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Flexible Work Arrangements and Your Workforce

Are employers looking to increase productivity in their workplace?  Flexible work arrangements may be one of the “keys” to the success of increased productivity.  However, which one is “right’ for your organization?  This is a question that must be asked as baby boomers (individuals born between 1946 and 1964), leave the workforce and Gen X (individuals born between 1965 and 1980), and Gen Y (individuals born between 1981 and 1994), enter the workforce.  Employers must change their way of thinking and of doing business in order to meet the needs of the new workforce in order to succeed.

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) are an important benefit to many employees and may improve an organization’s productivity and retention, yet many employers have not taken advantage of their potential.  Why?  Some managers view FWAs as special treatment for certain employees or they view it as a juggling act when they have to compete with arbitrating requests.  Employees may fear that their arrangement will have a negative effect and lead to a career dead end.  Others may envy a coworker’s FWA and suggest that the manager is playing favorites. Yet some employees view FWAs as an entitlement.  All of these concerns generally are evident due to the fact that the organization does not have clear guidelines to help either the manager or the employee understand the process for initiating proposals and making FWAs work.  While FWAs may be a win-win for both employers and employees, remember that they don’t work for all work environments.

FWAs may work in work environments where there are high performers with a track record of individuals who are self-motivated.  They generally work for men and women alike and for all generations.  However, Gen X and Gen Y are in some situations demanding them in order to have a higher level of work-life balance in their jobs. They want more flexibility with their work schedules and are accepting jobs with organizations who offer some type of FWA.  FWAs generally don’t work for lower-paid employees, entry-level jobs, in manufacturing environments where overtime laws, lean staffing and the need to staff many shifts is evident, and with employees who have severe work-life challenges. 

There are many different types of FWAs.  However, there are seven that are used more predominantly compared to others in the workforce today:

  • Flex-Time – A work schedule with time of arrival and departure that differs from the operating hours of the organization by not more than two hours.  Employees are generally present during an organization’s core hours of operation.
  • Flexible Schedules – Employees work more than eight hours in one day, reducing the number of days in the workweek. Note: In some cases, state overtime rules may apply for nonexempt employees.
  • Telecommuting/Alternative Work Sites – Employees work from an alternative work location outside of their normal worksite/office and the organization may arrange for all of the tools and resources to be available to the employee.
  • Compressed Workweek – Employees work the same number of hours in fewer than the customary number of days per week.  Commonly this would mean working less than five days in one week or less than ten days in one pay period for those organization who are on a biweekly pay cycle.  Note: In some cases, state overtime rules may apply for nonexempt employees. 
  • Job Sharing – Two part-time employees are assigned to the same job equivalent as one full-time employee. The job is shared between the two employees.
  • Part-Time Employment – An employee who generally works less than 30 hours per week.  In some organizations, it may be as little as 24 or as many as 32.
  • Seasonal Schedules – Employees hours are reduced or they may be permitted to take a leave of absence without pay for a brief time period (usually not less than four and not more than 12 weeks), during a particular time of year (season).

So, how do employers decide which FWA is right for their workplace? They need to ask themselves these questions:

  • Which option or options best supports our business model?
  • How much structure is needed?
  • What it the role of the employee, manager, team, HR department?
  • What is the approval process?
  • What metrics and forms of evaluation will be used?
  • Who is responsible for the success or failure of the process?

Once employers decide which option(s) are right for their workplace, the steps for success include:

  • Developing a business case for FWAs.
  • Engaging the organization.
  • Creating the support tools.
  • Launching with enthusiasm.
  • Communicating, training and coaching on the process.
  • Sharing success stories.
  • Measuring the results.

Once employers have these steps for success in place, they will be able to sit back and see the benefits of having a solid FWA program within their organization.  Those benefits may include: the ability to attract, retain, and motivate high-performing experienced employees; higher overall productivity; a higher level of the quality of work; higher retention as it reduces turnover; higher or equal job performance; faster cycle times; increased revenues; and overall better client/customer service. In addition, employers may have: an improved ability to compete with larger organizations for key talent; minimized absenteeism; the ability to assist employees in managing non-work-related responsibilities; increased job satisfaction, energy, creativity and the ability to handle stress; and a stronger overall employee commitment to the organization. FWAs are able to do all of these things for an organization at a relatively low cost for administration.  Why would an employer not want to implement them in their workplace today to help to increase productivity?

Written by: Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP


                     Original 05/2011

                     Revised 03/2020




New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.