The global pandemic and the shift in employee priorities have changed the way workplaces operate. A FlexJobs survey showed that 77% of respondents chose remote work as the second most important benefit and compensation to them. On-site work and constant availability are no longer a must.
To attract talented candidates and retain good staff, businesses start to offer various types of flexible work arrangements. Let’s take a look at each of them, along with the pros and cons that business owners and managers need to be aware of.
What is a flexible work arrangement?
A flexible work arrangement is the alternative to the standard 9-to-5 work arrangement. It allows employees to choose when and where they work as long as they deliver work results on time or complete the contracted core hours.
A flexible work arrangement can be offered to full-time and part-time positions, to on-site and off-site staff.
15 types of flexible work arrangements
1. Hybrid work
Hybrid work is a working arrangement where staff can choose to work on-site and off-site, or both, depending on their preferences and circumstances. Some people work remotely and communicate via tech tools, while some work on-site on some days and off-site on others.
Hybrid work emphasizes the importance of results rather than forcing employees to always show up at a fixed location. Employees can arrange time for when they’re most productive to work and for other commitments outside of work. They can choose the best location to work, whether it’s home, office, or a coffee shop.
Also known as telework, telecommuting is working away from a physical workplace. Employees can work from home, a coffee shop, a co-working space, a library, or anywhere convenient.
Definitions of telecommuting often indicate employees who don’t have to work at a physical workplace, but still need to be on-site on occasions for meetings or catch-ups. The term telecommuting may also be used for local employees who live near the workplace.
3. Remote work
Remote work is a flexible work arrangement in which employees perform their work anywhere outside of the office.
Remote work and telecommuting are often interchangeable terms. But remote work is often used to describe employees living far away from the physical workplace and may not be able to attend on-site meetups.
Remote workers are often located in different countries. Meetings are conducted via video calls. Companies looking for workers who can attend on-site meetings on occasions should use the term “telecommuting” instead of remote work to avoid confusion.
This type of work arrangement benefits both employers and employees. Employers can seek talented candidates from anywhere in the world. Employees are not restricted to a rigid location. They can choose where to work and even travel while working. However, managing remote workers and maintaining the bond can be challenging.
4. Part-time work
Part-time work includes fewer working hours than those of a full-time position. Each business defines how many hours are considered part-time work in the policies.
Part-time workers can help cover shifts that don’t require full-time employees and slower periods within the year. Employers don’t have to provide benefits for part-time positions, but it’s something you should consider if you want to retain quality people.
Most part-time employees are students or people tied up with other life commitments. They can earn extra income while keeping up with their study or having more time for family.
5. Shift work
Shift work is a flexible work arrangement where the workday is split into different shifts. Working on shifts is very common in the healthcare, retail, F&B, and manufacturing industry.
Shift work is flexible. The working time doesn’t always start at 9 and end at 5. For businesses that operate 24/7, shifts are split into first shift, second shift, and third shift so the business is covered all day long. Staff can also trade or swap shifts with coworkers, freeing you from adjusting the work schedule.
Although shift work helps businesses operate around the clock, it leads to many negative consequences for both management and staff. Staff working irregular shifts are more likely to suffer from physical and mental problems caused by sleep deprivation. Management has more scheduling work to do and has to provide extra resources to support shift workers.
6. Compressed workweeks
A compressed workweek, or a condensed workweek, is the workweek where work hours are compressed into fewer days so the total number of working days is reduced. In other words, the standard working hours every week remain the same, but employees work fewer days.
For example, in a business implementing a 4/10 work schedule, employees work 4 days a week, 10 hours per day, so they can get an extra day off every week. Another variation is the 9/80 work schedule—80 working hours of 2 weeks are compressed into 9 workdays instead of 10, so employees can get an extra day off every 2 weeks.
The biggest benefit of compressed workweeks is the extra days off. Employees can use the additional day off to fill with whatever activities they want. They can choose to have a longer weekend, or a day off in the middle of the week for other life responsibilities.
The biggest disadvantage of compressed workweeks is longer workdays. Employees may not cope with the exhaustion well. You also need to keep an eye on overtime hours as it can get complicated.
Flextime, also known as flexitime and customized working hours, allows employees to choose the start and end time of their workday, as long as they complete the total working hours specified in their contract.
For example, an employee may work from 10 am to 6 pm or 8 am to 4 pm, instead of 9 am to 5 pm.
Some workplaces implementing flextime also allow employees to work longer hours on a day to reduce hours on another.
Research shows that not everyone can follow the standard schedule. Some people work best at night, while others prefer to work at dawn when everyone is still asleep. By customizing their own schedule, employees can freely choose the best time to work and rest when they’re tired. They can commute to work when there’s less traffic or have more time with their kids in the morning.
8. Alternative schedule
An alternative schedule is the schedule replacement for employees who can’t work standard hours.
There are a variety of reasons for using an alternative schedule. Some employees work 2-3 jobs at a time, while others have other responsibilities to fulfill. They can’t show up during conventional hours, so they choose to work on weekends, in the afternoon, or at night instead.
Hoteling, or office-hoteling, means employees reserve a space in the office before they go to work. There’s no pre-assigned seating and workspace.
Hoteling can be cost-saving for workplaces, but the need for an effective reservation system also arises. That’s why it’s more suitable for large companies whose workers travel regularly.
10. Hot desking
Hot desking is a flexible work arrangement where multiple workers share the same physical workspace. It’s similar to hoteling, but employees don’t have to make reservations before they go to work.
This arrangement can work for flexible businesses where employees only use the physical workspace occasionally. But as people have different work styles and need different work equipment, using the same space can be inconvenient.
11. Snowbird programs
Snowbird programs help employees move to warmer places during the winter months. This arrangement is beneficial for retaining older workers who care more about their well-being.
Flexplace is the flexibility in choosing where to work. Employees can choose to work from home, work remotely, or work at their physical workplace.
Flexplace is the broader term for telecommuting, hoteling, hot-desking, Snowbird, and other arrangements where employees don’t have to be present at a fixed location.
As employees live in different places, employers need to provide adequate technology and equipment needed for work and communication. Maintaining security and privacy of work information is also another aspect worth considering.
13. Job sharing
Job sharing is used when there’s a task that needs completion as soon as possible. Employers can divide full-time job between two or more part-time workers. One employee works on the task for one part of the week, while another works on the rest of the task for the other part of the week.
Job sharing is beneficial because if one employee is absent, there’s still someone else working on the task. It’s easier to find part-time workers, and they still finish the same amount of work compared to a full-time position, without the costs of benefits. However, it’s challenging to distribute work among employees equally and clearly.
14. Annualized hours/Time bank
Annualized hours is a flexible work arrangement where employers and employees discuss a maximum number of workdays and work hours for a certain period of time.
15. Flexible paid time off (PTO)
A flexible paid time off policy can motivate and incentivize employees to work harder. Many businesses offer extra PTO or unlimited PTO, which is very attractive to the workforce. But you need to build a culture of trust and accountability first so staff still maintain their performance without strict supervision.
Pros of flexible work schedules
Attract talented workers
Flexible work arrangements help attract talented applicants who prioritize results and performance rather than being present at a physical location. You can also reach applicants worldwide, which is a great opportunity to increase workplace diversity.
Retain talented employees
Flexible schedule arrangements don’t just attract job seekers, but also help retain current employees. A FlexJobs survey in 2020 showed that 79% of respondents would be more loyal if the employer offered flexible work options. With flexible hours, employees have more control over their work and lives, hence feeling happier and are more likely to stay.
Increase workplace transparency
As flexible work arrangements require monitoring tools such as a mobile time clock or attendance tracking software, employees are more accountable and employers also know how the business is running.
Many surveys show that staff are more productive while working remotely due to a more comfortable and focused work environment, as well as less noise and drama. Flexible work doesn’t just improve employee productivity but also business productivity. Businesses adapt better to emergencies such as a sick call at the last minute or a pandemic.
As most flexible work schedules allow employees to work away from the physical work location, employers can save costs on rent, utilities, etc. You can also purchase a group health insurance plan for your working-from-home employees.
When employees have the freedom and the control over their day, their morale is higher. They don’t have to worry about commutes or clocking in on time. They just need to focus on their work.
Increase work-life balance
With flexible hours, employees can arrange their working hours to fit their personal lives. They can choose to work in their optimal hours, and have time for school, family, friends, childcare, and other commitments.
Work wherever they want
Most flexible schedules don’t require employees to be present at a specific work location. Employees can work wherever they want, be it in a coffee shop, in the comfort of their own home, or in another country while traveling.
How to prepare for legal and compliance issues when implementing flexible work schedules
Maintain equality and non-discrimination
Employees working flexible hours may get different work hours, work conditions, and wages. This may lead to discrimination, bias, and negative comparison among the workforce. You should create guidelines and policies to make sure these situations are in control.
Stay compliant with the laws
Implementing flex hours comes with understanding federal, state, and local laws. Your company policies should cover all concerns regarding compensation, overtime pay, the interval between shifts, work hour limits, etc.
Offer the right benefits and compensation
Employers must provide benefits and overtime compensation for non-exempt employees. For exempt employees, it’s up to each business to decide what benefits to offer. But your offer should be reasonable enough to keep good people.
What’s the best type of flexible work arrangement for your business?
The workforce has changed drastically. Being present in a physical workplace and working standard hours are no longer a must. Employees now prioritize greater flexibility in working hours and opportunities to improve their work-life balance.
Take a closer look at the above types of flexible work arrangements. Choose one (or several) that best suits your business and see if it serves your operations and employees well. Check your guidelines and policies to make sure you stay compliant. And don’t forget to have an effective system for managing your new schedule arrangement.