Flexible Work Programs: Should You Offer One?

Check out these FAQs, answers, and tips about flexible work programs.

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Just as companies big and small around the country were gearing up for long planned returns to in-office work, the Delta variant showed up and knocked everyone’s plans of course yet again.

Luckily, this time we’re in the throes of remote work — thanks to the past year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve got plans and tools in place to ensure that employees not only survive but thrive while working remotely.

Now that the Delta variant has thrown yet another wrench into the return-to-office plan, it makes sense to reconsider if planning to go back into the office anytime soon is even a worthwhile venture. If you’re looking to the long term and thinking that remote work might be here to stay, now’s the time to consider a flexible work program.

What is a flexible work program?

We all know what flex work is — the ability to work more freely. Whether that’s flexible time off or the opportunity to work from home or while traveling, flexible work arrangements have likely never been more popular, pervasive, or necessary before.

A flexible work program is the overarching plan that your business takes to offering flexible work options. Flexible work opportunities can be great for a variety of reasons. It can give employees the ability to more seamlessly deal with the balancing act that many employees carry out between the demands of work and home life — especially during the pandemic.

However, without a clear plan that details how you’ll handle flex work at your business, the practice can quickly devolve into chaos. That’s why a flexible work program that outlines what flexible work options are available to employees and how to carry them out can be a valuable asset.

What are the pros and cons of a flexible work program?

Well, it all comes down to the specific flexible options that you offer (more on that in a bit). But there are some general pros and cons to consider.

First, a major pro is that flexible work programs often lead to increased employee happiness and, ultimately, retention. Flexible work arrangements have been trending for some time and are slowly becoming the rule rather than the exception. So, if you refuse to offer it, chances are your talent will be able to find an employer who will.

Flexible work programs often lead to increased employee happiness and, ultimately, retention. Flexible work arrangements have been trending for some time and are slowly becoming the rule rather than the exception.

The biggest downside, though, is that you can’t create flexible work arrangements overnight. You have to ensure that you have all of the right tools — everything from a clear communication process to software and other solutions to ensure seamless work across locations — to carry it out effectively.

How do I structure a flexible work program?

Flexible work programs can include any form of flexible work that you want to offer. It could be just one (like the ability to work from home a set number of days a week) or it could be a largely open-ended approach that rests on communication between employees and their teams and managers.

There are flexible work options that you can include in your business’s flexible work program. Some include:

  • Flex time allows employees to choose their own starting and stopping hours for the workday.
  • Flexible location refers to all options to work outside of the office, be that at home or while traveling.
  • Compressed work weeks are exactly what they sound like — a work week that consists of fewer than 5 days of work but generally longer hours on the days that employees work.
  • Floating holidays are days off that employees can use to celebrate holidays of their choice, whether they be religious holidays or personal events like birthdays.
  • Phased leave allows employees to phase their work back in after events like maternity or paternity leave or allows soon-to-be retirees to phase out their work leading up to retirement.

Should I offer a flexible work program?

The thing is that it’s entirely up to you and your business and employees. Of course, there’s the nature of work to consider — some companies are more able to work remotely than others. Some teams may be better equipped to absorb flexibility than others.

The key, though, is developing a clear and well-defined flexible work program that outlines the flexible work options employees have, how to carry them out, and what will happen should the policies be abused. Another thing to be weary of is not applying flexible work programs equally. While some teams might be able to work more flexibly than others, it can be risky to let some employees enjoy flexible work arrangements while others don’t. That can quickly breed resentment.

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