The two broad categories of work scheduling are flex time and regular office hours. Flex time takes many forms, with the most common form having a core period covering about half the normal or standard working hours and a flexible period where the employee is able to choose the rest of the work hours as they please. For instance, the company with an eight hour shift might require all employees to be available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., giving employees the option to work the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, come in early at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m., come in at 10 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m., or develop any other schedule. The concept may extend to days worked also. For instance, the company may require everyone to work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and then any two days from the remaining four days. Another form is split-hours, like say, the employee works from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., then returns to work from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Extreme cases allow employees to come and go as they please without core periods or days. For instance, some employees may prefer to work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., whereas another one may prefer coming in at 3 p.m. and working until 11 p.m. The concept taken to the extreme may also see someone coming in at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, working continuously to log the required 40 hours for the week, leaving at 10 p.m. Tuesday night, and returning the following Monday. Such cases of unbridled flex time are rare because long hours at a stretch reduce productivity and may conflict with many provisions of the law.
Another method is flexi-shifts, where employees are free to opt for a morning, afternoon, or night shift. Such shifts help employers reduce office space. But, absence of a core band that gathers all employees raises issues in coordinating work, conducting meetings, team or group work, and more.
Regular Work Schedules
Regular work schedules remain rigid in contrast to flex time. It generally takes the shape of a fixed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift or any other time spread, or can take the form of rigid shift schedules, with fixed, non-negotiable and usually common off days. The employees are to remain at the office or perform work duties during such work hours, and failure to adhere to scheduled hours results in warnings and disciplinary actions, unless the supervisors condone late arrivals or early dismissal for some special circumstances.
The Fair Labor Standards Act that regulates conditions of work orients itself towards fixed working hours, and considers flex time arrangements a part of an employee’s benefit package. To switch over from regular working hours to flexible hours, an employer may change an employee’s work hours after obtaining the employee’s consent or by striking an agreement with the employee or the union to such effect.
Regular work schedules remain the default method of work scheduling suitable for all jobs. Some types of jobs, such as security, customer care desk operations, frontline staff and others, require availability of employees at designated hours, and as such do not qualify for flex time.
Flex time Benefits
Flex time provides many benefits to employees, such as:
- The ability to pursue some other vocation or study simultaneously, such as attending college.
- Balancing family life better by undertaking essential chores, such as tending to a sick relative, or picking up a child from school.
- Working at the most productive and desired hours. Each individual has a biological clock or the best and most active hours. For instance, some people dread getting up early and remain disoriented in the morning, yet they become very energetic in the evenings or at night. For some, the reverse is true.
- The ability to work at desired times and achieve better balance and control over life events reduces stress levels.
Flex time benefits employers since happy employees are less likely to quit or be absent. This translates to savings on recruitment and training costs, absenteeism cost, and indirect savings resultant from better productivity and reduced stress levels.
Flex time Disadvantages
Flex time, while providing many advantages, also comes with many disadvantages, compared to regular work schedules. It may cause intrusion of personal life into time traditionally meant for office work.
Personal issues and commitments may distract a flex time worker. For instance, an employee opting for a split shift involving an extended break to pick up kids from school and drop them home will have to spend more on transportation, and require double the normal time to warm up and reach their productive best at work.
Employees on flex time are better able to pursue their non-work related interests and relationships. The direct casualty is interpersonal bonding among colleagues that improves rapport and betters job performance. Colleagues and team members coming and going at various times means inability to work in tandem when required. Trying to conduct meetings and do work requiring others during the core time upsets normal pacing and scheduling.
Flex time may put the employer at more of a disadvantage. Keeping office facilities open to accommodate staff working at different times, arranging for transportation at different hours, and other considerations increases administrative costs, such as energy bills, and complicates tasks, such as tracking work hours and overtime. The increased costs indirectly results in lower wages because employers would otherwise spend at least a portion of the savings on the workforce. Among other disadvantages, an unscrupulous employee may enter the premises at odd hours and access restricted zones or throw open avenues for hackers to penetrate the company network.
Regular Work Schedules Advantages and Disadvantages
When comparing a regular work schedule vs a flex time arrangement, the disadvantages of the latter directly translate as advantages of regular work schedules. A worker that keeps regular hours may coordinate his work better so as to work at his productive best, establish better interpersonal relationships at work, and earn more wages owing to reduced administrative costs for the employer.
The advantages of flex time, however, need not directly translate as disadvantages of regular office work. Regular office work does place restrictions on individual liberties, but this has been the way of a worker’s life ever since the industrial revolution. The worker that maintains traditional hours is not always less motivated or less committed just because of the regular working hours. Many employers provide initiatives such as special leave or time off, and special arrangements, such as company-sponsored school pickup and drop-off for kids as part of the employee benefit package, which offsets the need for flex time.
United States Department of Labor. “Flexible Schedules.” https://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/flexibleschedules.htm. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
Image Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/siraphat