Flexible Work Arrangements in the Modern Workplace

In today’s world, flexible work arrangements are becoming more popular, even in industries where it was once thought unsustainable. Thanks to advances in technology, flexible working has been enabled through file sharing, unified communication, and remote working tools, among others.

It is becoming more accepted that not every employee needs the nine-to-five structure to be productive. In fact, without the burden of commuting or distractions at work, this type of work arrangement is leading to more output and even improving employee morale.

However, it takes more than just allowing workers to operate from home to ensure a beneficial arrangement. From equipment to company culture, a lot of things come into play with remote working. This article explaining flexible working hours highlights their pros and cons and everything else you need to know.

What is a Flexible Work Arrangement?

Flexible work arrangements involve businesses giving their staff the freedom to schedule their own time and obligation fulfillment. Employees have the freedom to choose what times they begin work and sign off, provided they put in the agreed number of hours in their contract or required by the employer.

The most common flexible arrangement is the flextime work schedule arrangement, but others such as telecommuting, job-sharing, and compressed workweeks have been used in some industries.

As technology changes the way people do things, the traditional workweek is likely to be replaced by more adaptable arrangements. Several things influence this. For one, more people are demanding a suitable work-life balance when applying for jobs. The gender inequities are also being addressed, with female employees receiving more flexibility and maternity leave time in the workplace.

Types of Flexible Work Arrangements

What are flexible working practices? The definition of flexible work arrangements continues to evolve into numerous forms. The different types today include:

  1. Flextime
    The flextime work schedule arrangement involves employees choosing what time they clock in and out from a pre-set range of available hours. These time bands are usually created to accommodate the periods in which most company operations take place. Before, flextime was considered an arrangement for more contemporary industries but it has become more commonplace across the board.
  2. Compressed Work Week
    As the name suggests, this flexible arrangement involves compressing the standard workweek into less than the usual five days. Employees work longer hours during their working days, such as 10-hour or 12-hour days, so that they work only four days a week. A common work arrangement is whereby employees work longer days then take an extra day or two every fortnight.
  3. Flexplace Arrangement
    This is where staff members are allowed to work from anywhere else apart from the office. The term encompasses various remote working arrangements, including telecommuting and schedules that involve working from the office a few days each week. The new culture of digital nomadism is getting more popular as companies grow comfortable with flexplace arrangements.
  4. Job Sharing
    Some companies allow for two or more people to voluntarily share the duties and responsibilities of a full-time position, while also sharing the salary and benefits of that position among themselves. An example of job sharing is where one person may work in a certain position Monday and Tuesday, and a second person takes over for the other days of the week.
  5. Work Sharing
    This is an arrangement used to reduce operating costs without laying off employees. In a work-sharing scheme, employees share the available work by working reduced hours and earning reduced wages. In some instances, they are entitled to collecting a portion of their unemployment compensation. A work-sharing arrangement is usually temporary until the companies’ finances return to normal levels.
  6. Expanded Leave
    In the case of instances such as sabbaticals, education, community service, family problems, and medical care, employees in some organizations are allowed to take extended periods away from work without losing their wages and benefits. However, some companies may grant expanded leave without pay, though the employees maintain their rights.
  7. Phased Retirement
    This encompasses a broad range of employment arrangements that allow an employee who is approaching retirement age to continue working with a reduced workload, and eventually transition from full-time to part-time to complete retirement. Workers benefit from being able to draw retirement benefits, while businesses can ensure proper knowledge transfer to other employees.
  8. Partial Retirement
    This arrangement allows older employees to continue working on a part-time basis but with no established end date as with a phased retirement. A typical example of partial retirement is a reduction from a 100% to 80% time schedule for several years.
  9. Work and Family Programs
    An arrangement where employers provide some degree of assistance to their employees in the realms of child-care and elder-care. As employees demand more support from their employers in achieving work-life balance, in-house facilities such as company daycare and flextime arrangements are used to ease child-care demands for employees.

The Pros and Cons of Flexible Work Schedules

Like all work schedules, flexible working conditions come with their share of benefits and disadvantages. These are the most cited arguments for and against this type of arrangement.

The Benefits

  1. Reduced Costs
    Businesses can increase the number of employees without having to make arrangements for larger office space. Because remote workers rarely, or even never, come into the office, they can use communal seating and computers.
  2. Increased Productivity
    Time and energy saved on commute lead to more motivated and energized employees thus increased productivity. Furthermore, the flexibility to work within one’s own productivity periods means employees optimize the time they have for work.
  3. Employees are More Creative
    The flexibility to work on their own schedule can encourage staff members to think outside the box and come up with more creative solutions. The flexibility of working time may also contribute to morale, which has a positive impact on their ability to innovate.
  4. Improved Well-being
    The physical and mental well-being of employees greatly increases when they are allowed to work according to a schedule that is custom to their time demands. Moreover, commuting time can be draining in both time and energy, and eliminating this means a more forgiving schedule for the worker.
  5. Staff Retention
    This is one of the most cited reasons for employee retention. As flexible work arrangements allow companies to match time spent working to the level of activity, employees have more time to handle personal matters that sometimes lead to absenteeism.

The Disadvantages

  1. Requires Advanced Planning and Coordination
    Team projects can be difficult to execute when people are not together in one space. Successful remote working needs extra tools such as collaboration platforms and cloud software. There is also a learning curve involved before everyone can be comfortable shifting from traditional to flexible arrangements.
  2. Some Employees Work Better in an Office Setting
    Some people may find it hard to work on their own. They draw their motivation from the work environment or struggle to stay focused in a setting other than the office. Having the same schedule also creates a momentum that some could struggle if lacking.
  3. There is No Clear Delineation Between Work and Home
    The lack of a clear difference between work time and home time could lead to employees working all the time. It is hard to set overtime schedules with a flexible arrangement.

Components of a Flexible Work Policy

There needs to be a clear flexible work policy in place for a business to successfully implement flexible working hours. The policy outlines the company’s provisions for employees who wish to change their working hours, days, or weeks and need an alternative arrangement.

Instituting a work policy involves the following:

  • Research
    A flex program working for a similar business does not necessarily mean it will work for your company. Research enables management to determine whether a flexible work program is likely to succeed or not. A detailed look into the company’s specific demands and pressures enables the creation of a tailored policy that suits both the operations and employees of the business.
  • Guidelines
    The guidelines created should address all business needs, be fair to all types of employees, and comprehensive enough to cover most types of situations. They should address issues such as eligibility, application processes, reversibility, and changes to employee status. While making concessions for conflict resolution if the need arises.
  • Training
    Employees should be made aware of flexible work programs available to them and educated on the related policies of the company. Managers especially need to be trained in effectively managing remote workers while maintaining control.
  • Evaluation
    A flexible work policy is not likely to be a perfect fit when first implemented. The company will need to constantly review the program and make the necessary corrections to find an optimum arrangement for both the company and its employees.

With the rise of access to high speed business internet in homes and offices, flexible work arrangements are certain to be used more often. Fusion Connect reduces the complexity of going remote with top IT solutions to make your flexible work programs successful. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you get your workforce remote-ready.

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