Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work schedules are working hours that diverge from an organization's standard work times. An employee has the freedom to choose hours that he or she feels is the most productive and enjoyable time for him or her to work — giving him or her control over the schedule and work environment.

Flexible schedules get set within parameters outlined by a supervisor but still find structure defined primarily by a worker's needs, if the needs of the employer also get met within the flexibility. A flexible work schedule may, for example, require that an employee be present during core hours each day for 40 hours per week, but starting and ending times could vary as the worker wishes.

Generational Impact of Flexible Work Schedules

A new Bentley University study reports that flexible work hours appeal to 77 percent of Millennials who felt that flexible work schedules or flex time schedules would improve workplace productivity. The popularity of flex time makes sense among this generation considering their comfort with digital technology which affords them the opportunity to work from anywhere at any time.

A prediction among job experts is that as the workplace majority becomes shifted towards the Millennial generation, telecommuting and flexible work schedules will consequently become more of a standard workplace practice than an employee benefit or privilege. There is also the prediction for complete obliteration of the traditional nine-to-five workday altogether.

Employee Advantages of Flexible Work Schedules

Workers may have the following benefits from customizable scheduling:

  • Healthier lifestyle than an employee without flexibility
  • Improved sleep
  • Ability to exercise more often
  • Fewer experiences of overload burnout
  • Feeling fresh
  • Increased enjoyment while working
  • Reduced costs and hours for childcare
  • Apparent convenience in meeting life responsibilities, personal obligations, and family needs

A Stanford professor conducted a research study that found employee satisfaction increased, along with overall working hours and productivity. Observers of the advantages of workers with a flexible work schedule have indicated that flexibility resulted in lowered fuel costs and commuting time of employees. Workers can also avoid experiencing the undesirable impact of traveling during peak hours, such as congestion and the stresses of rush hour traffic.

Employer Benefits From Flexible Work Schedules

On the surface, it may seem like the worker gains the most with scheduling flexibility. While the advantages are more abundantly evident in employee perception, the benefits for the employers are just as appealing. They include some of the following:

  • More commitment from the employee to the organization
  • Increased worker morale
  • Decreased valued staff turnover
  • Heightened ability to recruit more outstanding employees
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Possibility of extending operation hours
  • Employer image gets established as being a choice company offering family friendly flexible schedules
  • Reduced tardiness and absenteeism

Flex Time for Employers vs. Employees

There are a few drawbacks of flexible work schedules for workers. One employee pitfall can involve the peers of employees with a flexible work schedule, as well as the workers with the flexible scheduling. Thriving employees, particularly ones in an office environment, may find it problematic not to have colleagues share the same schedules.

Employees who work from home may confuse their neighbors and friends with their schedules. Outsiders may get the impression that a person is available when in fact he or she is working — despite him or her being at home all day. The friends and relatives could get upset when they may need to have something done, and the employee declines because he or she is working.

Another snare faced by work-at-home employees with flexible schedules could be there not being a clear delineation between work and home life, and it becomes work all the time.

Employers encounter a different set of difficulties when it comes to having employees with flexible work schedules. Issues could include some of the following:

  • Harder to oversee staff attendance and manage workflow and production.
  • Making sure guidelines set for teams still meet in team-oriented departments.
  • Employees using an option to work from home as an open invitation to binge watch TV.
  • Clients may find compressed work weeks frustrating when an employee is not available all five days of the week.
  • Trouble for managers to develop the necessary trust required for managing workers with flexible work schedules and work-from-home adjustability.
  • Peers of work-at-home colleagues view the flexible workers as slackers because a real gauge of their productivity is harder to assess.
  • Struggles to maintain fairness despite the remote working option applying to only certain employees.
  • Flex time is limited with jobs that revolve around customer-facing responsibilities.
  • Challenge of blending requests from employees for flexible schedules with the demands of the business.

Ultimately, a good manager can successfully handle the disadvantages of flexible work schedules, as the benefits typically tend to outweigh the shortcomings.

Study on Workplace Flexibility

Recently, a Fortune 500 company conducted what is presumably the first randomized control trial study into flex time at the workplace. Participants made up two groups. The non-control participants got taught different practices which were to help them improve management of their week — balancing life and work. The group got a chance to put into practice the techniques learned and managers received specialized training so they could encourage the employees to have balance and measure the strength of their professional development.

The control group, when compared with the trained group, showed having received less support from their boss and demonstrated not as much empowerment as the participants who got taught the various practices. Additionally, the trained group reported having more family time.

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