Workplaces that Work
Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible work hours or flexi-time
The most common flexible hours arrangements are:
- Flexible hours or flexi-time schemes. For example, an employee works from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. rather than from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. When employees arrive at different times in the morning, this is called staggered hours
- Compressed workweeks. For example, four 10-hour days, or a 9-day fortnight
- Part-time work
- Job sharing. This is a structured form of part-time work, with various models. A 50:50 split is common but not the only option. Some employers find it best that both workers have at least one day in common, so they can share information and brief each other on current tasks and issues
Benefits of flexible work hours or flexi-time
- Avoid rush-hour commutes
- More control over time off
- Work-life balance advantages, for example: being able to take a child to school or to the dentist/doctor; starting work later or leaving early to allow time for sports training
- Ability to schedule work during quiet times to accomplish more
For the employer:
- Scheduling work across longer portions of the day
- Recruiting and keeping valued staff who have other life commitments or interests
- Making more efficient use of facilities, desks, computers, etc.
- Continuity and staff coverage by one employee while another is away
Key issues around flexibility
- Trust and supervision
- Communication between staff who work at varying times and may therefore meet less frequently
- Integrating part-time employees and job sharers
- Achieving fairness for all staff
Tools for managing flexible work hours
- Clear policies on hours of work - Flexibility can be challenging, especially in small organizations. There may be days when no one is in the office because they all worked at the special event the evening before. A disgruntled employee who leaves might claim hundreds of overtime hours for which you have no records. Someone may have to take stress leave because they did not take any time off in lieu of all their overtime. These kinds of situations underscore the importance of having clear, effective HR policies.
- Keeping track of hours worked - Be clear with staff about if and how they should track their hours. By keeping track of hours, you can calculate the actual hourly rate for each employee, see if some jobs are too big and others too small. Information about hours worked can also help to understand and reduce employee stress.
Flexible work locations
Flexible work locations include home, satellite offices and working on the move. What are the benefits of having flexible work location arrangements?
Benefits for the employee
- Less time spent commuting to and from work
- Increased control over when work is done. For example, an employee might choose to work in the evening and spend time with children in the afternoon.
- Escape from the everyday disruptions of the office environment
- Improved balance between work and home life
Benefits for the employer
- May need smaller office space, less furniture and/or less equipment
- Fewer parking spots required
- Reduced absenteeism and/or lateness
- Increased productivity because of fewer distractions or interactions between colleagues
Important management principles for flexible work location arrangements
The goal in designing flexible work arrangements is to make sure that work gets done in the most effective way, from the most effective location. Here are some ideas to help make sure flexi-place arrangements work:
- Maintain a high level of contact by encouraging a two-way flow of communication between management and the distance worker, and the distance worker and their other colleagues. This is especially important if an off-site employee is working on their own.
- Use a combination of face-to-face communication, the telephone and e-mail. Face-to-face is best for key management tasks focused on motivation, team building, performance management and introducing changes in the work or the relationship with the employee. Telephone communications can be effective for planning, reviewing, and strategizing. E-mail is best for quick contact and confirming conversations.
- Informal processes may need to become more formal. For example, comments and ideas made over lunch break or by the water cooler may need to be e-mailed to off-site workers.
- Be super-organized and plan well. Reliance on face-to-face meetings often results from disorganization, with managers spending their days reacting to situations and solving problems that would not arise as often as they do if work were well managed.
- Beware that "out of sight" can mean "out of mind". Take care that off-site workers get access to training and promotion opportunities. Career development is important for all employees no matter where they work.
- Ensure appropriate orientation for staff that work in the office so that they are assured that all employees - regardless of their work location - are equally pulling their weight.
- Promote team building between on-site and off-site employees by inviting employees who work at home to come in for a special lunch, training or other activity.
- Ask home-based employees to provide occasional office coverage to keep them in touch with the realities of the workplace.
Flexible work arrangements - how to get started
As much as is possible, focus on the quality of your employees' work results rather than number of hours worked.
Consider the important issues
- What impact will flexible time or work location arrangements have on your service to clients?
- What are the benefits for employees and the organization?
- What are the potential problems? Can you deal with them?
- What time, effort and money it will take to make flexible arrangements successful?
- Is training required to be sure managers and co-workers have the knowledge and skills to make the arrangements work?
Identify possible options
- Ask employees, possibly in a survey, what they want
- Consult widely - with other organizations, clients, board members, volunteers, staff
- Review options, consider strengths and weaknesses of these options
- Choose options
- Develop written policies and procedures for implementation and monitoring
Communicate the change
- Communicate to board, clients, staff, volunteers, public
Run a pilot for a trial period and evaluate it
- Have staff report back on the pilot to provide their feedback
Amend and/or extend the program if necessary
- After the pilot has run, make any modifications or changes to the program
- Inform staff of new processes and procedures
Monitor and evaluate
- Continue to evalute the program on a regular basis
- Solicit feedback from participants, make changes and adapt plan as required
Flexible Workplace Guidelines (DOC 85KB)
Elsewhere in the HR Toolkit
Websites with information on flexible work arrangements
Next Section: Interpersonal Communication