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Why You Should Implement a Flexible Work Policy

Why You Should Implement a Flexible Work Policy

Though flexible work arrangements have been around for a long time, they were pushed to the forefront of workplace conversations when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

It’s undeniable that flexible work arrangements, particularly telecommuting and remote work, are gaining traction and will become company staples even after the pandemic has ended. According to research conducted by Gallup, the number of remote employees increased by 31% from March to April 2020. They also found that 68% of employers surveyed plan to allow employees to work from home more often after the pandemic.

As the trend favoring flexible work arrangements is likely to continue, both employers and employees will benefit from policies that outline company-specific opportunities for flexible work.

What is a Flexible Work Policy?

A flexible work policy is a protocol for various work arrangements intended to give employees more freedom in the hours and locations that they conduct their work. Pandemic aside, this can be particularly invaluable to working parents, those who give care to family members, people with disabilities, and many others.

Flexible Working Regulations

Because the U.S. Department of Labor does not have any current rules or regulations providing for flexible work arrangements, they are a matter of agreement between employers and employees.

This means implementing work accommodations will fall largely within the purview of employers themselves. Given the pandemic’s outsized effect on the current state of work and impact on the future of work, companies may need to form an official policy to assist a variety of workers.

Types of Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible working comes in a variety of forms, often tailored to suit the needs of employers and employees on an individual basis. Some arrangements include remote work options while others offer flexibility in terms of scheduled working hours. When developing a company policy on flexible work, consider the various arrangements to determine how you can offer flexibility to your employees while meeting your unique business and employer needs. Below, we’ve listed the seven most common types of flexible work options.

Telecommuting

This hybrid work arrangement involves working part-time in-office and part-time remote. It reduces employees’ total commute time while still providing an in-person connection with coworkers and clients. It also requires relying more heavily on technology while working remotely.

Remote Working

Because full-time employees are not required to work from the office under this arrangement, remote work offers employees more freedom in terms of where they can live. In some remote work arrangements, the company may occasionally require that the employee travel to work from the office on a regular or ad-hoc basis, however, the employees’ role will primarily be conducted remotely.

Flextime

Flextime allows employees to choose when they work, maintaining they meet the required 40 hours per week. Though they can make their schedules, employees may be required to work during a few specified core hours each day to ensure there is a crossover between workers. The benefit of this arrangement is that it allows employees to work when they feel most productive, or to take breaks during the usual 9-to-5 period if they have other commitments.

Job Sharing

Similar to part-time work, job sharing involves two or more people sharing the hours and responsibilities of a full-time role. While it allows each employee to work reduced hours, this arrangement requires high competencies in communication and organization.

Compressed Work Hours

This arrangement compresses the 40-hour workweek into four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days. Although the four-day workweek can improve employees’ work-life balance with regular three-day weekends, they must work long hours each day with a high degree of productivity.

Expanded Leave

Expanded leave allows employees to take extended periods off from work for personal or medical reasons without risking their job or their employee status. This form of leave is partially covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act in the U.S.

Flexible Vacation Time

Also known as ‘unlimited paid time off,’ flexible vacation time allows employees to determine how many days they take off per year. The benefit is that it shifts productivity expectations to quality of work rather than the number of hours worked. The potential downside is that some employees may abuse the policy.

Flexible Working Advantages and Disadvantages

Flexible work arrangements include a slew of potential benefits, but can also present disadvantages if they are not the right fit or are poorly executed.

Advantages of Flexible Work

  • It makes a workplace more attractive to potential applicants.

  • It can lead to greater employee retention. A 2019 FlexJobs survey found 80% of respondents “would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.”

  • It can increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

  • It can improve employees’ sense of work-life balance.

  • It can reduce overhead costs with fewer employees in a physical office space on a full-time basis.

  • Having policies already in place increases office preparedness for times of crisis and provides measures to prevent employee burnout.

Disadvantages of Flexible Work

  • Customer service may become less reliable if employees are not always available during standard business hours.

  • If flexible work exceptions are made on an individual basis without a company-wide policy in place, there is a risk that some employees may perceive it as unfair or as preferential treatment.

  • Remote arrangements require a greater investment in technology to maintain the same level of communication and functioning.

  • Team dynamics may change due to fewer in-person interactions and team-building opportunities.

  • Maintaining data security becomes a greater challenge with employees working across multiple locations, devices, and networks, and requires additional attention.

  • Employees may experience less separation between their work and home lives.

Keep in mind that the type of arrangement should be well suited to the needs of the position and company. For example, telecommuting is a great fit for independent work but may not work for a role requiring intensive teamwork or face-to-face interaction. Similarly, a compressed workweek may not be compatible with client-facing roles that require customer service daily.

Managing a Flexible Work Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic forced workplaces to adapt quickly to keep employees safe and comply with state and national guidelines. Going forward, companies should take time to adequately prepare to offer flexible work arrangements, whether they are addressed on a case-by-case basis or implemented as a company-wide policy.

Regardless, it is important to have a standardized process in place to handle flexible work requests. If you are considering a company-wide policy, take the time to put together institutionalized guidelines, plan proper training, and regularly evaluate whether the program is meeting the needs of your business and your employees.

Pivoting to Support Your Employees

Barometer’s parent company, PublicRelay, responded to the pandemic by instituting an indefinite company-wide remote work policy. Senior Director of Operations Drew Pyrak remarked that the sudden work-from-home transition erased perceived barriers to career advancement for remote employees. On the other hand, he noted that it has made team-building more challenging. In response, Pyrak explained that he has had to adjust his management style to involve more frequent one-on-one check-ins throughout the week to gauge how his team is doing.

At Barometer, we can help you better understand your company’s employee experience by evaluating employer reviews and employee survey results. Our data will give you actionable insights to improve employee satisfaction, retention, and flexible work arrangements. Click here to learn more!

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