Flexible Work Schedules

Office Worker
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Flexible schedules allow employees to vary their arrival and departure times from work, or choose the days that they work. For example, an employee might be allowed to come in any time between 9 am and 11 am, and leave any time between 5 am and 7 pm. Or, they might be allowed to take off Friday if they agree to work Sunday.

Alternative to a Traditional Work Week

An alternative to the traditional 9 am to 5 pm, 40-hour traditional workweek schedule, flexible work schedules are becoming more and more common in the workforce. There are many job and freelance options that offer flexible schedules.

Flexible schedules are especially popular at start-ups and smaller companies, where employees are allowed to choose the dates and times they work as long as they get all of their work done.

A survey from YouGov.com reports that 69 percent of the Americans surveyed would prefer an earlier work schedule. Seventeen percent preferred an 8 am to 4 pm schedule, while 14 percent would like to work from 7 am - 3 pm. Almost 20 percent would prefer a later schedule. Twenty percent of millennials wouldn’t mind coming into work after 9 am and working into the evening. A later start time is slightly less popular among Gen X (19%) and those 55 and over (17%).

Benefits for Employees

Employees value flexible schedules as a way to balance work and non-work responsibilities. Flexible schedules are helpful for workers who are raising families, attending graduate school, commuting long distances, traveling, or balancing multiple jobs.

Drawbacks for Employees

Flexible schedules can sometimes make it difficult to connect with co-workers – especially if those coworkers also work non-traditional hours. Unless everyone on the team is on the same page, this can lead to less collaboration, more time working off the clock, and greater stress.

Benefits for Employers

Employers value flexible scheduling as a method for recruiting and retaining employees and for increasing job satisfaction and productivity. A flexible schedule also helps build trust between employees and their managers, as employees are often expected to manage their own schedules (with their employer's supervision) and take ownership of getting the job done even while on an irregular schedule.

When an employer provides the option for a flexible schedule, the schedule is approved by the employee’s supervisor based upon the needs of the workplace and the employee’s request for flexibility.

Drawbacks for Employers

Making flexible schedules work requires planning and organization – and managers who are trained to implement non-traditional work schedules. At least initially, this requires a bit more effort from staff to coordinate.

There’s also the possibility that some workers might take advantage of an alternative schedule to put in less work. If you’re not on a punch-card system, it might be difficult to tell if your 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. employee shows up on time each day – especially if they’re the only one working on that particular schedule.

On the other hand, more dedicated employees might wind up putting in more hours, tracking everyone down. That sounds good in theory, but it can also be a recipe for burnout. You don’t want your high performers carrying the rest of the team all the time.

How to Ask Your Employer for a Flexible Schedule

If you’re interested in changing your work hours, it’s important to be aware of both the pros and cons from your employer’s perspective. That means looking for ways to minimize the potential downside while emphasizing the benefits to the company.

To make your case convincingly, do the following:

  1. Exceed expectations. Managers are more likely to give benefits like a flexible schedule to workers who are already top performers. Make sure you’re surpassing all your goals before you ask. 
  2. Suggest a pilot program. Don’t ask for a completely different schedule right off the bat. Try a smaller-scale version at first, to work out the kinks before you go full-time. As a bonus, this will also help you determine whether or not you like working on a different schedule – something you won’t really know until you try.
  3. Set goals. Coordinate with your manager to set expectations. Will you log on by a certain time each morning, even if they won’t be into the office for another two hours? Will you check in at certain times to evaluate progress and make sure the team’s needs are being met?
  4. Anticipate problems. Make sure your request fits your work style before you submit it. If you know that mornings are hard for you, don’t suggest coming in two hours early, for example. Also, think about what (and who) you need to get your job done. If your project partner comes in a 10 am, getting an early start might not make sense.
  5. Excel at your job. Once you have a flexible schedule, make sure that you get to keep it by doing your job to the best of your abilities. Keep your manager informed and meet your goals and you’ll be able to take full advantage of your working hours.