Alternative Working Arrangements May Benefit Your Business

Alternative working arrangements and schedule flexibility are among the most desired job features.

Alternative working arrangements like telecommuting, flextime, job sharing and a compressed schedule are highly prized by employees.

When asked about the top features they want in a job, workers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, India and China all reported that alternative working arrangements were second only to top pay and benefits, according to CNN. The option to conduct business outside the traditional 9-to-5, Monday through Friday workweek was considered essential to achieving some sense of work-life balance, employees reported in the study done by EY.

The good news for small businesses is that smaller, more nimble firms are generally better able to customize a work schedule that fits an employee's personal commitments and interests — more so than the typical corporate giant, that is.

Types of Alternative Working Arrangements

Most alternative working arrangements fall into four broad categories:

  • Flextime: The Department of Labor (DOL) defines a flexible work schedule as an alternative work schedule that differs from the traditional 9-5, 40-hour workweek. According to the DOL, this "flextime" allows employees to vary their arrival and departure times each day. So, for example, some employees might work 6 a.m.-2 p.m., while others might opt for 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Some employers may require employees to be at work during a set period of time each day (known as "core hours") or may require employees to work a certain number of hours in each pay period. The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not cover flextime, and flexible working arrangements are generally considered a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee.
  • Telecommuting: This is when work is done entirely off-site, frequently in an employee's home office. Employees may be able to choose their work hours, or they may be required to work a set schedule.
  • Compressed workweek: Common in some industries, such as health care, a compressed workweek allows employees to complete 40 hours of work in fewer than five days. The most common example is a workweek of four 10-hour days, so that employees have a three-day weekend. Depending on your industry, you could also offer employees the option to work three 12-hour days, with one-hour check-ins on the four days off. Employers who set a compressed workweek should be aware of meal and rest break requirements. Additionally, some states have daily overtime pay requirements, so be sure to take any state wage and hour rules into consideration before implementing a compressed workweek.
  • Job sharing: Perhaps because it can be difficult to find a partner to split job responsibilities with, job sharing is fairly uncommon. According to Monster, only 8 percent of companies that offer alternative working arrangements have a formal job-sharing program.

One issue to be aware of as employees spend more time working out of the office is time tracking. The Department of Labor explains that, generally, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), nonexempt employees must be compensated for all hours worked, which includes any time an employee is on duty, as well as any time an employee is "suffered or permitted" to work. This can include the time an employee spends reviewing and responding to work emails after regular work hours. As such, it may be beneficial for your business to put a policy in place regarding the appropriate use of email outside of working hours. This policy should also clearly explain that employees must document and report all hours worked. The Department of Labor offers a smartphone app to help employees track the hours they work.

If you are concerned about time tracking for nonexempt employees and the potential overtime you may owe them for work done outside of regular work hours, you may want to consider not providing them with remote access or mobile devices. But continue to remind them to report any work performed outside of normal work hours.

However you decide to set employees' schedules, you'll want to ensure that they meet the needs of your business and that employees are compensated in accordance with all federal, sate and local rules.