Long before ‘flex time’ became a staple of the workplace, the movie ‘9 to 5′ showcased the benefits of flexible work options. Now employers in almost all industries are offering this benefit to retain and lure valuable employees. Find out the best option for your company.
Flexible work schedules are not a new concept. The idea of flex time was introduced in Germany in 1967 to alleviate commuting problems. Hewlett-Packard followed the Germans’ lead and was the first company to bring flex time to the United States in 1972. In 1982, Congress passed the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act. The act allows federal employees the choice of either flex time or compressed workweek scheduling (explained below).
At first glance, it may seem that the only one who stands to gain from flexible work options is the employee. With a well thought-out flexible schedule and responsible employees, however, employers also stand to benefit. Flexible schedules have been shown to increase morale, loyalty and productivity; enhance recruiting; and decrease occurrences of unscheduled absences. It is also a critical tool for retaining experienced and valued employees, which saves an employer the time and expense of hiring and training replacements.
Flex time is the most widely used form of flexible work options. This schedule incorporates the traditional 40 workweek hours, but arranges them differently. The employer establishes a band of time, called core time, during which all employees need to be in the office, typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Flexible time bands are the hours of the workday schedule within which employees may choose their time of arrival and departure. For example, a mother may have an easier time coming into the office early in the day but may want to be home when her children arrive from school at the end of the day. She may choose to work from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. – without a lunch hour. In this arrangement, she has fulfilled her time requirements. Time bands should always accommodate the duties and requirements of the employee’s position. Generally, flex time employees will preset their own office hours to prevent the kinds of problems that would arise if everyone changed their hours daily.
Flex time can result in less personal time used by employees, as they will have more flexibility in scheduling appointments. This work schedule can also increase employee productivity because employees can arrange to work during their most productive hours. Another benefit is increased business hours for employers with clients in different time zones.
Ensure that you choose employees who are responsible and disciplined for flex time. One of the downsides is that it lends itself to abuse. Also keep in mind that you won’t have all of your staff available all of the time.
The compressed workweek typically sticks to the traditional 40 workweek hours; however, the employee is working that same number of hours over a shorter span of days.
The most common compressed work week is the four-day week, referred to as the 4/10 schedule, where an employee works four 10-hour days and has a three-day weekend. An alternative to the 4/10 is for the employee to work nine hours for eight workdays and eight hours for one workday during a biweekly pay period and receive one day off biweekly in addition to weekends off.
Most employers will not offer flexible times to employees who opt for the compressed schedule. Their times of arrival to and departure from work are set, as are the days on which they are to complete the basic work requirements.