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In the professional landscape of tomorrow, flexible working is going to be top of the agenda for high-performing businesses and employees.
Glassdoor lists flexible work hours as one of the top benefits that attract quality candidates to a company.
According to a survey by Fractl, a market research company, the only benefit that employees consider more seriously than flexible hours is quality healthcare.
Since 2020, with the exponential rise in people working from all over the globe, flexible work arrangements have quickly become commonplace.
And while the world will return to a new normal and offices will open their doors again, a lot of businesses and individuals are likely to continue with similar arrangements to those adopted during the pandemic, on account of the benefits to both sides when adopting a flexible working model.
In this article, we’ll discuss the biggest benefits that flexible working offers to all parties involved, as well as potential downsides, and tips on how to set up a flexible working arrangement the right way.
Flexible work arrangements benefit both the employee and employer.
For employees, a flexible schedule allows them to build a better work/life balance, and mix work around what they really love doing.
That also benefits the company they work for, as happier, more content employees are almost always more productive employees.
More attractive benefits and a flexible work environment also makes it easier to attract the top talent a business needs to thrive.
And there are even more ways that adopting flexible working arrangements is a no-brainer in today’s climate.
Let’s take a look.
Freedom and flexibility are hugely beneficial for improved employee health and happiness, in numerous ways.
For one, giving employees flexibility will result in lower stress levels. Stress is a huge cause of health issues, and invariably leads to burnout, so treating or preventing stress will go a long way to living a healthier life.
A flexible schedule also allows employees to work when it best suits them – for example, if you’re a night owl, you can go to sleep and wake up when you’re most comfortable, instead of pulling yourself out of bed on little sleep to make it to the office at 9am.
This flexibility also gives employees more of a chance to focus on things outside of work that benefit their health, or simple help them be more fulfilled and happier day-to-day.
The mental health benefits from being able to achieve work/life balance should not be discounted, and lead into even more positive health benefits.
Flexible working allows employees to set their working hours according to the time they’re at their best.
As a society, we seem to have accepted that everyone is at their peak of productivity between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday through Friday.
It was introduced back in the 1920s by Henry Ford, who was actually trying to reduce the workweek from 6 days to 5 days.
But of course, there is no such law of productivity. We are all unique individuals, and we perform at our best at different times.
A flexible work schedule allows employees to work at their height of focus and productivity, whether that’s in the morning, evening, or even shorter spells, spread out over the week.
Flexible work schedules generally include the opportunity for employees to work remotely, which offers a huge benefit in the way of reduced overhead costs to the business.
Whether going fully remote, or still maintaining a workspace where workers can come and go, there’s generally lesser need to spend money on office space, equipment and more.
For example, even the business doesn’t go fully remote, it can set up hot desks, which are shared workspaces that multiple employees can use at different times based on when they’re in the office.
That allows for less overall space, and fewer expensive workstations to kit out.
The money saved can lead to higher profits, or be re-invested into cultivating happier employees, through higher wages or employee wellness programs.
As we already mentioned, jobs with flexible work schedules are in high demand. And the top-performing employees typically have their pick as far as where they want to work.
Going forward, flexible working is going to become more and more of a “must-have” for people who aren’t desperate for a job.
Someone that has been working in a flexible working arrangement already is going to have a hard time adjusting back to a rigid, “be in the office from 9 to 5” workplace.
So for businesses that stick with the traditional workplace model, they’re going to have a smaller pool of talent to hire from compared to companies with a higher level of workplace flexibility.
By offering flexible schedules to employees, businesses aren’t just making their workers happier. They’re giving them freedom and autonomy.
This is a great way to encourage employees to grow, and work without the need for constant supervision.
While there may be growing pains at first when taking the reigns off employees, companies that do this will be better in the long run. These employees will learn how to think on their feet, and a culture will begin to develop that encourages growth, forward-thinking, and employees who are “self-starters”.
This all starts with allowing employees the flexibility to begin to learn and think for themselves.
Of course, there are downsides to going with a flexible scheduling approach.
But these downsides should be thought of as challenges, rather than negatives, as these points are simply things that a business (and employees) need to work through and find solutions for when transitioning to flexible schedules.
By overcoming these challenges, employees and employers alike are free to enjoy the benefits outlined above.
Here are some things to consider.
Things may not run quite as smoothly when people are working different schedules.
If there are tasks that are reliant on input from multiple team members, these tasks may end up being delayed.
These delays should be accounted for when setting deadlines or offering time frames to clients. Even better, companies (and team members) should arrange it so that there are sufficient overlaps between employees’ schedules to make sure necessary synchronous communication and real-time collaboration can happen.
One of the benefits of working together at the same office is that you get to have spontaneous conversations with your colleagues over lunch or during the afternoon coffee break.
These conversations can often lead to collaborations, new ideas, and creative problem solving.
There’s also unplanned communication that happens as soon as problems or questions arise, which is going to be slower, or perhaps not happen at all, if everyone is on their own schedule.
Working with each other and seeing each other every day builds a sense of team cohesion among employees.
Yet when everyone starts working different hours, and from different locations, problems can arise in regards to cohesion and employee engagement.
It becomes less of a team environment, and it’s possible that employees feel less connection to the company and to their jobs.
Sometimes, everyone in the company may not be eligible for the same benefit of flexible scheduling.
For example, customer service reps may need to work specific hours, or a receptionist may be required to be at the office during set hours.
These people may see it as unfair when other employees are able to pick and choose their working time or location.
Be aware that not all flexible work model is the same.
By definition, a flexible workplace is, of course, flexible. So a company can take advantage of this to tweak things to make it work best for their own situation.
Here are a few examples of flexible working and flexible schedules.
Hybrid work can offer the best of both worlds—a flexible schedule for employees, without losing the benefits of in-person collaboration in the office.
A hybrid workplace might allow employees to choose when and where they work, splitting between remote and in-person work, or schedule certain times that employees are required to come into the office.
A step further than hybrid is to go fully remote, and give complete flexibility to employees on where they work from.
At the same time, the company may require all staff to work a fixed schedule, despite not having an office to come to. This may not allow quite the same benefits to work/life balance, but will help avoid some of the challenges in communication.
Most remote teams also go with a fully flexible schedule.
Employees in these companies can not only choose where to work, but when it fits best for them.
Instead of a fixed number of hours, the norm is usually to judge performance based solely off performance indicators and milestones, rather than time worked.
This lets employees build a better work/life balance, and rewards the most efficient team members, rather than punishing these people with more work in the same time period (as often happens with fixed hours).
There may still be times that the company requires team members to be present, such as for team meetings or meetings with clients, however for the most part, it’s a flexible working arrangement in regards to working hours.
A flexible work schedule may simply mean allowing employees another day off each week.
Instead of the normal Monday-Friday work schedule, there’s a growing trend of companies cutting the work week to four days, giving employees a longer weekend and a more equal work/life balance.
Iceland, New Zealand, and even the US are either adopting the four day week, or mulling it over, as the benefits become apparent. Companies instituting the four day work week generally find the same amount of work gets done, while at the same time resulting in higher job satisfaction and employee happiness, due to the additional free time they have for their personal lives.
Companies wishing to switch to a four day work week might standardize it across the company (i.e., everyone works Monday-Thursday with Friday-Sunday off), or offer flexible schedules where employees can choose which days to work, as long as they make up the same number of core hours each week.
A 9/80 work schedule is one where employees get a three-day weekend every second week.
Instead of the usual five day, eight hours per day model, employees work an hour extra on regular working days, and use that extra time to take one extra day off every two weeks.
How it usually works is like this;
Week One: Monday-Thursday, 9am-6, Friday 9am-5
Week Two: Monday-Thursday, 9am-6, Friday off
This gives employees more flexibility and personal time, without actually taking away from any of the time they’re at work.
A 9/80 work schedule can be a good move for companies who aren’t ready to go all the way into a flexible work schedule, but are interested in dipping their toe in the water of greater workplace flexibility.
Another type of flexible work schedule is to institute an unlimited paid time off policy.
While a little different to a schedule, if we’re getting into specifics, unlimited PTO still offers schedule flexibility in that employees know they have the freedom to take time off whenever they feel a break is needed, or they have commitments coming up in their personal lives.
The key is to ensure robust KPIs are in place, shifting the measuring stick of performance from attendance, to actual productivity.
In essence, team members are free, and even encouraged, to take as much time off as they please, as long as the necessary tasks and projects get done.
While some businesses aren’t ready to take a leap of faith and trust their team with a system like unlimited PTO, those who do will be rewarded with more motivated, engaged employees, and be seen as more attractive to potential job seekers.
When you decide to go ahead with an unlimited PTO policy, it’s important to have the systems in place to track and manage leave requests and scheduling, to make it easy on both employees and managers. Sign up for a leave tracker app like Flamingo and never have to touch another spreadsheet or miss another leave request ever again.
The benefits of more flexible work arrangements and alternative work schedules are very clear. However, care must be taken to set everything up the right way, to avoid any major issues.
It’s important that offering flexible schedules doesn’t cause a significant delay to productivity or workflow, and that key tasks and projects still go ahead as normal.
Here are some things to think about before going head-first into flexible working arrangements.
To avoid a distance growing between team members, it may be a good idea to schedule communication and social interaction to maintain a connection between individuals.
This will also help avoid productivity or quality of work issues that come about due to miscommunication or lack of communication.
Too many meetings can be a bad thing, but short, regular meetings are generally helpful in helping flexible or remote teams stay on the same page, as well as maintaining the social aspect that is important in the workplace.
The secret to alternative work arrangements such as flexible work, remote work, unlimited PTO or a four day work week is to switch from an attendance-based system to a results-based system.
Instead of judging performance by how many hours someone spends at work, the person is judged purely on their productivity.
You manage this by setting up robust KPIs to act as a marker of productivity. That way, everyone has the freedom to flex their hours and working days how they want, as they know that the only important thing is that the work gets done.
Designated Availability Hours
For some businesses, it’s going to make sense to mandate certain hours that employees need to be present. This will allow for collaboration and communication to take place during this time.
Team members can be free to flex their schedule how they like outside of these hours, but in these designated chunks – which could be simply 1-2 hours a day, or a few hours a week – everyone needs to be around and on the clock.
If you have any rules to how your flexible work schedule operates, it’s smart to put this into writing. Let everyone know where they stand with a flexible work policy, stating things like:
A short, clear policy goes a long way to ensuring your team works as effectively and as productively as possible, and is able to truly enjoy the benefits of a flexible work schedule.
Flamingo makes managing your team’s paid time off a breeze.