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Employees are increasingly demanding flexible work schedules - and employers are starting to give them this option. In fact, almost 80% of the US workers would choose a job that offers a flexible work schedule over one that doesn’t.

Flexible work schedules benefit employees because it gives them increased freedom to arrange their work around their lives, not the other way around. But it has plenty of benefits for employers as well - it can increase retention, productivity, diversity, and employee engagement. It’s one of the most popular employee benefits.

So how can you design flexible work schedules that work for your business and your employees?

Let’s find out.

Types of flexible work schedules

A flexible schedule for employees can take a lot of different forms. You don’t need to stick to just one - you can experiment to see which one fits your business needs best and which ones your employees find the most satisfying.

You can also incorporate several different types of flexible schedules to meet the needs of all employees.

1. Flextime work schedule

Flextime is a flexible schedule that allows workers to have more freedom in choosing their hours of work. It can also give employees the ability to change their working hours from week to week, depending on the flow of work and needs. 

It’s pretty common for employers to set some guidelines around flextime. This often means determining core hours - saying that employees must be working 9 am-3 pm and allowing them to come in earlier or leave later.

A flextime work schedule lets workers choose when they are most productive to work or avoid busy commuting times. Some workers may choose to start their workday at 7 am and finish at 3, so they can pick their children up from school, and others may choose to start work at 9 am because they work better later in the day.

Flextime schedule benefits the employer because you still have core hours to hold meetings and collaborate while also having workers available at a wider range of times.

For example,  Liberty Mutual Insurance offers core hours from 9 am - 3 pm. Employees may choose whether they would like to come in earlier or work later, depending on their daily obligations and home commitments.

2. Compressed workweek schedule

A compressed workweek schedule allows employees to work their 40 standard weekly hours over a time period less than the usual five full days in one week or 10 days in two weeks. This could look like working one extra hour Monday-Thursday and having a half-day off every Friday.

It could be working four ten-hour days and having an extra day off every week. Or it could be working 80 hours in nine days and having the tenth one off to have a long weekend every other week.

Compressed workweeks are very attractive options for employees who have care responsibilities for their children or parents. It’s attractive for employers because they can save money on office expenses if they move their whole organization to a four-day workweek. Some offices do compressed workweeks in the summer, so employees can have long weekends when Fridays are quiet without using vacation time.

Microsoft Japan instituted a four-day workweek in the summer of 2019 - while still paying employees for their usual five days. Employees were 40% more productive, electricity costs fell 23%, and even printing went down 60%. Everyone benefited from the arrangement.

3. Part-time work schedule

Part-time schedules are an established form of flexible working schedules. Employers may agree to let an employee work part-time if they don’t want to lose that person’s skills, but the employee cannot commit to working a full-time job. 

This kind of arrangement is usually only available to certain employees who have proved their value to the business over a long period of time because moving a professional office to a completely part-time basis would be ineffective.

But it’s a good method to retain valued employees who have children or are near retirement age and want flexibility.

In 2019, over 26 million people in the US were employed part-time. Starbucks is an innovator in the part-time workspace - they offer generous benefits, including health insurance, free tuition, and fertility benefits to employees who work at least 20 hours per week. This helps reduce turnover in a field where it is typically high.

4. Remote working schedule

Also called telecommuting, working remotely means the employee does not come into the office regularly. This could be an arrangement where the employee works from home 2-4 days per week or works entirely from home. 

It can even mean the employee works from a different state or country. Remote working arrangements are becoming more common these days, as many jobs can be done from anywhere there is a strong internet connection and a fast laptop.

Remote working arrangements let employees avoid long commutes and remain comfortable at home (and save money on those fancy office outfits). Work from home flexibility can also go along nicely with other flexible working arrangements, like compressed workweeks.

And having employees working from a variety of places instead of one big office can save employers serious money on maintaining a huge office and provide backup if a power outage or natural disaster happens around the office.

When the Chinese travel company Ctrip started offering a remote working option to employees, productivity rose by 13% while work satisfaction rose and attrition decreased.

How to design a flexible work schedule

For employers, declaring that they’re going to move to a flexible work schedule design so that employees can better balance work and life is an easy move - it can seem like a quick win when tough.

But actually, implementing and managing that flexible schedule is a little bit more tricky. First, you need to consider both the needs of the organization and your employees' needs and how to balance them.

  • Does the type of work your organization does lend itself easily to flexible working hours? If you’re in a field where your customers expect to get a fast response during normal working hours, you will need to have guidelines on flexible working so that your business still runs smoothly.
  • How will you manage who can take advantage of these perks and whose roles are less-suited? You may experience some pushback from employees who don’t have a job role that allows them to work remotely or on a flexible schedule.
  • It would be best to clarify the business reasons for your decisions so that everyone understands why the system is set up the way it is.

Fields where employees need to meet with clients face-to-face and collaborate with coworkers frequently need more thought if moving to a remote work option.

  • Will employees be expected to come into the office at certain times?
  • Will you need to institute a type of standard calendar so that you will have good attendance at important meetings?
  • How will you keep remote employees engaged?

When setting up flexible working schedules, a final consideration is the laws in your state and country.

  • While letting employees move to another area while working remotely sounds like a complete win, you might be putting your company on the hook for some complicated taxes.
  • And many places have strict laws about allowing flextime or compressed schedules, especially when employees are paid hourly.

Advantages of flexible work schedules

Most employees expect their employer to help them balance their work commitments with the rest of their lives - and flexible work schedules are a great way to help them do this.

1. Increasing employee happiness

Employees who feel more autonomy over where or when they work are happier and more loyal. A 2019 survey by FlexJobs found that 80% of employees said their loyalty would be stronger to their employers if they had more flexible work options.

Since retaining employees is good for your bottom line, investing time and thought into creating flexible work options can pay off in a big way for your business.

2. Increasing employee productivity

According to Robert Half, employees are also more productive when they work flexibly. That’s because, with the ability to get work done when or where it works best for them, they can focus more on the tasks at hand and get more done in the same amount of time.

Saving the frustration of the daily commute or the unproductive final hour on Friday afternoon in the office is mostly social, which means they can get right down to work and then back to the rest of their lives.

Considering all sides of flexible work

Of course, like any benefit, flexible work schedule benefits come with a few things to think about for employers. It’s important to work hard to keep your remote employees happy and ensure your business runs smoothly and is fully compliant. In contrast, employees work flexibly, and to be sure you’re continually evaluating how your programs are working as they go.

And if you find you can’t offer flexibility for some of your workers because the nature of their jobs isn’t flexible in when or where they work, get creative! You can think of other ways to be flexible about work, even if employees need to stick to regular hours at a regular desk.

Empuls predicted that 2021 would be the year of the shift to remote and flexible work and that’s definitely been true. In fact, the trend is only accelerating, so don’t get left behind in the dust. Keep ahead of the game, and you’ll keep your employees on the job, happy and engaged, for many years to come.

Keeping even your flexi-time employees engaged

Are you looking for more ways to keep your employees engaged? A flexible work schedule is just the beginning. Empuls by Empuls gives you solutions to solving the engagement puzzle-like recognition programs, pulse surveys, and more - so you keep your valued employees happy and your business booming.

Unlock the Biggest Secret of Engagement to Retain your Top Performers.
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Kathleen O'Donnell

Kathleen O'Donnell LinkedIn

Kathleen is a freelance writer and employee communications and culture expert, with 6+ years of experience in corporate internal communications.