Balancing work and personal life can be challenging for some employees. To help, many companies offer flexible work schedules which can enhance productivity and efficiency and overall employee satisfaction. In these situations, flexible working schedules provide value for both employer and employee.
In this article, we explain what flexible work schedules are, the different kinds, how to manage them and the advantages and disadvantages of flexible work schedules.
Related: 16 Jobs with Flexible Hours
What are flexible work schedules?
With flexible work schedules, employees have the option to complete tasks when they feel most productive, which can be outside standard working hours (9 am to 5 pm). The type of flexible hours employees work vary depending on employee preference and manager approval.
Common types of flexible work schedules companies offer to employees include:
Compressed workweek schedule
Employees allowed to participate in a compressed workweek have the opportunity to work only four days a week rather than five. They may choose to work ten hours a day instead of eight, giving them a three-day weekend. Some employers allow employees to choose which three days they can have off if the company is open on the weekends.
Regular flexible schedule
When working this schedule, employees can choose to arrive at the office earlier or later than normal hours as long as they work the required amount of hours. For example, an employee who works more productively in the morning can arrive at 7 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m., giving them an additional hour available in the evening.
Highly flexible schedule
This schedule allows employees to work according to their own personal schedules. They can arrive in the office when it's most convenient for them and leave when they prefer. Employees may also work from home if they feel it's a more productive option. Many employers that allow this flexible schedule don't require employees to work 40 hours a week as long as they complete all their tasks and submit work within the deadlines.
Employees may work a majority of their hours remotely or they can work a fully remote schedule. This means they can complete their work from home or wherever they please, as long as they maintain constant contact with employees and employers via video or phone calls.
Related: 11 Online Jobs for Work Flexibility
How to manage flexible work schedules
Managing a flexible work schedule increases the productivity of employees if it's managed properly. Follow the steps below to ensure flexible work schedules are well-managed.
- Hold a meeting to discuss the new schedule.
- Begin working a flexible schedule one day a week.
- Plan your work schedule around meetings.
- Write down your upcoming deadlines.
- Keep team members in mind when making your schedule.
- Notify all necessary parties of your schedule.
1. Hold a meeting to discuss the new schedule
Before implementing a flexible work schedule, hold a meeting between employees and their managers, as well as employees and other team members. During this meeting, attendees should discuss their plan for working these flexible hours. Employers can also use this meeting to discuss their rules and guidelines for employees participating in a flexible schedule.
Some employers extend guidelines for employees to follow, like regularly notifying managers of their schedule, making sure they work in the office on certain days of the week and promising to consistently meet deadlines. They may also address any questions employees have about the flexible work schedule during this meeting.
2. Begin working a flexible schedule one day a week
If you would like a simple transition to working a flexible schedule, start with a limited flexible schedule and work your way up to a regular flexible schedule. You can do this by working a flexible schedule during one day of the week.
A day at the beginning or end of the week, like Monday or Friday, may provide a smoother transition for employees, team members and managers. Each week or two, continue to gradually work more flexible days until you've maintained a conveniently flexible work schedule.
3. Plan your work schedule around meetings
If you're planning a different flexible work schedule each week, try to plan it according to your weekly meetings. For example, if you have a meeting at 4 p.m, ensure that your flexible schedule allows you to be in the office attending this meeting unless your supervisor allows you to attend through a phone or video call. This enables you to be present for meetings that require your input or that contain important information you need to know.
4. Write down your upcoming deadlines
As you build your flexible schedule for the week, note the deadline you have for each project that week. This helps you make sure you're aware of each deadline which can make it easier to plan your schedule as you complete the more strenuous or time-consuming tasks within the project wherever and whenever you feel the most productive.
For example, if you have a large project due and you know you're more productive in the office during the morning, schedule to complete the more complex tasks within that project early in the morning in the office. Plan to complete the simpler project tasks at home in the afternoon, if approved by your manager.
5. Keep team members in mind when making your schedule
A challenging aspect of working a flexible schedule is collaborating with team members. If you choose to work a flexible schedule that involves others being in the office when you're remote, regularly check with them to remain collaborative and productive, especially if you're working on a team project. You can also work with them as you build your flexible schedule to make sure you're in the office when they are a few days a week.
6. Notify all necessary parties of your schedule
If your schedule regularly changes every week or you decide to leave the office when it's the most convenient for you, try to notify both managers and other employees of this schedule. This helps them remain aware of when you will be available.
For example, if an employee needs to speak with you and plans to meet in the afternoon, they may be surprised to find you unavailable in the afternoon if you decide to leave unannounced. Inform employees of your absence either ahead of time or when you decide to leave. This allows them time to speak with you before you leave, which can help them remain efficient and on time with their own schedule.
Advantages of flexible work schedules
Working a flexible schedule can provide many benefits that lead to engaged and efficient employees. Below are the positive aspects of participating in flexible work schedules:
- A proper work-life balance
- More efficient commute
- Boosts employee morale and engagement
- Overall company costs may decrease
Maintain a proper work-life balance
Many people have busy personal lives that include friends, family and children. Spending most hours at work can be challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. With a flexible schedule, employees can plan their work schedule around their personal life, so that both sets of needs are met.
Allowing employees to maintain a proper work-life balance can result in a more relaxed and productive mind, which allows higher-quality projects to be submitted.
More efficient commute
Since work hours are typically around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, many employees commute to work during these times. To make the drive to and from work more efficient for employees, they can choose flexible hours that allow them to drive when traffic is lighter. This keeps employees safer and allows them to complete more work from their home, rather than spending that time driving in busy traffic.
Boosts employee morale and engagement
Employees given more control over their schedules will feel more committed to the company as it establishes trust between them and their supervisors. This trust can motivate them to remain productive while providing quality work. It also boosts their overall morale and engagement with the company, which can lead to less employee turnover.
Engaged employees with high morales may also be more likely to tell others about the company's flexible schedule. This attracts other employees to the company who may be highly qualified and impressive candidates, which can significantly increase the company's performance.
Overall company costs may decrease
If a flexible work schedule is implemented, especially a remote work schedule, the cost of different company items like chairs, desks and other equipment may decrease since employees are rarely in the office to use them. A desk-sharing system can also be implemented that allows one employee to work at a desk when the other is away, which saves the company money on desks and grants extra office space.
Disadvantages of flexible work schedules
Though there are many positives to a flexible work schedule, some companies that face challenges when implementing these schedules. Below are common disadvantages to employees participating in flexible work schedules:
- Difficulty collaborating with employees
- Less supervision from managers
- May limit client interaction
- Available only to certain employees
Difficulty collaborating with employees
Working with team members with flexible schedules may be challenging if they are completing projects as a team and are relying on other team members to assist them with these projects. Employees can try to resolve this by building schedules around each other or communicating via phone or video calls.
Maintaining a flexible work schedule may also be challenging for supervisors and employees. It can be difficult for employees to contact their supervisors with questions if the supervisor is working on a different schedule or if they are working at home and unable to respond to messages.
Less supervision from managers
Supervisors may find flexible work schedules challenging to maintain as they may have a more difficult time overseeing the work their employees complete. It can also be more challenging for managers to train and provide guidance to employees who are rarely working in the office with them. Employees and supervisors can try to coordinate schedules or managers can require their employees to spend a designated amount of time working inside the office.
May limit client interaction
For client-facing employees, it may be more challenging to regularly speak with clients due to the employee's flexible hours. Most clients operate on a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift and may expect employees to meet and speak with them whenever needed during those times. This problem may be solved by working with clients beforehand to alert them of this changing schedule and try to shift the schedule according to their needs.
Available only to certain employees
For employees who primarily work on a computer at their desk, it can be easier to maintain a flexible work schedule as they can use their computer at home or wherever convenient. For other employees, like nurses, for example, their jobs can rarely be completed from home or they may need to work during specific hours, which makes their schedule difficult to adjust.
To attempt to overcome this challenge, employees can try to meet with supervisors to try to find a schedule that could work with both the company's or department's schedule and their own. They can also request they switch schedules with another employee who may want to work different hours, if possible.