Forced furloughs. Unpaid vacation days. Shortened workweeks. These were some of the nasty aftereffects we saw and lived through (or are still living through) as a result of the recession. But these lemons may end up making some very sweet lemonade, as employees and employers alike are seeing the benefits of alternative work schedules, more commonly know as flexible work arrangements (FWA).
Although shorter weeks often meant smaller paychecks in recent months, the flexible scheduling tactics that kept many companies afloat during the recession may soon find a permanent spot in the workplace (without the sting of that reduced paycheck). That’s because flexible work arrangements, which include flex time, telecommuting, and job sharing, allow employees to manage their own schedules, work from home, and have a better work/life balance. That means happier employees, which in turn means higher productivity (and happier bosses). And offering FWAs are an attractive alternative to companies who want to increase employee benefits, but are still feeling cash-strapped and can’t offer the huge bonuses of yesteryear.
“If there’s a silver lining to the recession, it’s that smart companies are beginning to turn time into a tool to attract, retain and engage high-performing talent of both sexes,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett wrote in her New York Times article “ Making Flex Time a Win-Win.”
If you’ve been stuck in a 1950s, 9-to-5 schedule, now’s the perfect time to rethink your work week. During your next job search, consider a flexible work schedule as part of your compensation package. Or if you’re happy in your current position, but would like to work more flexibly, ask your boss for a flexible work arrangement. Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the ins and outs of FWAs.
FAQs About Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible Work Arrangements: The Basics
So you want a flexible work schedule, but you don’t know what the options are (or what to ask for)? Here’s a rundown of the basic offerings you can expect to find in a flexible work environment:
Compressed work weeks: You log in your 40 hours each week, but you do it in fewer days. That may mean a few 10- or 12-hour work days, but the bonus is an extra day off at the beginning or end of the week. (Hello, 3-day ski weekend!)
Flextime: You choose what time you start work and go home. Early birds can come in at 7:00 a.m. and leave at 3:00 p.m.; night owls can sleep in and work later. Usually there’s a mandatory “core” time in the middle of the day, say from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., during which employees are expected to be in the office.
Flexplace (aka telecommuting): In this scenario, you can choose to work in an office that’s closer to home, or in some cases, you can even work from home (aka in your pajamas).
Part-time Work or Job Sharing: You work less than 40 hours per week, or you share a position with a co-worker, splitting the responsibility (so the company essentially has a full-time employee, but you both work part-time).
Hot desking: is related to flexplace and telecommuting. You might work from home some days, and on the days you come into the office, you work at whatever desk/work station is available. Rather than have a dedicated desk or cubicle, you’ll share space with your fellow employees. This concept hinges on the fact that most employees have their own laptop, blackberry, and other technological devices to get the job done.
Benefits for you
There are the obvious benefits to flexible work arrangements, like having longer weekends or working from home. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll see that the benefits are endless. Working from home, for example, means less time spent commuting, which means less miles on your car, less money spent on gas, less money spent on daycare, less money spent on lunch at the Subway across from your office, less time spent in gridlock, and so on. FWAs a great for working parents, working students, workers with dogs, workers with hobbies, or anyone else who wants to work hard, work smart, save money, and have a life outside of the office.
Benefits for your employer
Ok, so you’re ready to pitch the idea of a flexible schedule for your boss, but you’re not sure how she’s going to react. Let her know that in the Society for Human Resource Management’s June 2009 study “Workplace Flexibility in the 21st Century: Meeting the Needs of the Changing Workforce” reported that companies with formal FWAs saw an increase in employee morale and job satisfaction paired with increased employee retention, increased productivity and a decrease in absenteeism. Having a flexible work environment will also give your employer an edge in recruiting top talent, can actually increase office coverage, and reduce office space and overhead expenses. And heaven forbid your office or building falls prey to a natural disaster, the company’s workforce will already be trained to operate outside of the workplace.
The recession may have changed the way we do business, but it doesn’t all have to be negative. FWAs offer benefits for employees, employers, companies and stockholders alike – what could be better than that?