Flexible work arrangements are anything outside the standard work schedule (i.e. 9 am - 5 pm, five days a week at the office). Flexible work arrangements may include earlier or later start/end times, schedules with availability on certain days (e.g. 10 hours a day Monday to Thursday instead of 8 hours a day Monday to Friday), or the ability to work remotely for some or all of the employee’s work week. Remote work is any work that is done off the main site.
Based on MHA’s Mind the Workplace 2018 Report, flexible work arrangements were associated with the healthiest workplaces across all industries. Fifty-two percent of employees in healthy industries enjoyed flexible work arrangements. Meanwhile, only 14 percent of employees in industries that scored lower on workplace health received flexible work arrangements. Flexible work allows for employees to determine a work schedule that works best for them, and workplaces retain a workforce that is productive, engaged, and confident.
Many positions naturally lend themselves to remote and/or flexible work depending on the responsibilities of the position. A web developer who works on the company website may be able to work remotely or from home, but they may need to be available during core hours, which can limit the possibility for flexible work arrangements. A content writer may not need to work during core hours and can work both remotely and flexibly.
Remote Work Alternatives
But what can be done for your employees who can’t easily work remotely or flexibly? It can be frustrating for employees on the front lines to hear about the flexible work opportunities available to employees at corporate headquarters. But some jobs—like a retail clerk or a nurse—can’t be done from home. Here are some tips on how to implement a fair policy:
- Provide the right technology for everyone. Having the technology to support virtual work is essential for all employees who work remotely. This includes teleconference or web meeting capabilities, instant messaging, project management tools, remote access to networks, and more.
- Have fair rules for who gets opening, closing, and other shifts. Opening or closing shifts at a restaurant can be desirable or undesirable, depending on how customers interact and how tips are split. Decide how you are going to allocate those shifts. If you use a performance or merit-based system, you may be able to retain quality employees for longer. Don’t choose unfair systems, like guilting employees without children to work the late shift because other employees have families.
- Consider staggered shifts when possible. You may notice that you get the most business during a core set of operating hours, like 11 am to 3 pm. If that’s the case, not all employees need to start at 9 am; some can take more flexible shifts. If you have two shifts, such as day and night shift, consider adding a floater shift for overlap.
- Give employees flexibility for mid-day appointments. This might work well if you have rushes during specific times. Many doctors or therapists are only available for appointments during working hours. You may be able to spare employees for two-hour windows.
- Rotate holidays and time off fairly. Don’t allow one employee to sign up for the best time off during the summer or during the holidays. Good systems reward longevity and performance but don’t make it so the newest employee can’t have any holiday at all.
- Allow employees to telecommute for training, professional development, or administrative tasks. If your employees have to get certifications or take training courses, or if you budget time for professional development, allow this to be done from remote locations. Don’t require that employees who work night shifts to turn around and immediately take a training course during the day.
- Keep former employees available to cover shifts. If you keep positive relationships with former employees, you may have a corps of people you can call to cover partial shifts to allow people to work remotely or adjust schedules.