Employees don’t have one-size-fits-all schedules. Many aspects of their personal lives can conflict with the standard nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday hours. Whatever the reason, most employees appreciate the option to follow a flexible schedule, also known as flex time.
Flex time allows employees to customize their schedules within a certain range of hours and days. About 27% of U.S. employers and organizations offered flex time to their employees in 2014. This reached as high as 44% in 2019, but many employers are struggling to find the best strategy. A well-planned flex-time arrangement can benefit employees and employers alike.
What Hours Does Flex Time Include?
There are no set time frames that flex time must cover or include, nor are there any legal requirements that employers must offer their workers flex time. It’s at the discretion of each business to decide if it wants to offer this type of arrangement, to whom, and what days and hours it's willing to let employees work. Examples of flex time given to employees can include:
- Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Tuesday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Wednesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Can Anyone Have Flex Time?
Flex time is possible for any job function, but it’s much more difficult to offer it to customer- and client-focused employees. This is especially the case when it’s expected that those employees be on premises during certain hours.
Other industries that aren’t customer- and client-driven can allow workers to come in a certain number of hours a week at their own discretion. Still other industries, such as information technology, might operate on a 24-hour cycle and need staff both day and night. A flex-time schedule is in everyone’s best interest for these businesses.
Why Should You Give Your Employees Flex Time?
A 2015 study by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 80% of employers saw a significant increase in employee morale and engagement due to flexible work arrangements. There are a number of positives for employees that come with flex time.
A work-life balance is among the greatest benefits. Employees can have all sorts of conflicts in their personal lives that don’t allow for a typical nine-to-five day, but they nonetheless need to work a full-time position for financial reasons.
Some employees have to coordinate a childcare schedule with their spouses. It would help them considerably if they came in earlier and left earlier to pick up their children. Others might be going back to school and need to work around their class schedules. Still others have ongoing doctors' appointments that cause them to come in late and leave late on a regular basis.
Another benefit of flex time is allowing employees to avoid rush hour. Any opportunity to avoid sitting in traffic is welcome for employees with long commutes. This unpaid perk can keep a highly qualified employee on staff and prevent them from looking for a position closer to home.
What's in It for Businesses?
Depending on how flex time is structured, you might find that you have lower overhead costs. If employees work drastically different hours, they can share office space and equipment, saving the company money.
But the bottom line is that happy employees who aren't stressed to the max trying to maintain a work-life balance are less likely to go job hunting. They want to stay put. And happy employees are productive employees, so there's definitely something in it for your company.
Flex time can also reduce those disruptive, unplanned absences when an employee calls in at the last minute. You can let them take care of whatever they need to take care of and schedule their work accordingly.
Watch for trends. Does one particular employee frequently call in on Wednesdays? Ask them if working Wednesday evening or Saturday morning would be more doable. If so, you can achieve a little more consistency and productivity in your workplace.
Implementing Flex Time in Your Company
It’s important to set a policy for employees and managers. Flex time can be offered to anyone, but it must not discriminate. Employers can limit flex time to certain situations or job responsibilities. The best place to spell out a policy like this is in the employee handbook.
Be sure to include your expectations as to what each employee on flex time is expected to accomplish, as well as how and when. In other words, give them a flex-time job description, just as you provide job descriptions when you plant employees at a desk during normal business hours.
Set up a specific means of communication between you if you're not both going to be on the premises at the same time.
Flex hours don't have to be a free-for-all, nor should they be. You're not saying, "Work when you feel like it." You're accommodating employees' lives by changing their schedule, not giving them carte blanche to work whenever they want on an ever-changing schedule.
Giving employees flex time allows them to schedule their lives around work without sacrificing productivity. When employees are free to get their personal objectives accomplished while still working full time, they're free to focus on doing the job at hand. They're not worrying about their personal lives or how they’ll get everywhere on time.