Stephanie Dwilson

How to Reap the Benefits of Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work schedules can improve more than your employees’ work lives. Done correctly, they can also have a positive impact on your business’ bottom line. Just remember: Flexible working hours are a completely different animal from vacation and leave polices. When putting together a flextime policy, make sure your policy is clear so there’s no confusion and employees don’t abuse the benefit.

Here’s a closer look at flexible work hours, why they’re beneficial and how you might want to go about implementing them.

What Is Flextime?

With vacation or leave, employees take time off work either with or without pay. But with flextime, employees are simply given the opportunity to work hours that are slightly different from normal. This can sometimes be a permanent change, as with an employee with a long commute who comes in and leaves an hour early every day to avoid rush hour. But this can also be a temporary change to accommodate a temporary need, like adjusting a schedule for a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the veterinarian.

Flexible work can also mean getting out of the office and working remotely in certain situations. A parent with a new baby, for example, might want to work from home several days a week after maternity or paternity leave ends. It’s up to you how you introduce flextime and what types of flexible work you allow.

The Benefits of Flexible Working Hours

Offering flexible work schedules can benefit both your employees and your business. For one thing, the flextime can cover employees’ or their dependents’ health care needs. If an employee needs to visit the doctor, they can just come in early and leave early. If they need to cover a couple hours of child care, it’s a simple matter of working a little extra another day or working from home while they watch their child. This type of flexibility can help employees feel appreciated and trusted. And by being able to make their health and their dependents a priority today, they’ll be less likely to need unexpected leave tomorrow.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that flextime can reduce employee stress and increase productivity. Following the introduction of flextime and remote work opportunities at the MIT Sloan School of Management, HBR describes how taking measures like letting employees work from home on bad weather days increased productivity because the workers weren’t worrying about how they would make it back home. Additionally, employees with flextime are more likely to report high job satisfaction and engagement, according to 1 Million for Work Flexibility.

Offering flextime is also a cost-efficient way to make your business more attractive to new hires.
If you can’t offer the same salary as your competitor, some potential employees might appreciate a flexible schedule even more than a little extra money.

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How to Implement Flextime

The best way to implement flextime is to be firm about the ground rules. Make your expectations explicit: Deadlines won’t change, and employees will still be expected to attend meetings, perhaps through video conferencing.
You should also make it clear that you count on your employees to be available to answer calls and emails when working remotely.

There’s always the possibility that an employee could abuse flextime, but the benefits far outweigh the risk, and generally you’ll find that people appreciate the change too much to take advantage of it and risk losing it. If nitpicking over time is a concern, manage flextime by results rather than hours. This will take the pressure off of everyone — including yourself.

Flextime, when you get down to it, is just another tool to help employees work more effectively. If used with care, it can improve the culture and productivity of the entire workplace.

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