Flexibility—and flextime work options matter more and more in the modern workplace.
As more and more millennials enter the workforce, companies must adopt new employee retention strategies. Younger workers change jobs much more often than their predecessors – costing employers thousands of dollars per new hire.
To keep your team members on your team, you need to provide the work/life balance this generation craves.
To create jobs with flexible hours, you can follow a number of flextime strategies.
What is Flextime?
This simple flextime definition is a good place to start:
Employees can choose when to work a set amount of hours.
In practice, however, companies define flextime in many ways. For example, employers often place restrictions on flextime, meaning workers have only a measured amount of freedom.
How Does Flex Work?
Every company that offers flextime puts a new spin on flex, meaning we need to dig a bit deeper to understand this workplace phenomenon.
In short, if your office has a flextime policy, you can add/subtract flex hours from your workday.
However, this takes place within many real-life limitations. When exploring and setting up flextime opportunities for your team, determine which areas of their schedules need to stay firm – and which can be safely “flexed.”
The whole concept of flextime involves reinventing the “get paid to show up for a regular shift” model that served companies so well during the industrial revolution. This model works well in the manufacturing and customer service sectors – but creates unnecessary structure in many other fields.
It’s up to you to create the balance of freedom and structure that best suits your business model – and today’s finicky millennial workforce.
Flextime and Commuters
Many workers appreciate the freedom flextime gives them from rush hour traffic.
Your employees might appreciate the option to start and end their work days a couple of hours early (or late). This strategy also allows people to work in private, which can dramatically increase productivity.
For example, a manager who spends most of the day “putting out fires” might enjoy a working a slightly later shift. This person could write reports and juggle timesheets in a dedicated “solo work” period at the end of the day.
Overtime, Exemptions, and Flextime
In most cases, employers must pay overtime (150%) wages to people who work more than 40 hours per week. The typical worker is non-exempt, meaning their employers aren’t exempt from paying overtime.
However, people with certain executive, administrative, and professional jobs can be exempt from this rule. These exemptions apply to certain computer professionals, sales teams, and retail/service organizations.
The exempt employee definition is quite strict; employers must prove a position is exempt to gain this benefit.
If you aren’t sure, discuss your individual situation with a business lawyer – or just play it safe and assume it’s probably a non-exempt position.
Be careful when using flex time with non-exempt employees. Most employees who enjoy flex time are salaries, “full time exempt” office workers, managers, etc. (Of course, working with independent contractors allows you to get part-time help without paying overtime.)
Certain states have especially strict definitions of an “exempt employee.” California assumes all employees (even salaried employees) are exempt unless they spend at least 50% of their time conducting exempted activities.
Most of the people who fit into this exemption regime are flextime managers and certain specialized professionals.
What is a Flex Schedule?
The U.S. Government Office of Personnel Management provides for two types of flex schedule hours. They divide employees’ workdays into core hours and flexible hours. During core hours, all employees on a team must be in-office; during flexible hours, workers put in a set number of hours. These government workers enjoy flextime within pre-determined limits or “bands.”
Pros and Cons of Summer Fridays
A growing number of companies allow workers to take off Fridays (or every other Friday) during the summer months. This allows people to enjoy more long weekend holidays (and even “staycations”).
Some employees use sick/vacation time for this purpose; others work extra over a two-week span to earn their “Flex Fridays.”
By working an extra hour each Monday through Thursday, employees create a surplus of hours over a two-week period.
They work a regular 8 hours on the first Friday and take the second off. In some cases, offices remain open so workers who enjoy solo work can enjoy their solitude. In other situations, entire offices take off alternating Fridays.
This 9/80 work schedule (nine hours over two 40-hour work weeks) has become so popular with workers that many businesses now offer it throughout the year!
Most workers love Summer Fridays! In workplaces where adding an hour at the end of the day doesn’t confuse schedules, this easy-to-implement flextime option dramatically increases morale.
Though less flexible than the core/flex situation enjoyed by certain government workers (and yours truly), this system makes people feel valued – and lets them spend more time with family and friends.
Some people prefer to work alone when the office is empty.
Some people like to recharge and refresh with long weekends.
Employees often work harder to get their work done on Thursdays to justify their offices’ 9/80 policies.
As long as workers take care of their responsibilities in time, flex schedules are a great idea. (In some cases, employees can agree to be “on call” for online work via phone/internet in exchange for 9/80 freedom.)
In addition, this scheduling option can be an incredible boon for families.
Working parents who can count on these “free days” on a regular basis can even save big on childcare costs – without cutting their hours!
Some employers feel the Summer Friday system creates an overly-casual environment.
For instance, companies that do much of their business in the summer months need workers to buckle down and do their best work during this season. In these cases, Winter Fridays might be a better policy – or you may want to stick to the traditional vacation time model.
Seasonal perks lie Summer Fridays can lead to let-downs.
As much as workers love these benefits, they often experience the opposite when September comes. When the weather cools, the days get shorter, and work hours increase, workplaces can become dreary.
Though this is a valid argument for allowing 9/80 shifts year-round, it also highlights the fact that no matter how much people enjoy extra time off, “this too shall pass.”
Pros and Cons of Extremely Long Shifts
Due to the nursing shortage, shifts in hospitals (and especially emergency rooms) have grown to incredible lengths. 12- and even 16-hour shifts have become the norm in many health care settings.
Not only are hospitals (in all but four states) allowed to enforce mandatory overtime, nurses who have the option to set their own schedules often choose shifts of up to 24 hours.
Millennial nurses choose this profession for its high pay and unique scheduling opportunities – it’s perfect for night owls and party animals.
Hospitals desperate for employees often offer short-term positions that appeal to young, traveling nurses.
Just as flight attendants enjoy a “work hard, play hard” lifestyle and get to see the world, millennial nurses can exchange hard work and long hours for all kinds of perks.
Of course, longer shifts (and the use of caffeine and other stimulants) lead to more mistakes.
In life-or-death settings like emergency rooms and surgical theaters, simple mistakes by tired/overworked nurses and doctors can have dramatic, expensive, and even fatal consequences.
However, hospital administrators would surely argue that having a nurse available—even a sleepy nurse—is better than none at all.
Pros and Cons of Remote Work
Perhaps the most flexible job types, remote work, telecommuting, and freelance online positions have dramatically increased with the advent of the Internet.
Working online works well for self-starters, independent thinkers, and introverts.
If you work in a project-oriented field like graphic design, software development, writing, or even studio music recording, you have many opportunities to work online.
Creatives who work best alone (and without distraction) can offer value to teams and companies without a physical presence.
Of course, businesses that hire freelancers, outsource office tasks, and allow employees to work from home attract millennial employees who want location independence.
They also save a great deal on overhead (eg. due to smaller office sizes) and enjoy the freedom to hire specialists only when their skills are needed.
Companies who outsource work and hire independent contractors gain flexibility but sometimes lose community.
When teams meet regularly in person, they learn to work together. They grow to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Over time, they develop quick and efficient communication and work styles.
If you work with “virtual employees,” it’s harder to establish and maintain long-term relationships (and contracts). Working with a different design person on every project can be frustrating and inefficient.
However, building a lasting connection with someone who knows your company can pay off in a big way.
In a sense, you have the best of both worlds: specialists who work only when you need them (and the reduced overhead this creates) who work with you often enough to quickly understand your instructions and unique way of doing business.
Will flextime work for your business?
After researching this topic and conducting your due diligence, try one of the methods in this article for a short time.
Get employee and executive feedback, analyze the bottom line results, and try another method (or a tweak of your current system).
And remember, Toggl has your back with flexible and comprehensive time-tracking. When it’s time to create reports on your flextime experiments, use our powerful and easy-to-use time-tracking app!