Should You Offer Flexible Work Schedules for Your Team?
Rigid work schedules are officially out. Employees are demanding the freedom to squeeze in a midday workout or afternoon daycare pickup.
A recent survey from the Harris Poll found that 76% of employees desire flexibility in where they work or which hours.
If done right, offering a flexible schedule doesn’t have to mean sacrificing productivity—in fact, the opposite can be true. Formalizing a flexible work policy will prevent confusion or the perception of unfairness among employees.
Here are some tips for designing a policy that satisfies the growing desire for flexibility without creating chaos.
Employees want to work for flexible organizations
Offering flexibility can help your company attract a more talented and diverse workforce. On the flip side, failing to do so could cause a staff exodus.
The Harris Poll found that of the approximately 50% of employees who want to leave their jobs for pandemic-related reasons, 41% are looking for greater flexibility.
Flexible work schedules are increasingly being viewed as an essential benefit—not just a nice perk. A 2021 survey of 5,000 workers found that 59% cited flexibility as the most important benefit, above salary or other benefits.
A Future Forum survey found that 95% of knowledge workers wanted schedule flexibility, whereas 78% wanted location flexibility.
Flexibility isn’t one-size-fits-all
Some positions require more face time than others, and what works for one team might wreak havoc on another.
Oftentimes a tailored approach is more appropriate than an office-wide policy. This might look like allowing each department head to work with their staff to develop their own flex policy.
A recent Robert Half survey found that managers are more likely to offer flexibility to those working in legal, marketing, and administrative departments.
An expert tip: Be sure to proactively explain to employees any policy variations across departments to avoid feelings of resentment. And, make policies publicly available to view on your company-wide intranet or similar.
Consider what flexibility means to you
Flexibility has many forms. It’s important to determine what makes the most sense for your company.
Some popular options to consider include a compressed work week, in which employees work longer hours for fewer days—four 10-hour days, for example. Or even a shorter work week overall—for example, our team works 36-hour weeks.
Flexibility for your team could also mean accommodating early birds and night owls by allowing staff to start their workdays at different times. For some, it might even mean going part-time.
Perhaps your employees don’t mind a 9-5, and what they really care about is having the option to work from home several days a week.
A Deloitte survey of white collar professionals found that in workplaces offering flexibility, 82% of employees took advantage of those benefits. The most popular were flexible hours, with 48% utilizing them, and remote work, with 41% taking advantage. Only 7% chose a compressed work week and only 6% opted to go part-time.
Survey your staff
Finding the sweet spot between flexibility and in-office time will likely require some trial and error.
Consider running a pilot program and then soliciting staff feedback through an anonymous survey. Offering additional flexibility should increase office morale, not deplete it.
That’s why it’s paramount to have a mechanism in place to seek staff feedback on an ongoing basis. More important than nailing it the first time is including your employees in the process.
Flexibility doesn’t need to be a free-for-all
Just because you’ve opted for a hybrid workplace arrangement, doesn’t mean flexibility needs to be absolute.
Rather than offering employees complete control over their schedules, consider implementing a policy that ensures some in-office time.
One popular approach is to require employees to come into the office for a minimum number of days per week. Those days can be fixed or left to the discretion of employees.
Another option is to ask that everyone be online and working during certain hours—for example, between 10am and 2pm each day.
Luckily, most employees aren’t expecting unfettered freedom. In fact, our Return to Office Survey showed that 85% of workers were looking forward to returning to the office.
Having experienced both the perks and pitfalls of the home office, they are craving a combination of in-office and remote work. Our Workforce Sentiment Survey showed that 62% of employees desire a hybrid arrangement. Only 15% want to work remotely all the time.
Flexibility can be an opportunity
To stay competitive, it’s imperative that companies embrace flexible work schedules. But that doesn’t have to mean letting all your employees clock in at midnight or from the Maldives.
Take the time to figure out what kind of flexibility works best for your company and continue to solicit input from your employees once a policy is in place.