This month’s theme of reflection and aiming for success continues today. The last blog mentioned how to make your day more successful before heading into the office, and continuing positive behavior while you’re there, even in the face of the office grouch. This time, we will discuss how having a flexible work schedule or location-based flexibility can correlate to higher productivity and satisfaction for employees, as well as some of the HR pitfalls associated with these schemes. Unfortunately, you won’t find any tips on how to avoid getting distracted by kids, dogs or Netflix when telecommuting!
What is a flexible work schedule?
Location-based flexibility means employees can have the option to ‘telecommute,’ or work in their dirty sweatpants at home from the comfort of their couch. More than 80 percent of workers in America would like the option to work from home at least sometimes, and employers might like this option because it means they can recruit from a wider talent pool.
Schedule-based flexibility means employees will still come into the office, but it will be at various hours, as long as they meet the minimal allotment. So, if someone has to work 40 hours a week, they may want to work 7-5 but get Fridays or Mondays off. Or, if someone works better in the early morning hours, they can start even earlier but get their afternoons off. Be wary of employees who work through their break times and schedule lunches, because some state and local laws regulate breaks and meal times, and you may not have as much flexibility in this regard.
Problems with Flexible Schedules
There is some reticence in expanding flexibility programs with employers, primarily because of the potential for abuse by employees, loss of productivity and difficulties in managing employees who work remotely or irregularly. Surprisingly, there are no statutory guidelines on flexible work schedules under the Fair Labor Standard Act, but the Department of Labor does note that some policies require someone to work a set number of hours during a pay period and be present in the office for a set period of time. If your company wants to offer flexible schedules, they should check their policies and procedures first.
Implementing flexible work-time is appealing to potential employees – not just millennials. Parents who want to be involved in their children’s lives and attend school functions will jump at the chance for a job with flexible hours.
Operational expenses are reduced with more workers doing a location-based flexible schedule, and it is an environmentally sensitive arrangement. There are less drivers on the roads, fewer commuters, and less energy is consumed at offices with fewer workers showing up.
Productivity actually increases with a more flexible work environment. Sounds crazy, right? Cisco Systems rolled out a new remote work program and found that 75 percent of their employees felt their work was timelier and the quality was improved. Sixty percent reported more productivity, saying they could start work earlier and work a bit later because they saved time on their commute, and a full 83 percent reported effectively communicating with colleagues the same as, if not better than had they been on site.
Things to Think About
Update your policies and procedures after introducing a flexible program. Establishing guidelines, such as the number of hours you expect the employee to work, a set schedule to stick to, or even specific days of the week they should be prepared to come into the office can go a long way in avoiding future disputes.
How do you want to communicate with your employees? If they are location-flexible, then you’ll need to create a centralized and consistent format of communication. Is it email, or text messages? Will you be able to have virtual meetings with them? For schedule-flexible employees, you will need to encourage a system whereby employees can communicate with each other, even if they are on opposing schedules. Have them keep an updated file where they can exchange notes and loop in their supervisors. Arrange in-person meetings periodically to address concerns or reinforce positive behavior.
Implementing a flexible schedule requires an equally flexible attitude with managers and business owners. If your office does not have the technological infrastructure to support remote workers or shifting schedules, it may not be a good solution for you. However, given the benefits and constantly changing landscape, it’s worth considering making the investment.