Exploring Flexible Work Options and Tips for Implementing Them

In a recent post, we explored flexible work options as they exist in today’s corporate environment. The Wall Street Journal highlighted the fact that while many companies currently have some semblance of flexibility, many employees don’t take advantage.

With that in mind, it can be valuable to do an in-depth exploration of some of today’s most popular flexible work options, along with tips for implementation.

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Compressed Work Week

The compressed work week is a pretty simple concept – it means employees work three or four days a week, as compared to five. One of the most popular compressed work week options is taking Fridays off. Some businesses may also offer Flex Fridays, where employees can decide whether they’ll work at home or in the office. This concept combines a bit of the compressed work week with telecommuting.

The compressed work week can be a great benefit for some employees, but others may actually find it challenging because they’re forced to fit more work into a tighter time frame.

Along with a compressed work week there may also come longer days, so maybe 10-hour shifts, four days a week, as compared to eight hour days five days a week.

At the same time, some organizations may not require that employees fit 40 hours into a week, and instead may go with a full-time schedule consisting of 32-35 hours.

A few tips if you’re considering a compressed work week option for employees:

  • Make sure it makes sense for your business. If your business revolves around customer service, it may not make sense not to have your best employees onsite as much as possible.
  • Don’t assume you know what your employees want. Gather feedback before trying to implement any compressed work week options. Your employees may not want this option at all, or they may favor one option over another. For example, employees may value having more time after work for getting other things done, so they might not want to work four 10-hour days a week.
  • Before launching any long-term compressed work week schedules, do a little experimentation. It may take some time to find the combination that works best for your company. Of course, always include your employees in this trial and error as well.

Job Sharing

Job sharing is a flexible work option that as of right now tends to go more under the radar than some more talked about options.

So what is it?

In simplest form, it’s when two employees work part-time to complete the work that would otherwise be the responsibility of one full-time employee. The U.S. Department of Labor describes it in this way:

Job sharing means that two (or more) workers share the duties of one full-time job, each working part time, or two or more workers who have unrelated part-time assignments share the same budget line. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address job sharing. Job sharing is a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).

The benefits of job sharing are said to include increased morale and productivity. Job sharing can also be an attractive way to recruit new employees and retain current ones. In order for a job sharing arrangement to be successful, however, both individuals must be able to handle the position as efficiently as one person.

  • Understand that job sharing isn’t likely to go smoothly for managerial and leadership positions. This is because employees can find it challenging to defer to two authorities, and they may develop a preference for one over the other, which can create problems and conflict in the workplace.
  • When considering job sharing there needs to be detailed plans, job descriptions and duties in place, to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.
  • Have job sharing employees submit regular reports on their progress and what they’re achieving so you can make sure work is being evenly balanced, and everything is getting done.

Phased Retirement

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.13.55 AMWhile many flexible work options seem to be something younger and Millennial employees are most interested in, phased retirement is something that’s piquing the interest of older and senior employees.

The federal government recently enacted a phased retirement option for employees.

With phased retirement employees can start working part-time schedules while they begin to draw retirement benefits.

Employers favor the idea because it allows them to develop stronger mentorship programs for newer and less experienced employees. Under the federal program, employees taking advantage of this option are required to spend 20 percent of their time mentoring less experienced employees.

Another benefit of phased retirement is that it serves as a compromise between employees who are reluctant to retire and the need for businesses to bring in younger employees.

  • When thinking about phased retirement, identify key older employees that bring specific skills and experiences to the table, as these employees will be most valuable as mentors.
  • Formalized programs can be more beneficial than ad hoc options. The reason is because there are a lot of elements that come into play including pension and retirement benefits, health benefits and take-home pay. By formalizing the program and working with all key stakeholders it makes phased retirement more seamless.
  • While the program benefits from being relatively formalized in many aspects, flexibility in how employees actually phase into retirement can benefit everyone. Offer employees options as to how their work life will change as a result of phased retirement, and let them design some features of their plan.

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is one of the most commonly utilized flex work options. Employees who telecommute may work from home or even their local coffee shop one day a week when they choose or in some cases all the time.

  • When analyzing whether or not telecommuting will work in your organization, first look at individual positions. Not every role in a company is well-suited to a telecommuting option.
  • Along with positions, take a look at individual employees and assess whether or not you think they would be able to maintain or increase their productivity in a telecommuting situation. It’s not something that’s going to be a good fit for every employee.
  • Telecommuting requires training of supervisors and managers to be able to not only properly interact with remote employees, but also to gauge the quality and level of work being completed by these employees.

Let us know what you think about these flexible work options and whether or not you think they’re feasible options in the long-term.

October 12, 2015   Updated :September 19, 2016      

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