Our traditional interpretation of a workday is fairly cut-and-dry: nine to five, Monday through Friday. But what if you could offer employees a more flexible work schedule? That is, what if they could choose when they arrived and departed, within certain constraints? This is flextime.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, flextime has been thrust into the limelight as a potential way to allow more workers to telecommute and continue working from home when ill. Flexible hours have also been around for a fair few years now – so what are the benefits for employees and employers?
In the following, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of flextime so that you can make an informed decision about whether to offer it in your workplace. Let's dive in.
What does it mean to have flextime at work?
According to The Conference Board of Canada, flextime is now being offered by around 9 out of 10 Canadian companies – a trend that is echoed in many other parts of the world. Clearly, there is something to be said for this type of work arrangement.
But what does it mean to have flextime? Quite simply, it means that employees are able to vary their start and end times within a certain range. They might, for example, come in at 10 AM instead of 9 AM or leave at 6 PM instead of 5 PM. This gives them a bit more flexibility in terms of how they manage their time.
Flextime can also mean giving employees the option to work from home some days of the week. This can be especially beneficial if they have young children or elderly parents they need to care for, and it allows for more autonomy over when and where work is done.
Examples of flextime schedules
If you're scratching your head over how exactly to go about implementing flextime in your workplace, don't worry – there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Flextime can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your employees.
Here are a few examples of what a flextime schedule might look like:
A four-day workweek
Belgium is known for its delicious chocolate, but that's not all the country has going for it. Earlier this year, Belgium announced several labor market reforms – one of which was a drastic shift to a four-day workweek.
"The boundary between work and private life is becoming increasingly porous. These incessant demands can harm the physical and mental health of the worker," stated the labor minister, Pierre-Yves Dermagne.
A four-day workweek is exactly as it sounds – employees work for four days, but the hours are longer so they still work the equivalent of a five-day week. By implementing a four-day system, or at least giving employees the option to work four days, employers can make progress toward improving their work-life balance.
Starting earlier on designated days
If you're not quite ready to go the full four-day workweek route, you could start employees earlier on certain days. For example, they might come in at 8 AM instead of 9 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays, but still work their usual nine-to-five hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
This allows for a bit more flexibility on the weekends, and employees can still take advantage of the typical nine-to-five hours on Fridays. It's also worth noting that starting earlier may help employees feel less rushed in the morning and allow them to get more done during the day.
Giving employees the autonomy to choose when they work
Another option is to simply give employees the autonomy to choose when they work. This could mean working from home on certain days, coming in later or earlier on specific days, or taking a longer break in the middle of the day.
According to a study by Jabra, 77% of participants said they favored flexibility over other workplace benefits. However, 61% specifically expressed a desire for total autonomy – meaning that they choose when, where, and how much they work.
Clearly, there is a demand for flextime arrangements that give employees more control over their work schedule. If you're hesitant to offer a fully-fledged flextime policy, start by giving your employees some choice in when they work. This can be a good way to test the waters and see how they respond.
This is a concept familiar to people like freelancers and contractors, who complete a specified amount of work in their own time and then submit it for review. In the office, however, it may be a little abstract.
Essentially, asynchronous work means that employees complete their tasks at their own convenience, without needing to log on at a certain time or be available during the same hours as everyone else. This works well in allowing everyone to set their own hours, as long as the work gets done.
It can be a challenge to manage asynchronous work, but it's a great way to allow employees more flexibility and freedom when it comes to their hours. If you're feeling brave, you could try implementing this type of work arrangement in your office.
A hybrid workplace
As the world begins coming out of lockdown in drips and drabs, the workforce is scattered, with many are working from home. What was once an oddity is now the norm, and companies are scrambling to find a way to make this work.
Enter the hybrid workplace. This is a model that allows for both in-office and remote workers to collaborate effectively. It can be done in a number of ways, but often a hybrid workplace will have a designated day or days when everyone is required to be in the office.
The beauty of the hybrid workplace is that it can be adapted to the needs of your company and your employees. If you have a lot of workers who are now working from home, consider transitioning to a hybrid workplace so that you can still benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
As stated by Neal Woolrich, the director of HR advisory at Gartner, “Flexible work is not a free-for-all. It’s freedom within a framework.” In order for the hybrid system to work, there must be clear guidelines and expectations in place for both in-office and remote workers.
What are the benefits of offering flextime?
It's no great secret that having a work-life balance is one of the most important things for employees. Offering flextime is a way to help employees achieve this balance, as it gives them more control over their time.
But what other benefits does flextime offer? Let's take a closer look.
Flex-ibility (pun intended)
Flextime is quite literally a mashing together of the words 'flexible' and 'time' – and with flexibility comes a range of benefits. Employees can choose when they arrive and depart, within certain constraints. This can be great for those with young children or other caregiving responsibilities, as it allows them to better juggle work and home life.
It's also beneficial for employers, as it can help with recruitment and retention. Many employees value the ability to have some control over their hours, so offering flextime can be a way to attract top talent.
In addition, flexibility at work has been shown in several studies like this one to drastically improve job satisfaction. This makes sense; when we're happier with our jobs, we tend to be more productive.
With the right strategies in place, a flextime or work-from-home arrangement can be extremely beneficial for workplace wellbeing.
There are a few key reasons for this. First, working from home allows employees to avoid the distractions and stressors of the office environment. It can also promote better work-life balance, as employees can more easily take care of personal business during the day.
Perhaps most importantly, working from home can help to prevent or reduce the spread of contagious illnesses in the workplace. In times of crisis like COVID-19, this is an extremely valuable benefit.
Remember, however, that 69% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home – so it's important to keep up solid employee relationships and communication strategies to combat this.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, their study saw an 80% increase in employee engagement after implementing flextime. But why would that be?
It's likely because flextime allows employees more control over their time, giving them a sense of ownership and autonomy. This increased engagement can lead to better work quality, creativity, and productivity.
In other words, flextime can help to cultivate a more engaged and productive workforce. And who wouldn't want that?
So, should you have a flex work policy?
While the idea of flextime and employee autonomy is certainly attractive, it's not always a fit for every organization. Before you rush to implement a flextime policy, consider these factors:
The nature of your business: are you dealing with clients or customers face-to-face? If so, you may need your staff to be available during certain hours.
The type of work: is the work repetitive and predictable, or does it require more collaboration and communication?
The company culture: some companies are more rigid in their policies and may not be open to the idea of employees coming and going as they please.
Employee preference: do your employees want flextime? If not, it may be a waste of time and resources to implement it.
Aside from these factors, you also need to consider whether the business itself is conducive to flextime.
Organizations that can't have flextime
Unfortunately, not all businesses are able to offer flextime. If you are in one of the following industries, flextime may not be an option:
- Hospitality. Obviously, if you are in the hospitality industry, you need your employees on-site to serve customers. Your client base knows that there are set times when they can expect to be served.
- Retail. Retail stores are open during set hours and require employees to be on site. The same goes for restaurants – you need your staff available when customers are coming in to eat.
- Banking and finance. Banks and other financial institutions have very specific hours that they are open. They also have to deal with global markets, so the traditional nine-to-five workday is not as feasible.
- Transportation. Airlines, bus companies, and railroads all have specific schedules that they must adhere to. Employees in these industries need to be available during certain hours in order to keep the company running.
- Manufacturing. In manufacturing, machines need to be running on a set schedule. Employees in this industry also have to adhere to certain safety guidelines that may not allow for flextime.
Organizations that can offer flexible working policies
Alternatively, if you are in one of the following industries, you may be able to offer flextime:
- Remote organizations. If your organization is remote, you can allow employees to work from home. While some remote companies will still require a strict schedule for core hours, others will be more lenient.
- Technology. When you're working with ongoing tech projects and aren't dealing with customers face-to-face, you can allow for more flexible hours.
- Creative. If you are in the creative field, you can often be more flexible with hours, as long as the work is getting done.
- Knowledge workers. Employees in fields such as marketing, research, and consulting can typically work flexible hours, as they are gradually chipping away at projects throughout the day.
Can flexible working be bad for team culture?
All things considered, flextime is an incredible privilege and an opportunity for a better work-life balance. However, as with anything, there are pros and cons.
As explained by Maura Thomas from the HBR, flextime heals some but hurts others; more specifically, it hurts those who are unable to regulate their time.
"If everyone on your team is working different hours, you may be getting emails and messages at all hours of the day, night, or weekend — which can quickly create an always available, or “always-on” environment."
She explains that, if employees can't effectively manage their time when given the freedom to do so, they may find themselves working more hours – not fewer – which leads straight back to the burnout problem flextime is meant to help solve.
Flextime and isolation
Another huge issue for remote workers is isolation. As we all know, working from home can be a bit of a lonely experience, especially when you're not used to it.
Adding flextime into the mix can exacerbate this concern because suddenly employees are working odd hours and might not have anyone to chat to during their break. This can lead to a feeling of detachment from the team and a lack of socialization, which is not good for morale.
According to research conducted by organizational psychologist Lynn Holdsworth, full-time remote work increased loneliness by 67%. Considering that 70% of workers attribute a happy working life to office friendships above any other factor, it's clear that this is an important issue to address.
So, should you offer flextime? In a word, yes – but it's important to take note of these very real potential problems and do your best to mitigate them.
How to keep employees connected wherever and whenever they work
Fortunately, loneliness and isolation are not impossible issues to overcome. There are a few things you can do as an employer to help keep your team connected, regardless of their hours or location.
One of the most effective strategies is implementing a solid and cohesive mentoring program where employees can connect with others to learn. This can help to break down the barriers between employees who work different hours, and it also provides an opportunity for socialization.
With Together's free features, you can use our powerful pairing algorithm to put the right people together for mentoring, all based on comprehensive profiles of skills, goals, and experience.
So if you're a small or averagely-sized company, you can start a thriving mentoring program at absolutely no cost. (For more users, book a demo with us to learn about additional features).
When it comes down to it, flextime is a great way to offer employees more control over their work-life balance. It can help reduce burnout, promote better time management skills, and combat loneliness and isolation.
However, as we've seen, there are some potential downsides that should be taken into account before implementing a flextime policy. With the right measures in place, though, these can be easily overcome.
So, should you offer flextime? The answer is a resounding yes – but do your research first to make sure you're prepared for the possible challenges. With the right tools in place, your team can stay connected and productive no matter what time of day they're working!