The Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexible Work Schedules
Advantages for employers and employees exist when the employer allows employees to work flexible schedules. Whether the flexible work schedule involves compressing work days, flexible daily hours, or telecommuting, challenges exist for the employer and the employee. Let's take a look at the advantages for employers and employees that negotiating a flexible work schedule provides.
Advantages for Employees
With flexible work schedules, employees experience these benefits:
- Flexibility to meet family needs, personal obligations, and life responsibilities conveniently. If you have a flexible schedule, you can go to a parent-teacher conference during the day, take a yoga class, or be home when the washing machine repair person comes.
- Reduced consumption of employee commuting time and fuel costs. In some areas, commutes of more than an hour each way are not uncommon. If these employees are allowed to work from home, that saves two hours of time, gas, and wear and tear on the road. Not to mention, fewer people driving means it's easier for those people who are commuting.
- Avoids traffic and the stresses of commuting during rush hours. You'd be amazed at how much faster a commute can be if you have to be in the office at 10:00 instead of 8:00.
- Increased feeling of personal control over schedule and work environment. One reason people like to work for themselves is the control issue. By allowing employees to determine their own schedule and work environment, you appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit—which can be good for your employees.
- Reduces employee burnout due to overload. Flexibility means employees can take a break when they need it without incurring the wrath of a boss.
- Allows people to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and enjoy working. (eg. morning person vs. night person). Many managers feel that early birds are hard workers and night owls are slackers. There's no evidence that that is the case—it's simply cultural.
- Depending on the flexible work schedule chosen, may decrease external childcare hours and costs. It needs to be clear that for all but a handful of jobs, working from home still requires child care. However, if a couple both have flexible schedules, mom can go into the office at 6:00 a.m. and dad can get the kids ready for school. Mom's 8-hour day is finished by 2:00 p.m. and she is there to meet the bus at 3 p.m., while Dad starts his workday at 9:30 a.m. The result is two full-time jobs and incomes with no childcare costs.
Advantages for Employers
With flexible work schedules, employers experience these benefits:
- Increased employee morale, engagement, and commitment to the organization.
- Reduced absenteeism and tardiness.
- Increased ability to recruit outstanding employees.
- Reduced turnover of valued staff.
- Allows people to work when they accomplish most, feel freshest, and enjoy working. (e.g. morning person vs. night person).
- Extended hours of operation for departments such as customer service.
- Develops image as an employer of choice with family-friendly flexible work schedules.
- There are also key organizational challenges you need to address to make flexible work schedules support your business. In and of themselves, as a positive benefit for employees, flexible work schedules support employee engagement, positive morale, and retention. But, flexible work schedules must operate to meet the needs of the business, too.
Disadvantages for Employees
Employees who thrive in an office environment may find it difficult to work when his colleagues don't hold the same schedule. This is why many employers require core days and core hours during which everyone is in the office.
Working from home can often make neighbors and friends think you aren't actually working, thus causing problems with relationships. (Friends can become upset when you say you can't watch their child, or let the repairman into their houses—because, after all, you're home all day.)
There is no clear delineation between work and home. When you use flexible schedules sometimes that means work all of the time. If your boss allows you the flexibility to go to to your child's soccer game, then the boss may not feel guilty about calling you at 9:30 p.m.
Disadvantages for Employers
Some people take advantage of the flexibility and use that as an invitation to work from home which really means watch Netflix with their email screen open.
Some managers, who are used to seeing when their staff members come to work, watching what staff do all day at work, and knowing when people leave for home, have trouble adjusting to the new management style which requires trust.
Office-oriented people sometimes view their work-at-home colleagues as slackers because they can't physically see their productivity.
Compressed work weeks can make client handovers complicated—clients expect service 5 days a week during business hours and can be fussy when an employee isn't in on Friday.
Jobs that require customer-facing responsibilities only allow certain types of flextime. Whole days working from home are not an option. Other kinds of jobs such as assembly-line manufacturing and hands-on healthcare such as nursing share the same disadvantages. Employers struggle with fairness when only certain employees can work remotely.
Overall, the advantages generally outweigh the disadvantages and a good manager can handle the disadvantages. Flexible scheduling has become part of what employees are looking for in their comprehensive employee benefits packages. Your employees will love you; the employer will benefit from overall positive morale which is linked to increased productivity. Best? You will retain your superior employees.