The demand for flexible work schedules is on the rise. Almost 80% of the workers in the U.S. would prefer a job offering a flexible work schedule over one without. As a consequence, this results in employers starting to accommodate this request.
So, why are so many people expecting flex schedules? Well, flexible work schedules are good for employees, because they can organize their lives around their jobs — not the other way around.
However, it has plenty of benefits for employers too. For example, employee retention, productivity, diversity, and engagement may all be boosted by flexible scheduling. As such, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular employee benefits.
What are the best ways to set up flexible work hours that work for your business and your employees? Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Flexible Work Schedule Policy?
Before going further, let’s quickly explain a flexible work schedule policy.
Employees can modify arrival and departure times when employers offer flexible work schedules. Employees can also decide how long and where they work. It’s an alternative way to work instead of the antiquated 9 to 5, 40-hour workweeks.
You should know that the Fair Labor Standards Act in the U.S. doesn’t address flexible work hours. Instead, it’s something between employer and employee.
With that in mind, employees should be clearly informed who is covered by the policy and when a flexible schedule is available. In addition, you should consider a variety of flexible schedules to meet the needs of all your employees.
- Flextime work schedule. With Flextime, workers can choose their working hours. It also allows employees to adjust their operating hours from week to week, depending on the needs of the business.
- Remote working schedule. An employee who doesn’t come into the office regularly works remotely. For example, working from home could be an arrangement in which the employee works exclusively 2-4 days per week from home or from home.
- Compressed workweek schedule. This allows employees to work their 40 standard weekly hours. But, over a shorter period than five days or ten days during the usual week. An example would be to work an extra hour Monday-Thursday and to take a half-day off on Friday.
- Part-time work schedule. This is a conventional type of flexible schedule. For example, when an employer does not wish to lose a skilled employee, they may agree to let that person work part-time. However, the employee cannot dedicate their time to full-time work.
How to Make Company Flex Schedules Work for Everyone
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a flex schedule is, as well as its variations. Now you can focus on making a company flex schedule that works for everyone.
1. Involve employees in planning.
When establishing flex plans, companies often make the mistake of not communicating well with workers. So, the easiest solution? Develop a flexible work program based on the interests and needs of your employees.
Determine whether the new work arrangement is right for them. For example, will employees remain productive under the new arrangement? An ideal agreement would satisfy the employees’ personal needs while addressing the company’s need to provide high-quality products and services.
How can you get your team involved? You could collect feedback through surveys, one-on-ones, or town halls.
You can ask your team for feedback in many ways, but know what works best for your people. For example, in team meetings, some employees might feel more comfortable offering candid feedback. Others might prefer a confidential, anonymous survey.
2. Know your team.
“As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to know the people on your team,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Knowing who you work with allows you to be mindful of their tendencies and build more than just trust.”
It is also easier to delegate tasks to your workers if you know them well. As a result, you’ll have more insight into the team, which will help when selecting a combination of personalities for a specific project or team. Knowing you’ve already done the hard work, you can resist the urge to micromanage them.
Remote workers can be more challenging to get to know than their in-person counterparts. Follow these steps to get to know them:
- Prioritize facetime. “You might not be able to be physically together, but technology can be a bridge,” says Howie. “Eat lunch together once a week via videoconference.” Plan to fly them in at least once a quarter for meetings.
- Be generous. To build trust, you need to take risks. And — you should give people a chance. For example, “If they want noise-canceling headphones, could you surprise them with a pair?”
- Ask questions. Around 60-80% of our conversations revolve around ourselves. Encouragement not only enables you to understand who they truly are. But it also strengthens your relationship with them.
Respected leaders motivate their workers to keep working through tough times. If more needs to be done, they will speak up for it. In short, make an effort to get to know them.
3. Instill a sense of purpose.
“It is time for a flexible work paradigm shift, with less focus on where or when we work, but rather on how value is generated,” Jason Grover, HR Vice President Polaris Industries Inc., told Forbes. “COVID has taught us that our productivity is contingent less on location, more on leadership instilling a sense of purpose.”
When we align employees with salient priorities and foster an environment where they can give their best effort, he says people are more likely to choose the most productive path.
4. Conduct a trial run.
If you’re apprehensive about starting a flexible work plan or getting a lot of resistance, a trial run might help.
Create a trial, flexible work program before launching a full-scale program. The process can be carried out by a single department or a small group of employees from various departments. Run the trial for at least a month to work out the kinks and collect data.
5. Flexibility is all about being flexible.
How does a company like Vistaprint make flex schedules work?
“Some of us work best from our bedrooms,” the company states. “Some of us prefer an office environment.”
The company’s goal is to provide its team members the flexibility to choose the work environment that best suits them.
“Our offices have become collaboration centers with bookable hotdesks and a mix of spaces where team members can meet in person to work and socialize whenever needed,” they continue. “Any team members who choose to leverage these collaboration centers can do so as frequently or infrequently as they like, and they will continue to have the autonomy to create their own schedules.”
6. Establish a standard work window.
It can be challenging to bring people together if they have different schedules at work. Thus, a typical window schedule helps manage flexible scheduling most effectively.
Regardless of the time of day your employees work, set core hours, for example, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. That means everyone is expected to be available at those hours throughout the week. You can use this time to delegate tasks, hold meetings, or bond as a team.
Employers have a “schedule center” if a typical work window is implemented, which they can use to plan their schedules. However, it is the workers’ responsibility to manage their schedules efficiently.
7. Be consistent.
When informal policies aren’t applied consistently, it causes resentment, bad morale, employee loss, and even legal trouble. To prevent this, develop a detailed, clearly-stated, and non-discriminatory policy on the company’s flexible work arrangements.
8. Redefine productivity.
“Flexible work demands a shift away from seeing productivity in terms of being present for fixed working hours,” says Jane Parry. “Indeed, the problem of presenteeism — where people feel compelled to show their face at work even if they are ill—only feeds into the productivity puzzle.”
Companies (and managers) need to establish better performance metrics. How? By asking questions like:
- Was a project completed on time?
- How well did the team work together?
- Was high-quality work delivered?
“These are much more effective yardsticks of success than whether staff clock in at 9 a.m. each morning,” adds Parry.
9. Don’t have a communication breakdown.
A flexible schedule may leave co-workers and supervisors without business and social contacts. However, including flex staff in staff meetings will prevent them from feeling overlooked or alienated from co-workers and managers.
You could also set dedicated Slack channels so everyone can communicate and collaborate. Or schedule regular Zoom check-ins.
Furthermore, contact with other employees shouldn’t be limited to e-mail. Make it a point to have additional contact points, such as phone numbers. At the same time, know when it’s appropriate to text or call your team members. For example, contacting them Friday evening should be avoided unless it’s an absolute emergency. Preferably, you should reach out during the agreed-upon core hours.
10. Monitor, assess, and update.
An evolving process of improvements or developments may be required as a condition of flexible work arrangements. Therefore, take the time to review whether or not flex programs are meeting goals. If not, then adjust them as necessary.
Again, encourage employees to give feedback and keep the lines of communication open. And as mentioned above, you can use a limited-time pilot program when launching a new plan. If the plan is unsuccessful, you might have to return to the company’s prior traditional work arrangements.
One more thing. Stay abreast of any potential legal issues. Employees must be carefully classified as exempt or non-exempt by their employers. For example, for hours worked beyond 40 hours in a given work week — non-exempt employees get overtime. Therefore, those employees will have to document their work hours.
Image Credit: Ketut Subiyanto; Pexels; Thank you!