As the world of business changes at a faster and faster pace, it is vital that companies become nimble when addressing the escalating complexities of the workplace. Often this means something we all fear, changing the traditional model to reflect the changing needs of the “new” business model. Flexible work schedules are becoming more and more commonplace as companies look for ways to increase innovation, retention and engagement.

telecommutingPersonally, I am a big believer in flexible work schedules, to an extent. As a mother of high school kids, it would be virtually impossible for me to adhere to a strict 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. I often have to adjust my schedule to get to doctor’s appointments or some sort of sports activity. As a business owner, I understand that there are situations that require flexibility; working parents, employees with disabilities, remote workers who have unique and necessary skill sets, etc. I also understand that at the end of the day, the business needs must be met in a way that drives the business forward. So, there lies the rub:  when is it appropriate to allow flexible work schedules and how are they best implemented?

Flexible work scheduling allows employees to schedule their work week around personal commitments and responsibilities like meetings, appointments, school and availability of child care. Flexible work schedules also allow for those with disabilities to adjust their work schedules to meet their needs. One of the biggest advantages to the employee is improved job satisfaction (Families and Work Institute, 2008) due to having the ability to take care of personal responsibilities while still obtaining business results.

For the employer, it can be a little trickier. Of course, when employees have a sense of control in the scheduling process, it creates less absenteeism, reduces overtime, reduces role conflicts and improves employee productivity (MIT Workplace Center, 2010). Clearly, these are benefits to the employer, but there are situations in which a flexible work schedule creates conflict within the workplace or is simply not feasible.

One of the most important draw backs is that it may not be a practical scheduling system for every type of business model or role within a business, and it could produce serious customer service issues if not properly managed. In the restaurant industry, for example, it is vital that the core staff be present and ready during regular business hours. Companies may find that customer-facing employees need to stick to a core set of business hours while someone in a “back office” role may have more leeway in terms of their schedule.

The most important criterion for deciding if it will work well for your company is determining whether the flexible work arrangement will meet the business needs of the workplace. The job’s tasks must be adaptable to the flexible schedule and cannot cause undue burden on others in the office. Employees should be expected to meet the same performance standards as those working the core office hours. A sense of job ownership is key to making a flexible work schedule feasible.

So, how do we make it work when it is possible? As with most things in life, setting expectations from both the employer’s and the employee’s perspective often reduces any resulting frustration. Communicating effectively via established policies and an open, ongoing dialogue reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings or miscommunication.   One last note, it is always a good idea to double-check with your state government to see if there are any laws that may affect a flexible work schedule.

Does your organization allow a flexible work schedule? Or, are you an employee with a flex schedule? How do you make it work?

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