Implementing a Flexible Work Schedule

Flexible work schedules provide employees options regarding their working schedules for standard work week (Monday-Friday). These options include working from home (on occasion) to working a compacted amount of hours within the work week, limiting the amount of days in which the employee has to come into the office. Flexible work schedules are usually implemented with the intention of allowing employers the opportunity to have a well-balanced lifestyle between home and work. The primary or most popular work option chosen is flex-time (Russell H. O’Connell, 2009).

Flex-time allows employees to negotiate there hours within the limits of management. Another option is a compressed work week which means that you have worked your 40 hours in less than the standard 5 days. An option that is becoming popular for industries that are technology focused if call job-sharing. Job-sharing allows employees to divide the work load between two employees, which gives each employee the flexibility of working virtually or from different parts of the country (Russell H. O’Connell, 2009). And then there is telecommuting, means that employees can complete their work time obligations from the leisure of their homes or a preferred location.

The following Chart provides is a brief description of the flexible work options:

  1. A work schedule that condenses one or more standard workweeks into fewer, longer days.
  2. A work schedule with variable starting and ending times, within limits set by one’s supervisor/manager. Employees still work the same number of scheduled hours as they would under a traditional arrangement.
  3. An arrangement in which two or more part-time (or occasional) employees share the responsibilities of one full-time job at a pro-rated salary.
  4. A work schedule that is less than full-time but is at least half of the regularly scheduled full time workweek.
  5. A block of time off while retaining one’s job. These leaves may be paid or unpaid.
  6. A work arrangement in which employees regularly work at home or at an alternative work-site during part or all of a work schedule

One assumption that is made by many employers is that allowing or implementing a flexible work schedule allows to retain your employees and maintain a more consistent work force (Pruchno, 2000). According to some, implementing and executing a flexible work schedule can reduce employee turnover, and save companies money in the long run on expenses associated with replacing valuable employees. Pruchno states that the cost associated with employee turnover can add up to 130% of the departing employee’s salary (Pruchno, 2000). So for many, implementing flexible work schedules can be seen as a cost saving strategy.

Another benefit for implementing a flexible work schedule can be measured by having a more relaxed, engaged, committed and productive employee (Families, 2012). Suzan Lewis wrote in her on implementing a flexible work schedule that, “both flex-time and compressed workweeks had positive effects on productivity/or self-rated performance, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with work schedules but that absenteeism was affected by ex-time only. “(Lewis, 2003). It later goes on to suggest that absenteeism had a relationship with the flexibility of the arrangement, where for example the different effects on absenteeism are because compressed work weeks are less flexible and therefore do not allow employees to, for example, make up time lost through illness or other reasons, as flex-time does, which results theoretically in a higher level of absenteeism (Lewis, 2003).

The intended impacts and benefits for implementing a flexible work schedule is to balance work and lifestyle issues while increasing job productivity, commitment and employee satisfaction. One study concluded that employees operating under a flexible work scheduled usually demonstrate improved work and lifestyle balances immediately (Russell H. O’Connell, 2009). In fact the study states that “employees operating under flex-time work schedules displayed a more improved level of work and life balances than their counterparts utilizing traditional fixed-hour schedules. (Russell H. O’Connell, 2009).

Now, although the impacts of a flexible work schedules may appear to have primarily positive results, an incorrect execution of this program can cause problems. Overall productivity, depending on the industry, could potentially drop if the wrong program is implemented. Issues related to fairness, can also come into place if the program is not implemented and executed accurately. Most employers and employees agree that the proper implementation of a flexible work schedule can help to maintain a work-life balance and can increase job satisfaction and productivity.

However, the potential problems to implementing such a program are usually seen when too many options are made available or when the wrong option is made available without proper research and planning. Companies should know and have a clear understanding of the impacts of each flexible work option. Along with this knowledge, companies should understand the impacts of specific flexible work options on their operations. Flex-time and telecommuting may not work as well in a manufacturing environment as oppose to an office setting. And Job-sharing may not work well for an engineering company, as it works for an IT help desk company. So, companies will need to make sure that they have engaged themselves in a comprehensive planning process to determine the right fit.

So, the success of implementing and executing flexible work schedule ideally hinges on the actual option that is implemented. Which means that the success is determined by the type of industry that it is implanted in (office work, operation, manufacturing, etc.); the working environment or culture; and the carefully instituted flexibility of the work option itself? Also, as was highlighted earlier, the degree of flexibility is relatively important as well as it relates to how effective the flexible option can be.

An option that is too flexible can yield minimal results in the intended goal of cost savings and employee work and lifestyle improvements. However, an option that that may be considered to be not flexible enough may risks not to be seen by employees as being beneficial and may not yield to intended cost savings. In saying this, to maximize effectiveness in this respect, a medium needs to be found where the arrangement is flexible yet not to an extent that hinders the intended goals and outcomes.

The following outline provides some practical steps for planning, implementing and assessing a flexible work schedule (Families, 2012):

  1. What impact will flexible time or work location arrangements have on your service to clients?
  2. What are the benefits for employees and the organization?
  3. What are the potential problems? Can you deal with them?
  4. What time, effort and money it will take to make flexible arrangements successful?
  5. Is training required to be sure managers and co-workers have the knowledge and skills
  6. Ask employees, possibly in a survey, what they want
  7. Consult widely – with other organizations, clients, board members, volunteers, staff
  8. Review options, consider strengths and weaknesses of these options
  9. Develop written policies and procedures for implementation and monitoring
  10. Communicate to board, clients, staff, volunteers, public
  11. Run a pilot for a trial period and evaluate it
  12. Have staff report back on the pilot to provide their feedback
  13. Amend and/or extend the program if necessary
  14. After the pilot has run, make any modifications or changes to the program
  15. Inform staff of new processes and procedures
  16. Continue to evaluate the program on a regular basis
  17. Solicit feedback from participants, make changes and adapt plan as required

This outline provides some basic steps for getting started, putting/implementing an effective plan of action, and evaluating the plan for improvements and adjustments. It also touches on some required elements that will help the company to yield the intended goals and to obtain buy-in from employees and staff. Implementing a flexible work schedule can be very costly and time consuming in the beginning; however, putting together a realistic and comprehensive plan will go a long ways toward assuring effectiveness.

Specifically, the best way to ensure an effective implantation and execution of a flexible work schedule is to make sure that the applied flexible work option suits the specific industry. For example, flex-time can be a relatively ineffective arrangement unless it is chosen for the right job. Allowing a school teacher a day off once a week is probably not a good idea if his/her class schedules require that they be in attendance from Monday-Friday. Whereas a data-analyst who works for a software company, could potentially work 10 hours a day for four days a week and can be just as or even more effective than if he/she work eight hours a day five days a week. So, for companies to truly maximize effectiveness in the implementation of a flexible work schedule, the right flexible work option needs to be applied.

In conclusion the some of the benefits of implementing flexible work schedule are cost saving, low employee absenteeism, increased employee productivity and work performance. However, these benefits are only yielded if the company implements and executes the right flexible work option. In this report, detailed steps and recommendations have been provided for how companies can successfully implement a flexible work Schedule.

To ensure that the intended goals are achieved it is important that companies make sure that they have identified and implemented the right flexible work option(s). They must also make sure that the implementation process is inclusive whereas employees and executive staff members are included, trained and provided an opportunity to provide input in the implementation process. Finally, implementing a flexible work schedule, if done correctly, can do wonders for employee morale and commitment.

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