According to the United States Department of Labor, flexible work schedules provide employees with an alternative to the typical 9 to 5, 40-hour workweek. But there are no federal guidelines or restrictions on flexible work schedules, provided that companies adhere to all other employment laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also does not address flexible work schedules.
Determining what is right for your business requires some thought and maybe even some discussion with your employees. No matter what you decide, you need to have a flexible work schedule policy in place to make sure expectations are clear. Below, we’ll discuss what a flexible work schedule is and provide a policy template that your business can tailor to your unique needs.
Download our flexible work schedule policy template for free below. Be sure to have your policy reviewed by an employment lawyer to assure compliance with any labor laws.
Why Do Employers Need a Flexible Work Schedule?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible work schedules were important to workers. 94% of white-collar professionals wanted one benefit above all others: work flexibility. Many companies have taken different approaches to return employees to physical offices, some adding work-from-anywhere to their benefits package, creating a hybrid model. Others are going all-in on flexible work schedules. From an employee perspective, it makes sense. For many families, the typical 9 to 5 doesn’t always fit their schedules.
It can make sense from a business perspective, too. As you’ll see, giving employees flexibility may increase their engagement which boosts their productivity. Flexibility can also help you attract and retain top talent, providing an advantage over your competitors.
Types of Flexible Work Schedules
One significant benefit of flexible work schedules is that you can create a schedule that works for your company’s needs and your employees desires. Not all the following examples will work for every company, and you may need to take some ideas from one example and some from another to build your company’s policy. Ultimately, you want a cost-effective and productivity-inducing flexible schedule for your employees.
Some workers are early birds, and others are night owls. Restricting both types of employees to the same 9 to 5 serves to limit their productivity and effectiveness during business hours. In some cases, employees are producing effective work less than half the time they’re on the clock. If your business lends itself to letting employees work when they are most effective, you may see an increase not only in productivity but also in employee morale and engagement.
Flextime gives employees the ability to choose their working hours. Maybe your company mandates core hours, or that everyone has to be available for an all staff meeting once per week. Beyond that, employees can do their work when they feel most productive, so long as they are meeting their deadlines.
A compressed workweek gives employees the option of putting their 40 hours in during fewer working days. For example, you may give employees the option to work four ten-hour workdays and have three-day weekends.
There can be substantial cost savings with a compressed workweek. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, reducing the workweek by one day could save the average company over $1,500 per year just on electricity costs. The downside is that some clients and customers may not be able to get help during the three-day weekends. You could overcome that by having employees work staggered four-day workweeks, but then you lose out on the overhead cost savings of the office being shut down.
When many companies sent workers home in March 2020, working remotely was the default. Working from home, however, is only well-suited for workers who require little interaction with others and can base their performance on work product and output. Don’t confuse working from home policies with flexible schedule policies.
You may want to consider offering flexible schedules and some remote work options or both. Be sure to set a clear policy, stating which jobs may be eligible for remote work, and how you will hold an employee accountable to check ins and deadlines to be sure work is accomplished.
A hybrid setup may offer your company the best option. This is where we see many companies landing today. Hybrid work schedules can vary but generally include some in office work and some remote days.
As an example, you may allow eligible employees flexibility to set their own hours, provided that they work the requisite number of hours. As an added benefit, you may also allow them to work remotely up to 10 days per month. This option allows for maximum benefit and flexibility while still ensuring effective work.
As a company, you have some flexibility in this model, and that’s one reason why it’s become so popular. Hybrid work schedules can achieve the best of both worlds. Colleagues get time to collaborate while in the office and time to focus when working remotely. Managers can check in on employees and their work progress regularly while still leaving some distance and not appearing as a micromanager.
Ultimately, it gives employees what they seek—better balance. In return, companies that embrace hybrid work schedules see increased productivity in their employees.
Flex Job Examples
If your company employs workers who do not have to sit at the same desk every day, that’s a job that might benefit from some flexibility. This might look like employees coming into the office just a couple of days per week or coming in everyday but working outside the typical 9 to 5. By providing this benefit to employees, your company gains more loyalty and dedication from your team.
The following job examples may work well on a flexible schedule:
- Online or telephone customer service reps
- Computer programmers
- Web developers
- Graphic designers
- Marketing professionals
Non Flex Job Examples
Certain jobs may not be suitable for a flexible work schedule. Some duties require people to be available during certain times of the workday, so working off-hours wouldn’t be conducive to company productivity.
Examples of jobs that may not fit into a flexible schedule include:
- Retail workers
- Restaurant workers
- First responders
- Grocery store workers
- Healthcare workers
- Delivery drivers
- Vehicle technicians
- Warehouse workers
Depending on the type of industry in which your company operates, you may have workers whose job duties would make it difficult for them to work anywhere but your location. For these workers, you may be able to include some level of flexibility, like arrival or departure times, but that’s probably as far as you can go.
Advantages of a Flexible Work Schedule
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible work options were on the rise. Studies showed employee productivity increased when companies provided flexible schedules. According to Prodoscore, employee productivity was up 47% during the pandemic when many workers were not going into an office. Challenges exist, but managers can effectively supervise remote employees, with the right operational adjustments, like new software and updated performance goals. From employee retention to increased morale, many advantages exist to implementing a flexible work policy.
Attract and Retain Top-Talent
Attracting talent in today’s job market is already hard enough. With a competitive flexible work schedule, you may be able to put your hiring on autopilot. Many workers now value flexibility and work-life balance as the most important factor in determining whether to take a job or leave a job. Employees may even leave a company for a competitor who offers better flexibility. Offering flexible work may help businesses hold on to employees as they’re more likely to be loyal to their boss and be a happier, more engaged, and more productive worker with this type of schedule.
Improved Employee Morale
Even if your company enjoys high levels of morale, a flexible work schedule can take your employee engagement levels to new heights. Giving employees the freedom to choose their work schedules and fit their work around their life, shows an incredible amount of trust. Many workers repay that trust with higher efficiency and productivity.
Accommodations Built In
Employees may have obligations outside of work, like taking care of an elderly parent or taking children to school events and doctor appointments. When people work in an office, an employee may need to request time off or special accommodations in advance, something that isn’t always possible. With a flexible work schedule, however, the employee can make whatever adjustments they need to their work hours to meet their other obligations, while still getting their work done.
Success of a flexible work policy will require clear expectations. If employees are allowed to work whatever hours they choose, then you need to be clear about how you’re holding them to a performance standard. For many companies, this has been a seismic shift from “seeing” employees working to trusting employees to deliver results. But the right policy can help you hold your employees to the goals you set by clearing laying out what’s expected of them.
Disadvantages of a Flexible Work Schedule
Flexible work schedules have some significant advantages for employers. Considering the disadvantages before implementing a policy will help guide you to know what you do and do not want in a policy.
Lack of Accountability
One of the biggest complaints from employers, specifically front-line managers, is their ability to effectively schedule and manage the workforce. Because employees have freedom to determine when they work, managers may find it difficult to hold employees accountable to deadlines and ensure their team is working their required number of hours.
If employees have freedom to control their start and end times at work, communicating on projects and scheduling meetings may become a nightmare. Incompatible schedules, lack of real-time, in-person communication, and missed meetings can cause serious disruption to a business. Managers may need to hold several meetings to deliver identical messages, wasting precious work time. Workers may also miss the collaboration that happens in the office, further reducing morale.
Employees who work from home may not have the same security protocols in place. They may use personal computers for work and their home internet might be as secure or stable as the office. This could trigger a data breach, something that’s become more common, resulting in costly but necessary infrastructure improvements.
Drop in Employee Engagement
Even though surveys show employees want a more flexible work schedule, if certain challenges aren’t addressed, it may create a reduction in engagement. This is the exact opposite of what you’re looking for so, before implementing a policy, tackle big issues that could lead to active employee disengagement such as:
- Too many meetings
- Manager resistance
- Reduced collaboration
- Security of company data
These are legitimate concerns your company should address before undertaking any flexible working arrangements. If you have holdouts, the program is less likely to succeed, so discuss with your team their concerns and make adjustments accordingly.
Generally, what you do for one employee, you want to do for all. But flexible work schedules may lend themselves to creating distinct teams of employees, so you can provide this benefit to eligible employees while restricting it from other employees whose job duties require their physical presence. It’s still important to ensure that your company remains compliant, no matter which flexible work option you choose.
Equal Employment Opportunity
When workers are distributed and not in a central location, that can create compliance headaches. Equal employment opportunity laws mandate that employers treat employees the same and not discriminate in wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. When implementing a flexible work policy, your company needs to ensure it is done without discriminating against any protected class.
Because some job duties will require a worker’s physical presence, they may not be eligible for flexible work schedules. Your company should include language in your policy that approval will be on a case-by-case basis. This decision should be made on nondiscriminatory factors, like an employee’s job duties and past performance.
Wage and Hour
Both federal and state wage and hour laws need to be reviewed before rolling out a flexible work schedule policy. If your company is offering a four-day workweek where employees work 10-hour days, that could have implications for overtime. For example, California law requires overtime pay for any hours worked over eight hours in a given day for eligible employees. So if you have hourly employees working in California, your company would need to budget for two hours of overtime every single day.
This may present a cost-prohibitive situation for your company. Reviewing your state’s regulations will help you catch legal hurdles like this before you get too far along in the process. You can find these laws on your state’s department of labor website.
When employees work in an office or central location, their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage will provide them with benefits if they suffer an on-the-job injury. But if an employee is working from home and they get injured while on the clock, do they get workers’ compensation benefits? Maybe.
Most states’ workers’ compensation laws have not been updated to address this shifting work environment. Your company cannot control the home workspace of your employees but may still be subject to paying out claims if they suffer injuries. Understanding the ramifications and getting the necessary coverage is critical to ensuring your flexible work schedule program is successful.
Above all, one thing is clear: Flexible work is here to stay. Embrace it and all the ways your company can benefit from it. From increased employee productivity to creating a competitive advantage that attracts high-quality employees, workers want flexible work options that ultimately support your company’s success.
You have options to create a schedule that works for everyone. You can restrict flexible work schedules to certain roles, include remote work options, or a hybrid schedule. Create a flexible work policy that suits your company culture and makes your team the most productive.