance is having flexibility in your schedule.
This could mean being able to take time off when you need it, working from home when necessary, or having a flexible start and end time to your workday.
5. If the company wants to attract and retain top talent
In today’s competitive job market, flexible schedules are a necessity for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.
Offering flexible work options shows that you value your employees’ time and understand that they have commitments outside of work.
When is Flexible Scheduling a Bad Idea
Here are 7 situations where flexible scheduling for a company may not be the best idea:
1. The company is not doing well and needs all hands on deck
If you company is struggling, then you may need all your employees in at the office, at the same time so everyone can work together well.
In this sort of situation, flexible scheduling can make it difficult to manage everyone’s time and may not be the best idea.
2. The company is a start-up
Start-ups often need all their employees in at the same time so they can build a cohesive team culture from the beginning.
In these cases, it may be better to have set hours that everyone works rather than trying to accommodate different schedules.
3. The company deals with sensitive information
If your company works with sensitive client information, then it’s important that everyone is in the office at the same time so no one accidentally leaves client information out in the open.
4. The company requires face-to-face interactions and cannot be done remotely
If your company’s business model or product requires face-to-face interaction with clients or customers, then it may not be possible to have employees working different hours.
You may need to consider other types of flexible arrangements like working from home a few days a week.
5. The company has strict deadlines
If your company often has strict deadlines that everyone needs to meet, then it may not be possible for employees to have a lot of flexibility in their schedules.
6. The employees are entry level and need structure
If your employees are entry level, they may need more structure and may not be able to handle the responsibility that comes with having a flexible schedule.
It’s important to first provide training and support so they can learn how to manage their time effectively — and only then is flexible scheduling a good idea.
7. The company needs to uphold a professional image
If your company needs to uphold a certain image in order to maintain its clients or customers, then you may need everyone in the office during set hours.
For example, a law firm may need all its employees in the office during traditional work hours so clients can have face-to-face meetings.
Tips for Creating a Flexible Work Schedule in Your Workplace
A company may choose to incorporate one or all of the flexible work scheduling options above for themselves and/or their employees. However, before you make changes to your policy, you will need to consider a few things to make sure the integrations go smoothly.
- Give Your Employers the Right Tools: Communication, project management, and time clocking and scheduling tools will need to be updated or replaced for employees with flexible working schedules. They will need to do all these things while working from home and/or working on different schedules than their coworkers.
- Communicate With Your Team: Let your employees know that these changes are happening. Some employees may not be available for certain hours of the day. This means that frequent communication about timing and scheduling will need to be conducted for every company member to keep operations running smoothly.
- Test New Procedures: Start these new procedures out small to test and determine if they will work companywide. See what works and what doesn’t to iron out the kinks before you release a company-wide policy.
- Still Allow Standard Work Schedules: Some employees may prefer your regular working hours and processes. To accommodate all, let these workers keep their standard work schedule while providing others with the freedom they need for a better work-life balance.
- Provide Training: New tools and processes will need to be implemented with different schedules. Provide training for new operations so employees don’t have to fumble through new software and procedures while adjusting to their new work culture.
- Check-in and Evaluate: Before and after testing new procedures, check-in with your team to see what is working and what is not working for them and if changes need to be made. Flexible work schedules should make employees’ work and life easier, not more difficult. Of course, you will also need to evaluate employee productivity and satisfaction.
Alternatives to Flexible Scheduling
If you find that flexible scheduling is not for you, then the obvious alternative is to have a more rigid work schedule. This usually means working the same hours every day, with very little wiggle room for deviation.
For some people, this type of schedule is necessary in order to get their work done efficiently. Others may find it stifling and restrictive.
It really does depend on your firm.
You may even implement a system where some employees work flexibly, and some work in a rigid environment as that is something that they prefer.
Are Flexible Work Schedules the Future of the Workforce?
It is hard to say definitively that flexible work schedules are the future of the workforce, although it is certainly trending. What can be confirmed is that employees’ demand for more flexible work arrangements is on the rise. This means that companies may need to rethink their policies to integrate better options such as working remotely, flex time, and paid leaves.