Flexible scheduling can work well for businesses. It can help with attracting and retaining employees, and as work returns to the office, having more latitude in scheduling could make the transition smoother.
Flex time and other flexible scheduling options have become popular— and competitive — offerings at large and small businesses. It's easy to see why: this flexibility gives employees more autonomy and opportunities for increased work/life balance. As some worker return to the office, having more latitude in scheduling could make the transition smoother. It also makes it easier for employees to manage more of their own schedules.
Exempt employees may start work later in the day after their kids have started school, while others might begin earlier to end their workday earlier. Flexibility can increase job satisfaction and engagement, leading to better employee — and customer — experiences.
"At the end of the day, what people want is flexibility so they can have work/life integration versus work and life balance," says Bob Lockett, Chief Diversity and Talent Officer at ADP, in an interview with Cheddar News. "I think that's an important spin on the work/life balance issue from times gone by."
How flexibility in the workplace has evolved
Over the years, the definition of flexibility at work has become more flexible. For exempt employees, "flex time" refers to an agreed-upon work schedule that allows employees some range in selecting their starting and ending hours.
For instance, some employees may prefer the traditional Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. schedule. In contrast, others could choose to work earlier or later, as long as they're available during core business hours. With flexible scheduling, team members can decide to adopt compressed schedules, such as working 10-hour days four times a week, or opt to complete their tasks outside of traditional working hours.
The increase in remote work is informing new approaches to flex time and flexible scheduling. While many who work from home still maintain defined schedules, some remote workers seek less structure in their workday, emphasizing getting the work done rather than how long it takes to do so.
Nonexempt or hourly employees want flexibility too, and seek flexible options within their prescribed shifts. Companies must determine how to offer employees in these highly scheduled positions, such as production, sales, and customer service, more control of their time.
(What about hybrid work? Read, Hybrid Working Models: What Is Right for Your Business?)
6 considerations for making flexible scheduling work
When large corporations consider increasing flexibility in employee work schedules, it can also add complexity to the business. Because small businesses typically have fewer employees and managerial levels, they may find it easier to approve and customize their offerings.
However, regardless of size, organizations should consider how to make flexible schedules work for both the business and the workforce. Here are six approaches to help develop a flexible work policy and ensure its success.
1. Assess the "why"
Before committing to a scheduling change, determine if it will help your employees and your business and if it's something your employees want. How will it support their need to remain productive and balance their work and personal lives? Check state and federal laws — including labor laws — for any impact this change could have on your business.
2. Understand that flexibility may look different, depending on the ob
Not all jobs are as conducive to flexibility as others. Some roles do require in-person availability during certain hours. In those cases, it's important for leaders to consider options such as job sharing to cover those hours. That would allow flexibility for workers those who want part-time work.
Another example, during summer, childcare needs may change, and employees may want to update their availability and preferences for the best times of day or days of the week for this period. In addition to the tweaks in work start and end times, exempt employees might prefer a compressed schedule with four 10-hour days and Fridays off — a popular company option, especially in summer.
3. Determine the program guidelines
Are you ready to offer flex time to the entire organization, or would it be better to start with a pilot program within a department? Will all roles be eligible to participate? Should eligibility be based on performance? Do you want to establish core hours when every team member, department, or organization should be available?
These are critical decisions that must be made based on what's best for your business. Whichever guidelines you use, implementing the change will require clear communication and perhaps some tough but necessary conversations with your employees.
4. Establish ongoing communication channels
In addition to making sure your employees are clear on the new policy, it's also essential to maintain a communication process that keeps everyone up to date on projects and organization news, regardless of what days or times they work. Consider adding instant messaging to increase the flow of information.
To accommodate employees working various schedules, set expectations for response times to emails, texts, and chats. For example, an associate who sends an email at 8 p.m. shouldn't expect an immediate response from co-workers whose workday ends at 5 p.m. It's also good to offer backup resources for customers and colleagues to contact if they're experiencing urgent issues.
5. Identify the changes needed to implement flexibility
Managing multiple schedules goes beyond coordinating employees' work. But it doesn't have to mean managing a more complicated payroll, however. Technology, such as ADP's Workforce Management software, helps businesses seamlessly navigate setting up multiple schedules.
In addition to technological changes, programs like flex time require a shift in organizational culture to ensure that associates working different schedules are recognized and supported. For example, an exempt employee who works later hours shouldn't get the side-eye for walking into the office later or logging onto their laptop after their colleagues. The emphasis should be on work getting done, not when it gets done.
6. Measure effectiveness and satisfaction with the solution
Once you begin offering flex time or other flexible options, keep assessing the process to ensure effectiveness. Are employees using them as intended? Are they improving employee satisfaction and productivity? Do they help hiring and retention? Are they enabling the business to work more efficiently? Can the administrative process be improved?
By addressing these questions early and revisiting them periodically, you can ensure the scheduling flexibility provides what your organization needs or make tweaks to improve it. With a sound plan, thorough communication, essential technology, and periodic assessment, flex time and other flexible scheduling can provide powerful advantages that benefit both the business and the employee.
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