Being flexible about when employees start and end their days is becoming an increasingly popular benefit for workers. As a way to maintain a positive work-life balance, many employees place a high priority on flexible work schedules. This is making the traditional 9-to-5 workweek a thing of the past for many companies. Although offering flextime isn't feasible for every employer, it is a great way to improve employee morale and attract and retain top talent.
What is flextime?
Flexible working hours, also known as flextime, is a benefit that allows each employee to choose their working schedule. The guidelines around how flextime works typically vary depending on the company. For example, one company's flextime might allow employees to choose their start and finish times each day, whereas another flextime policy might allow employees to choose between five eight-hour days and four 10-hour days. Additionally, flextime might involve the option to work remotely a certain number of days each week.
Darrell Rosenstein, founder of recruiting firm The Rosenstein Group, said most flextime policies adhere to the following three guidelines:
- Each employee's chosen working hours are consistent every week; for example, an employee may choose to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
- All employees are required to be available at certain core hours to ensure continuity in communication and collaboration.
- Regardless of the time they start and end their workdays, employees must work their required number of hours. For example, a full-time employee might be required to work a total of 40 hours each week.
How flextime improves employee morale
Flextime has advantages for both employers and employees, and many of these benefits lead to higher employee morale. Here are some of the advantages:
Benefits for employees
Better work-life balance
Flextime is very valuable to employees because it gives them the autonomy to create a work schedule that integrates cohesively with their personal life, which can result in an improved work-life balance.
"At the heart of flextime is the ability for employees to be in control of their work and personal life," Rosenstein told business.com.
With the freedom to create a personalized flextime work schedule on their own terms, employees have more opportunities to focus on their physical and mental health. Instead of working a schedule predetermined by someone else, they can modify their working hours around activities that foster good health, like going to the gym, spending time with family or taking a yoga class.
Flexible work arrangements are also great for employees to engage in professional development opportunities that they might otherwise not have access to.
"With a flexible schedule, employees can pursue professional development opportunities, such as attending college – something that can be difficult to do with a traditional 9-to-5 schedule," Rosenstein said. "Access to such opportunities is especially important to millennials, who consistently prefer professional development over a salary increase."
Adaptation to challenges
Flextime also makes it easier for employees to adapt to unexpected circumstances. For example, flextime has become a popular way to manage the unique circumstances presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Flextime is increasingly common as companies strive to help employees manage unique challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, such as sharing workspace in the home with others and keeping an eye on children who are learning remotely," said Todd Brook, chief solutions officer at the employee engagement platform Engagement Multiplier.
Benefits for employers
Talent acquisition and retention
Offering employees the flexibility to create their own work schedules can be advantageous for employers, too. As a highly desirable benefit among employees, flextime can help attract top talent. Brook said offering flextime can open up a candidate pool for high-demand roles you otherwise would not have had access to because of demands on their time.
"It gives you a level of differentiation, and you can end up with incredible, high-performing and loyal employees," he said.
Employees look for more than just a competitive salary when determining whether to work for an organization. They often place a high importance on work-life balance, which flextime offers. Ensuring team members have a positive work-life balance can also help keep them around for the long term.
"It goes without saying that when employees are happy, they are more likely to stay with you for longer," Rosenstein said. "Every employer understands the high cost of losing and hiring a valuable employee. Allowing them to initiate a work arrangement that works for them directly minimizes turnover and the disruption it causes."
Letting employees work during the hours they are physically and mentally available can also increase productivity. "When they can plan their time in a way that aligns with their needs, employees are more likely to feel less stressed and burnt out, which leads to greater productivity," Rosenstein said.
Potential disadvantages of flextime
Flextime can be a valuable benefit, but it does have some drawbacks. Watch out for these potential disadvantages when implementing a flextime policy:
Scheduling and communication challenges
It can be difficult to organize and manage your team when everyone is operating on different schedules. For example, it can make it challenging to plan meetings and other collaborative activities, and if scheduling isn't managed properly, it can ultimately hurt your company's bottom line.
"Without a tight arrangement, allowing employees to choose their working hours can lead to operational disruption, such as inadequate staff at any given time," Rosenstein said. "If several employees are unavailable at certain times, projects might delay and customer service might take a blow, all of which have negative consequences for the company's bottom line."
If too many employees use their flextime to work remotely or they work opposite schedules, your team may also lack the face-to-face collaboration needed to feel connected.
Potential for preferential treatment
Flextime can also lower employee morale if it is offered only to certain employees. While the employees who do get flextime may have high morale, the employees who don't get it may feel the opposite.
"If your policy only offers certain employees a flexible work schedule, others who are left out might feel resentful [and] less valued, and this could have negative implications for their productivity and long-term commitment to the company," Rosenstein said.
To reduce the potential for scheduling complications or reduced morale, employers should carefully consider the guidelines around how the policy works.
How to implement flextime into your company
After consulting with Brook and Rosenstein about the best way to implement flextime into an organization, we compiled their responses to create the following four-step process:
1. Choose what type of flextime to offer.
The first step in implementing a flextime policy is to choose the type of flextime policy you want to offer. Because flextime arrangements can vary, it is important to determine which type will best suit the needs of your employees and your business. Consult with the necessary stakeholders (e.g., HR, employees, vendors) to figure out an approach that will ensure business continues uninterrupted.
Rosenstein said to consider offering various forms of flexible work arrangements to find what ultimately works for your entire team; for example, experiment with benefits such as job sharing, telecommuting and compressed workweeks.
2. Determine your guidelines and non-negotiables.
After you have an idea of what kind of flextime you want to offer, review your business processes, staffing patterns and operational needs to determine the necessary guidelines. Brook said to decide whether there are any non-negotiable periods during which people need to be available, such as weekly meetings, specific events (e.g., an IT deployment) or particularly busy times (e.g., a holiday season). You should also decide how many employees need to be available at a given time.
3. Include important details.
Write a comprehensive flextime policy that outlines how the flextime benefit works. Include important details about eligibility, request and approval guidelines, and employee rights and obligations.
Brook advised employers to set clear expectations around how, when and where communication occurs and what to do if something isn't working. It's also critical to have clear performance metrics. "Clear accountabilities are crucial," Brook said.
Creating this framework will help with team organization, employee accountability and scheduling predictability.
4. Make it official.
After your policy is written, you may want to consult an attorney to ensure it complies with federal, state and local labor laws. Present the final policy to your employees, and have them sign a flexible-work-arrangement form for record keeping. Finally, any time you implement a new employee benefit, it is important to update the guidelines in your employee handbook.