As the pandemic continues, employers and employees alike can agree that there is no “typical” workday anymore. Circumstances surrounding the pandemic – as well as unprecedented levels of employees leaving their jobs in search of better opportunities – have left workplaces forever changed.
Social distancing and increased safety precautions immediately come to mind, but what about the conventions of work as we know them?
Many companies jumped headfirst into remote work—a growing, but until recently, radical way of working for most. With changing coronavirus guidance and the need to attract and retain employees in a hot job market employers will need to be creative and flexible in determining their work arrangement policies.
In addition to remote work, there are a handful of other flexible—some less traditional—work arrangements that employers may want to consider. These include:
- Flex time—Allows employees to choose their work schedules within a certain range of hours and days.
- Compressed workweeks—Allows employees to work the traditional 40 hours in less than the traditional five workdays.
- Shift work—A work schedule that typically takes place outside traditional business hours.
- Part-time schedules—Allows employees to work less than the traditional 40 hours per week.
- Job-sharing—Allows two different employees to perform the tasks of one full-time job.
Considering flexible work arrangements at your business
Flexible work arrangements can have huge payoffs—for employees and employers alike—but not all businesses have the budget, technology, and/or staff to manage them. A variety of options may be more realistic than a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of flexible work arrangements and steps to take before you implement them in your workplace.
The benefits of flexible work arrangements
Flexible work arrangements can provide numerous benefits, including:
- Increased efficiency and productivity
- Improved work-life balance and employee satisfaction
- Lower overhead costs
- Better job recruitment and employee retention
- Environmental benefits
- More agility to adapt during emergency situations, such as weather disasters or pandemics
The drawbacks of flexible work arrangements
While there are clear benefits, there are also potential drawbacks of flexible work arrangements that employers should consider. Such drawbacks include:
- Missed opportunities for collaboration
- Potential negative impact on customers
- Loss of company culture/decreased employee engagement
- Not practical for all employees and positions
- Potential abuse by some employees
- More complicated schedule management
Steps to consider when implementing flexible work arrangements
If your business is considering offering flexible work arrangements to employees, here are some key steps to take before committing to any changes.
1. Identify flexible work arrangements that make sense for your business
Not every business can offer the same type of flexible work arrangement. Look closely at your options and find one (or more) that is not only reasonably doable, but applicable to your workforce. If employees are already working remotely, is this something you can continue to offer after the pandemic passes? Or if a lot of employees have school-aged children, could flextime be beneficial for them?
2. Assess the potential impact on customers
When reviewing flexible work options, consider the potential impact on customers. With compressed workweeks, customers could either lose out on a day of service or benefit from longer hours due to extended workdays. With flex time, varying work schedules could lead to issues of unreliable or sporadic service.
3. Consider a flexible policy that accounts for wage and hour issues
With any flexible work arrangement, a policy with clear guidelines can help manage expectations and protect your company from potential liabilities. Your policy should answer key questions such as:
- Who qualifies for the modified work schedule?
- Will the modified work schedule affect eligibility for leave benefits and/or overtime?
- Are there any reasonable accommodation considerations under the ADA?
Companies with collective bargaining agreements should consult with their unions before making any changes to the workweek. Ensure your policy is flexible enough to cover situations where an employee may need to change their schedule to adjust to business needs (e.g., covering for increased operational demands, peak business seasons, or customer needs).
4. Have an open conversation to solicit employee feedback
Even if you’re sold on the benefits of a flexible work schedule, it’s important to solicit feedback from your employees. Many people like (and thrive in) traditional, structured work schedules. Others may really need schedule flexibility to achieve more work-life balance.
5. Start with a trial period before full implementation
Before making any sweeping changes, start with a trial period. This could look like one compressed workweek a month or starting one department on flex time for several weeks. Whatever you decide, set and track productivity benchmarks to give you an idea of how successful (or not) the modified work schedule was.
Flexibility for the future
While the road to COVID-19 recovery is still uncertain, there is one thing that is certain: employers need to adapt quickly to the changing environment and come up with effective, sustainable solutions. Offering employees flexible work arrangements may be one way to safely bring them back to work and allow your business to get back up to speed.
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.