In a professional world increasingly focused on the quality of the employee experience, it comes as no surprise that companies have begun to veer from the traditional 9 to 5 work schedule. Instead, more companies offer employees flexible schedules that better accommodate different lifestyles.
Today, an estimated 40% more US employers offer flexible work schedules compared to five years prior — and that estimate is from before the onset of COVID-19. The work-from-home situation necessitated by this ongoing global health crisis has led even more employers to experiment with flexible schedules for the first time.
With leaders considering what long-term policies will look like moving forward, now is the perfect time to discuss the importance of offering employees a flexible schedule.
Thoughtful leaders may be wondering, are flexible work schedules just a popular nice-to-have or a truly important fixture to a thriving workforce? If offering a flexible schedule is something you’re trying for the first time due to COVID-19, is the benefit one worth keeping permanently? In this article, we’ll share the importance of offering employees a flexible schedule as well as the benefits companies reap when they do.
What does a flexible schedule look like?
Before we delve into the benefits of a flexible schedule, let’s clarify what exactly the term means.
Flexible schedules at work come in many shapes and sizes. As a leader, it’s useful to familiarize yourself with four of the most common varieties:
In a compressed workweek, employees typically work four 10-hour days in lieu of the traditional five 8-hour days. This is perhaps the most popular variation of a flexible work schedule, and many employees cite great success with the method.
With flex-time, the expectation is typically that employees will work an agreed upon number of hours and achieve a clearly defined set of objectives, but they have the autonomy to determine when (and in some cases, where) they’d like to work those hours. That might mean starting early and ending early, working a longer day with an extended lunch break, or any other modifications that accommodate employees’ lifestyles.
Shift work is yet another take on flexible work schedules which has proven especially effective in a few specific contexts; namely in the manufacturing industry and for companies supporting round-the-clock customer service. As the name implies, shift work involves assigning employees different shifts (often including a graveyard shift) to accomplish near-continuous work throughout the day. The key to success with this kind of flexible schedule is to maintain consistency for when employees cover shifts — that way, they can adapt their personal schedules and natural biological cycles accordingly.
Part-time work is another popular take on flexible schedules. Depending on the nature of an employee’s position and the functions required of their role, it might make sense for them to work less than the standard 40-hours a week. Typically, part-time work comes with reduced pay and fewer health benefits to match the relative reduction in working hours.
Not all of these flexible schedule types work in all contexts — if one of your senior executives suddenly decides they’d like to transition to a shift-work schedule where they work a graveyard shift, that’s going to (rightfully) raise some concerns. However, in many situations, a flexible schedule can help employees maintain a healthy balance between work and other parts of life.
The benefits of flexible schedules extend beyond the experience of the individual employee. In the next section, we’ll look at some of the most compelling advantages employers should keep in mind when evaluating whether to offer this option to employees.
The Benefits of a Flexible Schedule
Flexible work schedules are usually a win-win situation in which all parties benefit. But don’t just take our word for it — below are some of the most significant benefits enjoyed by companies that choose to offer employees a flexible schedule:
Turnover, which costs US companies a whopping one trillion dollars a year, can be significantly improved by offering employees a flexible work schedule — 36% of employees say that they are more likely to leave a company that doesn’t offer them a flexible schedule compared to one that does.
78% of employees say that having a flexible work schedule has made them more productive compared to when operating within the traditional work week. This makes sense, as employees with flexible schedules can match their working hours to periods of peak energy and concentration.
77% of employees consider flexible work schedules a key factor when job hunting. Companies that offer this benefit are better able to attract the kind of top talent successful organizations run on.
The list goes on, and benefits related to employee’s mental and physical wellness, stress levels, and more should be taken into account as well. The three benefits described above are of particular note because they tie directly back to the company’s bottom line. Even considered strictly from a business perspective, there is great importance to offering employees a flexible schedule.
The Challenges of Offering a Flexible Work Schedule
Clearly, offering employees a flexible schedule comes with many quantifiable benefits, but one valid objection still remains: does allowing employees to work staggered hours take a toll on company culture via a reduction in time shared working?
If you leave company culture to chance and rely entirely on employees to build strong workplace relationships, there’s a decent chance that flexible schedules will be a blow to culture. But the truth is, without strategic initiatives in place, your company culture was likely shaky and ill-defined to begin with.
Whether your company offers employees flexible schedules or not, culture should be supported through well-defined core values, programs to reinforce them, proactive diversity and inclusion measures, and other initiatives that facilitate strong connections between peers. One of the most effective ways to support culture among employees working a flexible schedule is through an employee recognition program. Recognition can be delivered anytime, anywhere, and is an effective way to improve collaboration, morale, and even productivity in your team. Once your company has a sound cultural strategy in place, flexible schedule options will enhance rather than detract from the unique culture that defines your organization.
Flexible Schedules = Future Success
If your company does not currently offer flexible scheduling or if it’s something you’ve experimented with for the first time during COVID-19, consider adding it as a permanent benefit for employees. The evidence is clear: flexible work schedules make employees’ lives more manageable and your business more successful. With abundant benefits and more-than-surmountable challenges, offering flexible work schedules is one of the best strategic decisions you can make to secure future success for your company.
Katerina Mery is a Marketing Specialist at Fond with a background in cognitive psychology and a passion for improving the way people live and work. She especially enjoys learning about how to accomplish this through rewards and recognition. In her spare time, you can find Katerina running outside, admiring art, and exploring the latest and greatest local restaurants.