Flexible Scheduling: What Is It and How Can Companies Provide It?

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.

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).

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.

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.