How Important are Flexible Work Schedules? (Perhaps More Than You Think)

The Digital Era has revolutionized our workspaces and our work schedules. Flexibility has proven to be a great benefit for workers and employers, but only when it’s used appropriately and respects strict boundaries. Here are the pros, cons, and considerations for a flexible work schedule.

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example of flexible work schedules

The Digital Era has revolutionized our workspaces and our work schedules. We can be “on call” around the clock, which sounds great for employers—but not so much for employees.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are at an even higher risk of abusing flexible work schedules. It’s not uncommon for small business owners, startup founders, and entrepreneurs to work 24/7, which often leads to burnout. Flexibility has proven to be a great benefit for workers and employers, but only when it’s used appropriately and respects strict boundaries.

Flexible Work Schedules

A flexible work schedule is just that– extremely flexible. This means that while employees are still expected to complete a certain amount of hours of work per week, they can arrive late, leave early, finish work in the evenings, and return emails at 4am. Immediately you can see pros and cons to this system. Employees are able to arrange their day around travel, doctor appointments, personal priorities, and preferred working cycles. However, this 24/7 flexibility also has the potential to impede on personal boundaries and lead to overworking and then burn out.

So– what constitutes a healthy flexible work schedule? It that can vary dramatically between workers, teams, and fields– and keep in mind that it’s not suited to everyone. Some will prefer a more rigidly structured work schedule and thrive off the traditional nine to five, officially clocking out in the evenings.

Humans, by nature, have an affinity for structure– especially when it allows us to spend more time with family or easily fit in last-minute appointments or children’s dance recitals. If you’re considering a flexible work schedule, make sure you first assess what type of structure will work best for your workforce, and your nature of business.

The 5-4-9 Compressed Work Schedule

One of the most popular types of flexible work schedules is the 5-4-9 compressed schedule. Full-time employees work eight nine-hour days along with one eight-hour day to culminate in 80 hours for a bi-weekly time frame. Two teams will be needed in order to provide full-time coverage for a Monday – Friday workweek.

That may look like this:

Monday: 9 hours (8am-6pm including lunch)

Tuesday: 9 hours

Wednesday: 9 hours

Thursday: 9 hours

Friday: 8 hours

Monday: 9 hours

Tuesday: 9 hours

Wednesday: 9 hours

Thursday: 9 hours

Friday: Off

A 5-4-9 compressed work plan is best suited for environments that include:

  1. Enough employees to cover the period. This might not be the best flexible work plan for smaller companies, startups, or any business that has a high turnover rate. Environments need to be stable with a solid amount of employees.
  2. No dependency on contractors. Increasingly, businesses are hiring freelancers and contractors. This can be a fantastic way to save money and increase work quality but isn’t necessarily the best match for a 5-4-9 schedule.
  3. Employees who flourish with longer work days. A nine-hour workday might not seem much longer than the average eight hours, but it’s not necessarily the best match for all employees. If employees begin to drag towards the end of the day, the benefits of a flexible work schedule won’t be reached.

Flexible Work Schedule Policy

Before implementing a flexible work schedule, whether it’s a 5-4-9 compressed or another approach, it’s critical to have a flexible work schedule policy in place. Flexible schedules might not be offered (or suitable) to all employees.

If possible, the human resources department should work in tandem with management and employees who will transition to a flexible schedule to create the best policy. If flexible scheduling includes telecommuting or working from a virtual office, a policy can help outline work responsibilities, expected daily milestones, and an agreed-upon form of communication and response time when working remotely.

Flexible Work Schedule Ideas

There are many different potential flexible work structures. Some businesses consider flexible schedules as working partially or full-time from home. Others consider these schedules to be the ability for employees to choose their own in-office work hours. This can allow for school drop-offs, working around hobbies, or simply avoiding rush hour commutes.

Benefits to employees include increased freedom, the opportunity to maximize their time away from work, and the chance to customize schedules to better suit their needs (such as morning birds vs. night owls). The downside for some may include the temptation to “slack off” or take advantage of the schedule. On the other side of the spectrum, it’s easy for the around-the-clock work to overburden some employees.

Employer benefits can include happier employees, the ability to attract higher-quality employees, and lower overhead costs. Additionally, it might become difficult to set meetings if coworkers schedules don’t overlap frequently.

There are a lot of considerations when implementing a flexible work schedule and working with remote employees. Document your scheduling policies among others in your very own employee handbook— click below to download over 20 customizable templates to help onboard new hires and acclimate them to your company culture and policies!

handbook for flexible work schedule

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