Why Flexible Work Arrangements Are Key for Reopening

Here’s the 411 on how flex work can impact the success of your small business’s reopening.

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Flexible work arrangement options, plus considerations and challenges

If you haven’t considered flexible work arrangements before, chances are you are now.

From the uncertainty of what will happen with schools in the fall to the fact that COVID-19 is still running wild across much of the country, most people aren’t able to return (or at the very least are not at all about returning) to an office full of possible COVID-19 exposures.

Figuring out a way to continue running your business while keeping your employees safe and allowing them to take care of their other obligations like homeschooling children is integral to any business, but small businesses in particular that don’t have the fat margins necessary for extended closures.

Whether a flexible work arrangement is a new practice for you and your small business or it’s a policy you’ve had for a while that you’re looking to retool for the COVID-19 era, here’s the 411 on why flexible work arrangements are key to a successful small business reopening.

What are flexible work arrangements?

Pretty much anything that deviates from the traditional, 9 to 5 in office work schedule can be considered a flexible work arrangement.

Flexible work arrangements are, as the name suggests, a flexible approach to arranging work. Pretty much anything that deviates from the traditional, 9 to 5 in office work schedule can be considered a flexible work arrangement. Depending on your particular small business and its unique needs, there are several different types of ways to approach flexible work policies.

Remote work

Considering the pandemic, this is the most popular version right now since the majority of the United States workforce was quickly thrust into working in remote solitude almost overnight. This version of flex work means that employees spend little to no time in the office and do almost all work from home, a coffee shop, or another remote location. Especially as parents fret about what school will or won’t look like in the fall, giving parents the opportunity to work remotely can be a big win for everyone.

Flexible start and stop hours

Rather than having everyone work from 9 to 5, 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. The added bonus of this option is that it lets people get around tricky, traffic-filled commutes, and lets people work when they’re most productive rather than at a standard time.

Part-time hours and job sharing

Instead of a traditional 40-hour work week for each employee, you can split 1 full-time position between 2 part-time employees or share job duties among multiple employees.

Instead of a traditional 40-hour work week for each employee, you can split 1 full-time position between 2 part-time employees or share job duties among multiple 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 as well as employees who are also caregivers that keep them from working a full-time schedule.

Compressed work weeks

If having everyone work 5 days a week isn’t essential to your business’ operations, why not let people have perpetual summer Fridays if they want? The compressed work week arrangement lets employees work longer hours, but fewer days (think four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days).

Transitional retirement

Rather than going from full employment to complete retirement, companies have started letting their employees who are on their way to retirement ease into the process by slowly reducing the hours or days worked for a set period of time before retirement. That set period of pre-retirement transition time can range from months to a couple of years depending on what’s right for you and your employees.

Considerations for reopening with flexible work arrangements

Like all business decisions, there are considerations you’ll have to weigh. For example, not all positions lend themselves well to flexible work arrangements (customer service representatives) while other (think software developers) do. Then there’s overtime to account for when it comes to non-exempt employees, something you’ll have to work out based on pay periods.

The main thing to understand is that flexible work arrangements will require a lot of communication between staff, managers, and leadership to ensure that the business’ needs are being met while everyone accommodates their varying schedules.

The main thing to understand is that flexible work arrangements will require a lot of communication between staff, managers, and leadership to ensure that the business’ needs are being met while everyone accommodates their varying schedules.

Common challenges of flexible work arrangements

The biggest challenge of flexible work arrangements is figuring out whether or not employees can be just as productive as they usually are under a more flexible schedule. One way that some companies manage this risk is by including trial periods in their flexible work policies. Whether that’s 30, 60, or 90 days, starting out on a trial basis can not only help both the business and individual employees figure out if flexible work will work for them by actually trying it out, it also allows for some time to iron out any issues.

While it might seem like flexible work arrangements intend to benefit the employees, there are big benefits for business owners too. Think about everything else you could do with the money you currently spend on office space. With a workforce that can work remotely, you can have less physical space (if any at all!) as long as your workers are given the tools to be successful in a remote environment. A win-win!

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