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What is workplace flexibility?

4 min read

Wouldn’t we all love to be as flexible as possible in the workplace? Everyone says that when it comes to workplace flexibility, practice makes perfect, but how do you build flexibility? Where do you start? Many managers want to believe they install in their company a culture of flexibility, but when worse comes to worst, most of the decisions and actions are still very tied with old archaic schools of thought, especially with time & attendance. Let’s take a quick look…

What exactly is workplace flexibility?

Recent research suggests that 4:00 a.m. is the most productive hour of the day for a lot of people. Tech titan Tim Cook is known to start his morning routine at 3:45 a.m. and be the first in the office. That said, some of us think a little better after a reasonable 6:45 a.m. wake up and cup of coffee. Others may operate at their highest function in mid-morning or in the evening hours. Another research from the University of California finds that productivity for most rises in the late morning and peaks between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., with a dramatic drop off after. The purpose of using these opposing studies is to state that optimal productivity hours depend on each individual.

That’s why it’s so important to create a company culture that affords adequate workplace flexibility. Whether your employees produce their best work at 4:00 a.m. or at 9:30 p.m., you should give them the freedom to perform at the pinnacle of their brainpower.

Workplace flexibility allows an employee to work hours that differ from the normal company start and stop time. In the past, workplace flexibility has meant that an employee might work 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day as an option that gave the employee an extra hour in the morning in exchange for losing an hour in the late afternoon. But, today’s employees demand more from their employers.

In a non-exempt workplace, often industrial, production, warehousing, or customer facing such as retail, medical caregiving, grocery, and service stations, a flexible schedule depends on the amount of interdependence required in the work. A flexible schedule is also dependent on employee availability to cover all aspects of the job and all hours of the day during which a business makes products or serves customers. Now let’s go over some types of flexibilities and how to implement them.

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Which types of flexibilities exist?

In all flexible schedules, the employer expects a full-time employee to work the required hours or more. A flexible schedule involves either a compressed work week or flexible starting and stopping times. Caution: if there isn’t a form of time & attendance system at work, this may be detrimental for your employees since there’s no way to know how many hours they actually work and it may lead to overwork. There are two main types of flexible schedules:

Compressed workweek

The most common flexible schedule is a four-day workweek in which employees work four ten-hour days. This flexible schedule allows employees to have an additional day for any activity that affords the employee more work-life balance.

NOTE: Variations on this flexible schedule exist including twelve-hour workdays but this is not recommended.

Daily flexible schedule

This one enables employees to come to work early and go home early or stay late and arrive late or take extra time at lunch. In this schedule, employers may require that employees work core hours, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., as an example. In the most flexible workplaces of all, employees come and go as they please when they please. They are still responsible for performing a whole job and achieving the goals of their position. But, if they can achieve them with only 15-20 hours in the office and teleworking the rest of the time, hey, more power to them.

In a flexible environment, trust is a significant factor. Measurable goals and clear expectations are also significant, so the employer is comfortable with the employee’s ongoing contribution.

So… how do you implement flexible working hours?

Make sure everyone plays by the same rules

To ensure that these factors exist for employers who allow flex schedules, a firm set of guidelines should be implemented and employees trained before the adoption of a flex schedule. This will limit any confusion or uneven or unfair implementation across your organization. We should allow the same flexibility to employees with all types of family situations — married without children, single, etc. Workplace flexibility should not be dependent on familial circumstances or lifestyle; all employees’ time should be valued equally, and flexibility ought to be consistent.

Encourage other activities

The next level to cultivating a happy, flexible workplace culture is not simply tolerating activities outside of work, but encouraging employees to lean into their hobbies and external interests. Part of this encouragement is for managers to proactively grant their employees the work/life balance needed to engage in these endeavors, and to be genuinely attentive about the events occurring outside of the office.

Allowing your employees to go for runs may also have more benefits than just making them happy. While we are engaged in aerobic exercise, our brains convert to alpha waves, indicating our brains are in a default-state typically connected to daydreaming or meditation. Research shows that alpha waves reduce stress and boost creativity and innovation — supporting the proverbial “I got my idea while in the shower” notion, you know?

Make sure you have ways to calculate how much they have worked

Whether it is goals, time & attendance systems, anything, but this will be beneficial for both you and your employees. Don’t bank on their time, don’t overwork them, give them the tools to strive as best as they can.

All in all…

Workplace flexibility is one of the benefits that is most appreciated by employees—even more so by your millennial employees. The advantages when a flexible schedule is allowed, to both employers and employees, are key as you implement a flexible schedule. For example, flexibility to better meet family and personal needs, reduced commuting time and gas expenses, and they can work during the hours that fit your energy cycles best. And don’t worry, for you, there are also benefits, like boosts employee morale, it can reduce tardiness and absenteeism, and even reduce employee turnover, but I’ll get more into that in the blog post link tied to the description. What you have to do to break the barriers to flexible work is address the deep-seated beliefs that undermine trust in your organization; so employees can ask for what they really need, so Managers can feel confident that work is getting done and so Team members can count on each other to do their jobs, and your organization can flourish. Let’s turn flexible work into a smart business strategy as best as we can!

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