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Flex schedules are a type of work schedule that allows employees to choose the hours and days of the week that they’ll be at work.
In an increasingly digital world, the prevalence of remote and freelance work has risen to new heights in recent years. As a result, many offices and companies offer flex schedules that allow employees to choose their ideal hours, days, and location.
Instead of adhering to a rigid 9-5, 40-hour workweek schedule, employees with a flex schedule can come into the office anytime during core hours to complete their duties.
Admittedly, flex schedules aren't for everyone. Some people need more structure and appreciate a regular office job. However, those with a flexible work schedule enjoy the work-life balance it offers them — especially if they have a family or a second job to juggle.
Flex schedule is short for a flexible schedule, meaning the employee can manipulate or change their working hours to fit their preferences or other responsibilities outside of work.
A flex schedule doesn’t mean that employees have full control over their entire day. Tasks still need to be completed on time, meetings must be attended, and employees must go to the office when their appearance is required.
Of course, not all flex schedules are built the same way. Different companies and employees need a variety of working hours, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every employee and industry.
For industries like education and construction, flex scheduling probably won’t work. However, many office jobs and online companies can use flex schedules successfully.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways they do it.
An employee can be a full-time worker and still use a flexible schedule.
Many engineers, developers, and marketers only need a computer to do their work. While they work a standard 40 hours a week, this means they don’t necessarily have to be in the office that entire time.
Even larger companies are allowing their employees to work from home several days of the week. In some cases, companies operate on a fully remote basis.
Some companies require part-time employees to work very strict hours, but others allow part-timers to shift their work hours around for complete flexibility. This provides part-time employees the ability to fit in time for other responsibilities — which is often the reason they choose to work part-time in the first place.
To achieve a better work-life balance, some businesses or employees opt for a compressed workweek, where the employee works longer shifts in exchange for more non-working days.
Where the standard workweek typically works 8 hours a day, five days a week, a compressed workweek would instead work 10 hours a day, four days a week. Although shifts are two hours longer each day, the employee then enjoys three days off each week instead of only two.
Another place you might see compressed work weeks is the medical profession. In hospitals, you might see complex scheduling techniques like the Dupont, 2-2-3, or rotating shift schedule.
Employees who do work a standard set of hours every week enjoy the security of knowing exactly when they're expected to be at work. But what happens when you're called in to work an unexpected shift?
When this happens, many employers offer overtime pay or, in other cases, 'flextime.'
Flextime is similar to time off, but you accrue it by working outside of your typical working hours. Of course, acquiring and using flextime must be discussed with an employer in advance.
For managers really looking for a challenge, enter asynchronous work. With an asynchronous mindset, employees can choose their own hours, the days they work, and take breaks at any time.
The freedom to clock in or out anytime can make it challenging for a team to meet deadlines. Conversely, companies that implore this method usually have global employees working around the clock.
It may seem like a significant change at first, but mastering asynchronous work can positively affect both employees and a company's bottom line — just make sure you have the right tools and guidelines in place.
Flex schedules are ideal for teams who tend to shy away from a regular 9-5 schedule.
Personal health, family, childcare, or simply personal preference are just a few reasons employees choose flexible hours.
Flex schedules are also great for fully remote employees in sparsely populated areas. Since they don't have to travel for work at all, they can apply for jobs in different cities — and even around the world.
It’s important to remember that the perfect candidate for a flex schedule is not always someone who needs it. It’s also a great fit for someone who will perform well away from the office.
Some employees need or prefer a busy environment with external reminders of their jobs, while others work better away from the office. As long as the employees log in and complete their work, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t available 9-5.
Whether a company commits to flex schedules for part-time or full-time jobs, it will be the worker's responsibility to set up everything they need to succeed at home.
Telecommuting becomes an ideal way to prioritize family life by creating a solid work-life balance. That said, what are some other positive effects?
In the aftermath of the coronavirus, remote work software has helped countless human resources, sales, and IT professionals adopt flex schedules.
For example, global IT teams have taken full advantage of flexible hours. Alternative work schedule types comprised of multiple part-time employees allow customers to call for IT help at any time.
Flex work schedules can work for many other industries as well. In fact, over a third of the global workforce is comprised of freelancers. Project-based work like writing, editing, and video production gives professionals the flexibility to create their own schedules.
Of course, not all industries can use flexible scheduling. Industries like law enforcement, education, health care, and construction have mandatory hours and shifts to follow.
While some companies will never be able to add flexible schedules into their work environment, we’re seeing a substantial increase in flex scheduling.
Now that the details of a flex schedule are clear, it’s time to take a closer look at the advantages of offering a flexible schedule to employees. It is beneficial for both the employees and the company for many reasons.
One of the leading benefits of flex work is the higher job satisfaction and retention of employees with flexible work schedules.
In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported that 88% of workers would choose a job with flexible scheduling over a higher-paying job with strict working hours.
The flextime scheme isn’t only good for team members. It’s also an excellent way for the company to attract hardworking, self-motivated employees. Talented freelancers who value independence are much more likely to apply for a new job at a company that offers a flexible schedule than a rigid 9-5 desk job.
When employees control their work schedule, it increases productivity and morale.
Flexible schedules have also been known to help employees be more productive. One of the main reasons is remote work.
Surveys have shown remote employees are more productive than in-office teams. While working at home can be a distraction for some, the office can be equally challenging for others.
Allowing employees to work from home allows them to have greater control over their environment and schedule.
Have deep work you’ve been putting off? Save it for your work from home days. Have sales calls or webinars to conduct that are a challenge in an open floor plan? Plan them on your work from home days.
The ability to plan one’s schedule leads us to our next benefit.
Employees love flex work because it tends to provide a better work-life balance. Instead of working five eight-hour days, the employee can work from home or come in when it works for them.
Flex schedules often turn into four-day workweeks. When employees take on more hours at the beginning of the week to have a long weekend, they see benefits like:
Less time and money spent commuting
More time with friends and family
Less potential for burnout
Avoiding a five-day workweek and getting everything done earlier benefits both the company and the employee.
When teams have the freedom to prioritize childcare and their personal lives, they can give their undivided attention at work — and you can save money in the process.
Employers are reaping the positive effects of flex schedules too. With work-from-home initiatives and flexible hours, employees are rarely in the office simultaneously. That’s helped companies transition to share spaces, flexible seating, and other alternative floor plans.
These changes may not seem like much at first glance, but a deeper outlook makes for even greater benefits. According to Global Workforce Analytics, companies that only require their employees to be on-site half of the time can save $11,000 a year.
That said, there are certainly some disadvantages.
As with any flexible work arrangement, there are plenty of disadvantages to a flex schedule. If you’re considering a flexible work hours policy for your employees, it’s worth considering the negatives too.
Employers need to trust their employees to complete their work on time — but that can be difficult without direct supervision. Unfortunately, some employees will be less productive when they log different hours than their supervisors.
The issues don’t stop there either. While remote work is generally more productive, it can also be very distracting. Remote employees with children or pets might see their productivity dip at times.
Fortunately, using a time tracking software can help.
Managing hourly full-time employees can also be a challenge. Studies have shown that over half of remote employees work more hours at home than they do in the office.
This might sound like an advantage at first glance. After all, the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employees working over 40 hours a week to earn overtime. But at what cost?
Overworking employees leads to burnout and high turnover — issues that can have devastating effects on a company’s long-term well-being.
Even one flexible workday can make it difficult to host a meeting. If teams are scattered across multiple time zones, or local teams don’t come into the office on the same day, scheduling becomes an issue.
To combat these issues, many companies offer flex schedules that mandate certain times or hours in the office.
While the advantages of a flex schedule usually outweigh the disadvantages, it’s important to keep these cons in mind. After all, flex scheduling doesn’t work for every company and should only be offered if it’s in the best interest of the company and the employees.
Agencies, accounting firms, and countless other offices around the globe have adopted flex scheduling — but it's easy to forget that the concept is relatively new.
Many companies offer workplace flexibility for employees with childcare needs, health issues, or personal scheduling differences. That said, most companies are new to concepts like asynchronous or remote work.
Flex schedules might cause some initial schedule disruptions, but most companies settle into a solid routine of meetings, schedules, and core hours of work. Companies can increase productivity, improve retention, and save money with flex schedules.
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