Workplace flexibility. All employees want it…most employers say they provide it…but few fully harness its benefits. Whether you’re seeking work-life balance, trying to reduce employee burnout, or responding to new paradigms at how work is done, you need to consider 10 critical factors before introducing flexible work arrangements in the workplace.
10 Factors to Consider BEFORE Introducing Flexible Work Arrangements
- Do you want to be known as a “family friendly” workplace that is committed to work-life balance? According to a 2014 report by The Council of Economic Advisers, 33% of employees overall – and 50% of working parents – have declined a job offer due to potential conflicts with family responsibilities. As a result, corporations may lose considerable workforce talent if flexible work arrangements are not offered.
- Is it getting increasingly more difficult to find qualified job candidates? In today’ global marketplace, flexible work arrangements allow employers to hire the most qualified candidates regardless of their geographic location. This can also expand a company’s market by hiring sales representatives in locations outside of the company’s primary headquarters.
- Is employee absenteeism or turnover a problem? Time-based work-life conflicts (such as trying to be in two places at the same time!) increase tardiness and absenteeism – which can ultimately contribute to increased levels of voluntary or involuntary turnover. Flexible work arrangements provide a win-win in overcoming these staffing challenges.
- Are overtime payments decreasing corporate profits? Mandatory overtime is a precursor to poor productivity, decreased quality, and increased levels of burnout. Through the use of flex-time or shift work, employers can extend their hours of operation without incurring costly overtime payments to nonexempt workers.
- Are fixed operational costs skyrocketing? Office space and supplies are expensive. Through location-based flexible work arrangements, organizations no longer need to provide office space for every employee – which can result in a significant decrease in overhead expenses.
- Are you searching for ways to increase revenue and/or profitability? Studies have shown that flexibility enhances employees’ feelings of control because their work arrangement aligns with their hours of peak productivity (the early bird and the night owl). This greater efficiency and effectiveness can directly influence revenue and profitability.
- Is worker productivity hampering efforts to meet market demand? Studies have repeatedly shown that employees who work in a flexible work arrangement tend to be more efficient and productive. Because workers choose the time and/or location when they work on projects, they can take advantage of the hours in which they are most productive – rather than being constricted to work during standard onsite office hours. Additionally, flexibility changes the way in which employees are managed, from a “face time” to an outcome basis; as a result, workers proactively improve their work habits in order to meet deadlines.
- Are your health care costs escalating? Over 90% of patient visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related illnesses or disease. Flexible work arrangements can mitigate the stressors of fighting rush hour traffic or scrambling to balance work and family obligations. When stress is decreased, there can be a corresponding decrease in physical ailments (e.g., headaches, compromised immune systems, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems).
- Is compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) an issue? Telework can be a viable reasonable accommodation under the ADA. NOTE: Employers will be required to cover any work-related expenses that can result in the employee earning less than minimum wage (and overtime).
- Do you want to build employee commitment and loyalty? Even if an employee does not take advantage of a flexible work arrangement, the mere presence of this option has been correlated with higher levels of commitment and loyalty. This may be due to the belief that the employer genuinely cares about the well-being of their workforce and trusts them to get the job done even if they’re not being “seen” doing their work.
Advantages and Disadvantages of 7 Flexible Work Arrangements
Once you’ve determined that flexible work arrangements can address challenges facing your organization, the next decision is to identify the type(s) of scheduling that will cost effectively achieve your objectives.
In general, workplace flexibility falls into two broad categories: time-based and location-based.
Time-based flexibility focuses on choosing when you will be working.
- For full-timers, flex-time gives employees flexibility in terms of their arrival and departure times – usually with a core period in which all employees must be on-site.
- Compressed work weeks enable workers to complete a standard 40-hour work week in less than the standard 5 days.
- For part-timers, reduced hour professionals can continue to grow in their careers but permanently reduce their weekly work hours – a distinct difference between temporary or seasonable work options.
- A hybrid is job sharing, in which two employees divide the duties, responsibilities, and benefits of a single full-time position.
Location-based flexibility allows workers to choose where they will be working.
- Telework (or telecommuting) is the most common option, allowing employees to work offsite through the use of computers and telecommunications technology. Not only does this expand the candidate pool for certain jobs, but it also allows employees to spend additional hours on time-intensive projects. NOTE: There are many legal requirements related to compensation and expense reimbursement for teleworkers, most notably under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – so be sure to review your plan with an employment lawyer.
- For road warriors, hoteling enables organizations to contract with vendors to provide locations in which their employees can meet with customers and/or conduct any other business function.
- One of the newest location flexibility options is snowbirding. Given the harshness of many winters in the northern part of the U.S., some organizations (such as CVS Caremark) offer employees the option to temporarily relocate to a company location that is in a warmer region during the winter months.
For more information, download my free chart, 7 Flexible Work Arrangements: Advantages and Disadvantages. (You’ll automatically be subscribed to my weekly eNewsletter, Success @ Work with tips on how to avoid and overcome workplace burnout.)
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.