A CULTURE OF FLEXIBILITY
In this context flexibility is defined as allowing work to be done outside of the traditional Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 schedule or in locations other than the office. Employer practices that allow flexibility in the time or place work is performed are helpful to employees in balancing their work and personal responsibilities. In addition, a recent review of research demonstrates that “well-chosen and well-designed flexible work arrangement options typically pay for themselves and in some cases can enhance business performance and increase profitability”
In a study of over 400 employers in North America, work flexibility for employees was rated as the most popular benefit available at organizations today and that such benefits would be a serious consideration in deciding whether to take a job with higher pay that lacked flexible work access. Employers also rated work flexibility as most impactful on organizational attraction and retention. A 2016 survey of more than 1,000 working parents who were expecting their first child or who had a first child under age two found that about half had changed jobs, many taking a pay reduction in exchange for greater flexibility.
In 1990s Deloitte instituted a flexibility initiative aimed at improving retention of women. By 2003 retention rates of women and men were approximately equal, and the number of women in leadership positions had increased from 14 to 168 (Richman et al., 2011).
A truly flexible workplace needs both supportive practices and supportive managers. Options by themselves accomplish little if managers subtly or overtly discourage employees from using flextime, working from home, or taking family leave. Employees must know they can succeed at the organization, whether or not they use the flexibility offered. In addition, leaving flexibility up to individual managers can result in a culture of inequity that harms employee morale and may ultimately undermine the family-friendly environment that is intended.
L0CATION FLEXIBILITY OR “TELEWORK”
What it is
Giving your employees the ability to work from home or off-site.
benefits of implementing this
In many industries, this benefit costs employers little to nothing to implement, and might be offered regularly or on occasion.
Tips and Tools
Working at home allows employees to spend less time commuting, so they can enjoy more time with their families.
It also reduces commuting costs and stress.
Occasional telework can be a good solution when an employee has a minor illness or an appointment near home, allowing them to take less time away from work.
It is important to note that working from home should not be considered a substitute for dependent care (children or elders).
Successful employers and teleworkers recommend establishing clear expectations, including an employer telework policy and individual telework agreements that specify work hours and who will pay for equipment, office supplies and internet access.
Employers who have successfully implemented telework arrangements often document increases in productivity, reductions in turnover and lower overhead/real estate costs.
An additional benefit is having productive employees able to work offsite in cases of bad weather or major traffic disruptions.
STABLE, PREDICTABLE SCHEDULES
What it is
The ability for employees to have a standardized, reliable work schedule making it easier to schedule child care and other activities outside the work place.
Benefits of implementing this
Creating a stable schedule with a consistent number of hours and offering as much advance notice as possible of schedule changes reduces emotional and economic stress on employees and their families
Many employees, particularly low-wage and part- time workers, have schedules that change, sometimes dramatically, from week to week. Moreover, they often don’t know what their schedules will be until a few days in advance or schedules may change last minute.
These situations create problems for employees and their families, including:
Employees who are counting on full-time work struggle to make ends meet when they don’t work 40 hours in a week.
When employees spend money on transportation and child care, they can actually lose money when they are sent home before working a full shift.
When an employee is expecting full-time work, or expecting a certain schedule, they aren’t able to take a second job.
Students who work part time aren’t able to plan their classes (or keep their jobs) without predictable schedules.
Child care providers may be unwilling to save a place for a child that doesn’t attend regularly, so parents with unpredictable schedules may need to find new providers.
Tips and Tools
Employers who offer stable, predictable schedules save on reduced turnover and associated recruitment and training costs, and see an increase in employee morale and engagement.
A recent study of GAP demonstrated that more predictable and consistent hours aren’t just compatible with profitability, they can significantly improve a store’s bottom line. Sales in stores with more stable scheduling increased by 7%. Labor productivity increased by 5% and it’s estimated that Gap earned $2.9 million as a result of more-stable scheduling during the 35 weeks the experiment was in the field
There are several scheduling software tools available as apps:
What it is
Allowing employees to have flexible scheduling with their job.
Benefits of implementing this
Modifying work hours is probably the most widely implemented family-friendly policy in the United States, used by employers of all sizes and industries with smaller organizations leading the way in regards to flexibility. Time flexibility can improve attraction and retention of employees while improving efficiency and productivity in some industries with very minimal or no impact on cost.
Tips and Tools
Common types of time flexibility
Occasional flexibility: Allowing employees to come in later or leave earlier than usual to tend to infrequent personal matters, such as meetings at a child’s school. Employees make up the time rather than taking leave.
Alternate schedule: An employee’s regular schedule may start earlier or later than other employees to accommodate personal demands/schedules.
Core hours: The employer sets core hours when employees must be at work or in the office. Otherwise, employees are allowed flexibility in completing their work day. If core hours are set from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., employees must work those hours but may start work earlier or finish later.
Compressed work week: Employees work four 10-hour days in a week or nine 9-hour days in two week.
Part-time work: Offering part-time options allows employers to attract and retain employees who aren’t able to work more traditional hours/shifts. The opportunity to reduce hours can be mutually beneficial when employees are preparing to retire or coming back from parental leave.
Job sharing: Two employees work part-time, sharing a single position, receiving full or pro-rated benefits. This may allow an employer to retain two employees who wish to reduce hours when a part-time position is not feasible. Job-sharing employees also bring two sets of skills and twice the knowledge. They can check each other’s work and provide continuity on sick days and during vacations.
Flexibility isn’t only for higher wage jobs. Retailers have successfully implemented flexibility for front-line service jobs.
Cross-training, and allowing employees to swap part or all of a shift and letting employees take leave in small (one or two hour) increments are strategies that benefit employers as well as employees.
Manufacturing companies have adopted flexibility strategies such as compressed work weeks, alternative shift arrangements, shift swapping, flexibility in start and stop times, and employee input into break times.