Flexible Work Policies: Definition, Types and Tips
Updated March 29, 2023
More employers are starting to utilize more flexible working conditions as a response to work-life balance needs and advanced technological resources. Offering employees flexible working options gives them more control over their work life, helping increase retention rates, reduce stress levels and boost employee engagement.
In this article, we define flexible work policies and provide tips to implement flexible policies and explain how to plan a telecommuting workday.
What are flexible work policies?
Flexible work policies refer to flexible working schedules, which offer employees the benefit of working outside of the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Some flexible work policies allow employees to work when they feel most productive and other policies allow them to work where they feel most comfortable. Here are the most common flexible work policies:
Results Only Work Environment
Flex time, also known as adjusted hours, allows employees to choose what time they start working and what time they leave. This gives them more freedom to move work hours around to accommodate activities that take precedence without missing hours, or to work when they are most productive. Some employees may prefer to work early hours, while others may work better later at night or more on the weekends.
Related: Flex Time: Definition and Examples
An alternative schedule is very similar to a flexible schedule, but it consists of shift work that works outside of the regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and lacks the flexibility of flex time. Normally shift jobs include three shifts: first, second and third. This schedule is set up by the employer, but employees may have the opportunity to switch shifts if the opportunity presents itself and a spot opens up.
Related: What is Shift Work?
A compressed schedule is also called a shortened workweek and means an employee will work longer hours during their days on to have more days off. The most common compressed workweeks are four consecutive 10-hour workdays with three days off or three 12-hour shifts with four days off, often used in the nursing field. This alternative arrangement provides more personal time for employees and can help save costs for childcare and transportation.
Remote work, also referred to as telecommuting or working from home, is a flexible work policy that allows employees to perform their job outside of the traditional office setting most or all of the time. Remotely working employees can perform their job responsibilities anywhere they want to and in some cases any time they choose, as long as they have access to the internet and employer systems needed to complete their work. This is most suitable for jobs where work is done on the computer, and teams and entire companies can effectively use video conferencing and online chat to communicate.
Related: Working From Home Guide
Job sharing means a single full-time position is split between two or more people. Each person works a portion of the total work week. Though much less common than other flexible work policies, this option can work in situations where an employer needs security that a particular position will remain covered at all times, employing two people to handle the same responsibilities, leaving at least one person available to work full-time if the other is away. This works best with two individuals that communicate well with each other.
Results Only Work Environment
Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) means an employee's performance is based solely on results and their level of productivity, not hours worked. ROWE allows employees to work when they want to and however long they need to to complete their tasks and reach their objectives. This means an individual may work less than 40 hours a week and still receive full-time pay and benefits, assuming they're productive and achieve the desired results laid out by their manager. This is best for industries where output is easily measurable for jobs like copywriting and social media management.
A split shift means an employee works half their shift, takes a break, then finishes the remaining hours later that day. It could also include more than one break lasting one to two hours, depending on the needs of the employee and the employer's leniency. The point of a split shift is to allow room for important life situations like caring for children or attending school.
Some employers offer unlimited vacation time, which is a flexible work policy that gives employees a much greater work-life balance. This policy has several requirements in place that need to be met before an employee can take a vacation to make sure the policy works properly and rewards those who work hard.
Tips for implementing successful flexible work policies
Here is a list of suggested tips to help companies transition to more flexible working conditions:
Train managers successfully to oversee remote employees
Flexible work policies succeed the most when managers receive the right training. Overseeing remote employees and individuals with alternative schedules and hours requires a different type of support and managerial style than a traditional job. Leaders managing telecommuting teams need to use a variety of communication methods to keep up with employees, track productivity on a daily basis and keep employees accountable for their work. Clear expectations, goals and policies must be in place.
Perform a trial run or pilot program
Before taking on a flexible work policy fully, perform a trial run first to make sure the program works well. If you have a large company, take a few employees from different departments that would benefit most from flexible arrangements to see how the departments can run without everyone in the office. The trial should last at least a month to gather enough data to determine it's feasibility and work out potential problems. Pilot programs may last up to a year.
Make a plan for the flexible arrangement
Once a trial or pilot is complete and a flexible program will be put into place, make sure to create a detailed plan of how it will function and how managers will get trained.
Create a clearly defined flexible work policy
To maintain an effective flexible work policy the written policy must be thorough and easily understood by staff. A flexible work policy should include a definition of the new policy so staff understands exactly what the flexibility includes, who is eligible to use the flexible work schedule and general provisions.
Keep some standard work arrangements
If possible, keep some standard work schedules for employees who prefer to work on-site and during traditional hours. The main idea of flexible work policies is to give employees more options to work when and where they are the most productive. This should also apply to individuals who want a regular shift and work environment.
How to plan a remote workday
Here is how to set up a successful remote workday:
1. Clearly communicate the remote working policy
To make sure productivity remains at the same level, employees need to understand the remote working policy rules. Clear strategic processes need to be in place for employees to follow and managers need to monitor and track progress closely such as behavioral patterns and efficiency. Work hour expectations and daily and weekly goals should be communicated and employees held accountable to their deadlines.
2. Use tools made for remote working
To have a successful remote workday, the right tools need to be available for efficiency in production and communication. Cloud-based software is a great choice and can be used anytime a company chooses to have a remote workday. This includes productivity applications and internet-based project management systems. Cloud technologies also offer secure access to company information and systems. This applies to technologies used on-site if some staff continue to work at the office.
3. Encourage employee connection
Remote policies only work well when employees stay engaged and connected to each other and to their managers. Leaders need to encourage collaboration among team members and socialization throughout the company. Good ways to do this include fun threads in messaging applications, video conference calls and possibly a mandatory in-office day if the company is mostly remote, but employees work within the surrounding area of the office.
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