Liz Sheffield

Does a Flexible Schedule Make Sense for Your Business?

Has the traditional 9-to-5 become a relic of a quieter, less connected age? The idea’s gaining traction — according to the 2018 Global Talent Trends study, just over half of employees say they want more flexible work options, from the ability to work remotely to the autonomy to start and end their workdays at times that make sense for their lives.

But would implementing a flexible schedule at your business boost productivity or just make things needlessly complicated? Ask yourself these three questions to help you decide if it makes sense for your business.

Would Your Business Benefit From Flexible Schedules?

A survey of 3,000 employees by FlexJobs indicates that employees feel they’d be more productive with flexible work options. Respondents cited benefits like fewer overall distractions (75%), fewer colleague interruptions (74%), a less stressful commute (71%) and reduced office politics (65%). But that doesn’t mean you have to have a noisy open office environment or employ workers with strenuous commutes — or even be facing productivity issues — to enjoy the benefits of flexible scheduling. Chances are your employees will appreciate any additional scheduling independence you give them, and they may return that sense of trust and commitment back to you.

Recruitment challenges could force your hand, too, since flexible work options tend to create a competitive hiring advantage. If other employers in your area offer flexible hours, remote work or compressed schedules, it’s smart to look for ways to outshine those employee perks and draw in talent with your own attractive offerings. Market these benefits as part of an office culture that supports a healthy work-life balance.

Flexible schedules might also come in handy when cold and flu season arrives. If employees have the option to work remotely when they’re sick, they’re not spreading germs throughout the office. They’re also less likely to return to work while they’re still sick, since they’ll be able to get tasks done away from the workplace.
Not only is a little flexibility a strong defense against presenteeism, but respecting employees’ health enough to allow them to recuperate away from work also reinforces other healthy habits like prioritizing preventive care, eating well and managing stress.

Can Your Business Accommodate Flexible Schedules?

Not all industries work the same way, and they can’t all absorb — never mind benefit from — a shift to flexible scheduling. For office and sales roles that don’t require employees to be on-site to complete their job duties, introducing flexible schedules can be relatively straightforward. On the other hand, retail stores or manufacturing organizations usually need to be more creative in order to offer flexible schedules without missing operational and staffing requirements.

Even if you know that your employees would appreciate increased flexibility, you have another party to answer to: your customers or clients. How would remote work or a regularly shifting schedule affect an employee’s ability to deliver the service your business promises?

Of course, flexible employee schedules shouldn’t hurt the customer’s experience. Right from its introduction, your policy needs to be firm in maintaining that, while schedules may be flexible, the standards in place around response times, deadlines and customer agreements are not. Even if flexible schedules don’t seem like they would interfere with those aspects of your business, keep an eye out to make sure there are no surprises waiting for you.

Statistically, it’s likely that a few staff members will struggle with managing their time within a flexible schedule. They may not arrive on time or stay until their scheduled departure time if they’re on a nonstandard shift with limited supervision. Others may go to the other extreme and be at risk for working too many hours, which can result in overtime costs and employee burnout. Even though flexible schedules offer independence, that doesn’t mean employees should totally fall off your radar. Sidestep time management problems by including clear expectations in your flexible work policy and, even more importantly, by being observant and learning to recognize when an employee isn’t succeeding.

Are Your Operations Set Up to Handle Flexible Schedules?

Beyond executing clear policies and procedures, having the right technology already in place is key to creating team relationships and supporting a strong network of colleagues — something that can be more difficult when employees don’t all work together and at the same time. Communication tools such as instant messaging apps and video conferencing make it easy for colleagues to stay in touch. Similarly, scheduling tools allow managers and employees to manage work hours and ensure that flexible schedules don’t lead to understaffing at any point.

Keeping your business, yourself and your employees happy and healthy at the same time is a balancing act, and not a particularly simple one. In all the bustle, it’s easy to forget that your employees are keeping up their own balancing act every day. Flexible schedules are far from a universal solution — but in the right environment, giving employees the freedom to get away from the confines of the traditional workday can help everyone succeed.

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