The Growing Importance of Flexible Work Arrangements

What are flexible work arrangements, and what advantages do they offer?

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Background on flex work arrangements, plus types you can try at your small business

Now that COVID-19 has forced a good portion of the United States’ workforce into a work-from-home arrangement, there’s been a renewed interest in flexible work arrangements, sometimes called flex work for short.

Maybe you’ve been hesitant to try out flexible work arrangements before (another thing to worry about as a small business owner?) or you’re still ironing out the details of your own small business’s relationship with flex work policies. Perhaps you’re simply jazzed about staying on top of work trends that keep you competitive in the market (especially among younger generations). Whatever your motivation is, here’s a crash course on flexible work arrangements.

Why flexible work arrangements have become popular

As the BBC explains, everyone from the leader of Facebook to New Zealand’s Prime Minister have been in favor of flexible work arrangements as businesses begin the process of opening up again as stay-at-home orders have been replaced by stay safe procedures. Zuckerberg anticipates that half of his workforce will be remote in the next 5 to 10 years; Twitter has allowed employees to choose to work from home for forever.

One of the biggest reasons flex work arrangements are getting a lot of attention these days is that, in the U.S. at least, the future of school in the fall is an uncertain and hotly debated one. Even if schools open back up, parents may not want to send their kids back into such a social environment. That means that working parents — 32.7% of the civilian workforce as of 2016 — will have kids to factor into their work schedules this fall.

Another factor is the safety of workers themselves. With the novel coronavirus spiking in the U.S., many people are naturally wary of going back to traditional office environments, especially if they don’t have to. Considering which jobs can be done entirely from home (roughly 37% of all jobs in the U.S.), the pandemic has led to a questioning of the necessity of offices like never before.

With the novel coronavirus still running amok in the U.S., many people are naturally wary of going back to traditional office environments, especially if they don’t have to.

The benefits of flexible work arrangements

As you can imagine, the major benefit of a flexible work arrangement is flexibility. Whether that’s taking a sick kid to the doctor in the middle of the day, caring for aging parents, or simply being able to be home when a repair person comes over without having to take the day off, the malleability of flex work arrangements is the big draw on the employee side.

Flexible work arrangements let you and your employees make the most out of the times that they’re naturally more productive.

Further, flexible work arrangements let you and your employees make the most out of the times that they’re naturally more productive. Those who get their best work done before dawn can log on as early as they like. Those who work better late at night make the most of the night before a big deadline. Plus, the afternoon productivity slump is real — why try to force outputs out of people that simply aren’t able to give work their all in the afternoon?

On the business side: imagine the money you could save if you ditched payments for office spaces, or at least dramatically reduced the size that you need down to a few meeting and conference rooms for special occasions. It’s probably a lot.

The different types of flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements come in all different shapes and sizes. One hundred percent remote work is not the only option, although it is one of them. Others include:

  • Flexible start and stop hours. This option lets employees choose their start and stop times based on what works best for them. For example, workers can choose to begin work anywhere between 7:30 am and 9:30 am and end between 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm depending on what suits them best.
  • Part-time hours and job sharing. Employment doesn’t have to be the standard full-time arrangement. Instead you can do something like split 1 full-time position between 2 part-time employees or split job duties between employees. Part-time hours is also an option that can allow you to be more inclusive to employees with disabilities, health issues, or other needs that keep them from working a standard 40-hour work week.
  • Compressed work weeks. Why force people to work 5-day weeks if it isn’t essential to your business? This arrangement lets employees work longer days, but fewer days (think four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days).

Part-time hours is also an option that can allow you to be more inclusive to employees with disabilities, health issues, or other needs.

Companies with flexible work arrangements

Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook are hardly the only companies that have gotten on the flexible work arrangement bandwagon. Other examples of companies that have opted for a more flexible approach for at least some of their workers include:

  • Airbnb
  • American Express
  • Dell
  • Deloitte
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • GitHub
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Glassdoor
  • Expensify
  • Paperless Post
  • Zapier
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