Offering Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work schedules have gradually evolved from wishful thinking to standard reality. Employees do not have to sit around daydreaming that they could work from home, or compress their week, or leave the office by 3 p.m. every day. In many organizations, flexible work schedules (aka flextime) are becoming the norm. While it may seem, on the surface, that the advantages of flextime rest primarily with the employee, that is simply not true. Employers are now realizing that flextime offers them numerous benefits as well.

Flexible work schedules

Of course, there are also certain drawbacks to flexible work schedules for both employees and employers. Therefore, making sure your company’s flexible work arrangement is capitalizing on the pros and minimizing the cons is critical. The following tips should help you navigate the choppy waters of flexible scheduling with finesse.

Understand the Different Types of Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work arrangements tend to fall into one of two categories: time-related flexibility or place-related flexibility. Within each of these categories, the parameters tend to vary considerably.

Time-Related Flexible Scheduling

One time-oriented option is compressed scheduling, in which the employee works four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. While the specific days may vary, the idea is that the employee still works a full 40 hours in the office, but gets to enjoy the equivalent of a three-day weekend.

Another option that falls into the time category is adjusted scheduling. Like compressed scheduling, it still requires employees to put in 40 hours of office time. However, instead of coming in at 8 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m., a late riser might choose to come in at 10 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m. or a morning person may opt to show up at 6 a.m. and leave by 3 p.m.  Generally, different employees will choose different schedules that all fall within a core time frame. 

Job sharing is another popular choice that falls within the time-related category. Basically, two people do the same job and split the 40-hour week between them however they decide. Their pay is split as well, so it does not cost the employer any more to have two people doing the same job.

1. Place-Related Flexible Scheduling

The primary place-oriented type of flexible schedule is telecommuting. People have dreamed of working from home for centuries. But we finally have the technology to make it possible. Of course, not every job is suited for telework. Still, those that are have seen a marked increase in people trading in rush hour traffic and fancy clothes for living rooms and pajamas.

Work-from-home opportunities are not always full time.  Some companies allow employees to telecommute a few days a week, or a few hours a day, still requiring them to come into the office fairly regularly. However, the trends definitely seem to be heading toward more full-time telecommuters.

2. Find the Right Balance Between Trust and Skepticism

When employers first enter into flexible scheduling, many find it difficult to know how carefully they need to monitor their employees’ activities. This is especially true for those who are allowing their employees to work offsite. You don’t want to just assume all of your telecommuters are being as productive as they need to be; yet at the same time, you don’t want to falsely accuse them of goofing off just because you can’t see exactly what they’re doing. Finding the right balance between trust and skepticism can be challenging. But over time, you will begin to get a feel for who is slacking and who is excelling. 

Obviously, the most conclusive evidence will come from the quality and quantity of work that is done. If Mary and Chuck are both working from home and Mary is turning in much better work than Chuck on a regular basis, you know you can back off Mary, but you may need to have a little talk with Chuck. The truth is, even when employees are in your office, you're not watching their every move. So the same criteria you evaluated them on before flextime can be used to evaluate them afterward. If they are meeting or exceeding the requirements of their job, then the flexible scheduling is working. If they aren’t, different arrangements might have to be made.  

3. Avoid Common Pitfalls

There are definitely numerous benefits of flexible scheduling for both employees and employers, including time savings, cost savings, improved morale, decreased turnover and higher levels of satisfaction. However, there are plenty of downsides as well. The goal is to avoid the pitfalls; you don’t have to just live with them. For example, a common issue that arises with flexible scheduling is that employees are not right there on the spot when you need them. If a client comes in and wants to speak with your sales manager, and your sales manager is working from home, or she’s not coming in for another hour, you may feel the impact of a flextime stumbling block. But you can avoid this type of situation in several ways: You can train other employees to handle certain tasks that may require hands-on attention. You can make sure that your sales manager is always reachable by Skype during core office hours. Or, you can send a memo to all of your clients explaining the best time to contact said sales manager is between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. There are always ways to circumvent the disadvantages of flexible scheduling. And, considering how significant the advantages are, these challenges are clearly worth tackling.  

Flexible scheduling does not have to be a dream for the employee and a nightmare for the employer. In fact, employers can reap just as many rewards from flexible work arrangements as their staff can. The key is to maximize the advantages by finding effective, efficient ways to ensure that none of the potential detriments are allowed to interfere with your success.

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