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Your employees can rattle off the benefits of different types of flexible work schedules without hesitation. Sam will save gas on his commute and get to take his dad to a weekly doctor appointment. Janet will get to pick her daughter up from school and save on childcare costs. Angela will save on her dry-cleaning bill and finally get to exercise at the gym. What, you may ask, is in it for the employer?
There are plenty of employer benefits if an arrangement is executed properly and is appropriate for the job. A satisfied employee will be committed to the company and their work. Loyalty and productivity will increase while absenteeism decreases. After all, the employee that values this arrangement is motivated to keep it in place. (I once had a telecommute schedule and would go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure its viability was not questioned!) It is an excellent way to retain top talent.
A flexible work schedule can take many different forms. And, not every job is well-suited for an alternative structure. This article explores various types of flexible work arrangements and provides key questions to consider when identifying jobs suited to a flexible structure.
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Telecommuting, also known as telework, occurs when an employee works away from the home office, at least part of the work week. The number of days away from the office varies as well as where the person works. A business may be able to cut costs associated with workspace.
Some factors to consider:
- Is special equipment needed for the job?
- Does the job require ongoing access to extensive company resources, such as a library?
- Does the job require use of sensitive information that shouldn't be viewed off-site?
- Does the employee have a history of self-motivation and discipline in performing job duties?
- What expenses are necessary to provide an adequate home-office set-up?
- Will communication between co-workers be negatively effected?
- Is office support needed to do the job?
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Flextime allows for some portion of work to occur at non-standard times. The non-standard times can be scheduled or done at the convenience of the employee. A variation of this arrangement is a compressed work week. In this case, the employee works more hours over a fewer number of days. (i.e., four days of ten hour shifts, instead of five days of eight hour shifts.) Some companies use this arrangement to extend customer service hours or to save costs by closing down on a traditional work day. Factors to consider for these types of arrangements include:
- Does the employee need to be available specific hours in order to perform duties, such as answering customer calls?
- What is the effect on co-workers? Will work be evenly distributed when the employee is absent?
- Is adequate supervision available during non-standard time? Or, is the person able to work independently?
- What is the effect on customers? If the job is a support function, will the person be available to provide assistance so customers are served timely?
- Can the employee access critical resources, such as office space or library, in off-hours?
- For compressed work weeks, will the employee experience fatigue and be less effective?
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Job sharing identifies two compatible individuals that each work part-time to fulfill the duties of a full-time position. For example, two medical professionals may work together to meet the needs of their patients. Or, two teachers may work together to cover classes. The individuals coordinate responsibilities to achieve flexibility in the schedule.
- Do the individuals work well together?
- How does this arrangement impact the customer?
- How will performance be measured?
- How does the arrangement impact other employees? Will they know who to contact?
- Is the arrangement efficient? Will frequent instances come up where time is spent re-reviewing topics and issues?
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Once different types of flexible work schedules are offered, formalize a policy. Otherwise, questions will arise about why one person is able to garner this arrangement while another person is not. Resentment, reduced morale and other issues may appear in this circumstance. If the policy is based upon carefully assessed job duties and the performance of an individual, then these issues may be avoided. Job-related questions are outlined above. With respect to potential candidates:
- Establish a tenure requirement. Most experts believe that a potential candidate should be in a traditional work arrangement for a period time, such as year, before pursuing different types of flexible work schedules. As a result, the individual will have first-hand experience with office practices and dynamics.
- Require good performance. Use the performance review process to support decisions.
- Prepare a flexible work schedule proposal that documents key requirements of the arrangement. Essentially, a written contract should be in place to provide the basis for a successful relationship.
Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/768180
Resources: Gil Gordon Associates: http://gilgordon.com/telecommuting/index.htm