How Your Small Business Can Maximize Flex-time Employee Programs

How Your Small Business Can Maximize Flex-time Employee Programs
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If managed effectively, this desirable employee benefit can also drive business advantages.

Flexible work schedule policies have been shown to increase productivity, improve work-life balance, and help retain talent. But roll out the program without clear guidelines and ironclad communication policies, and you'll quickly suffer consequences.  

Flexible work options allow employees to choose their own hours and work from home when possible. "Many times, employees with flex-time options are more productive because it gives them the control to manage their personal lives outside the constraints of a traditional work schedule," says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a job service that helps people find flexible work opportunities.

Flexible schedules can help workers better manage their obligations and alleviate stress.

"A flex schedule allows people to work when they accomplish the most, when they feel freshest and enjoy working," says Susan M. Heathfield, a human resources professional who runs her own management and organization-development consulting company and writes frequently about HR issues. "It's a highly desired benefit by all employees, and the advantages for employers are many, including increased employee morale, engagement, commitment, and reduced absenteeism and tardiness. It also increases a company's ability to recruit outstanding employees and reduces turnover."

Structure and accountability crucial to flex-time program management

The key to rolling out a flex-time program effectively is structure. "Too often, companies start with casual flexibility—managers letting certain employees flex their hours, or work from home—and it's difficult to put structure around a casual program like that. That can lead to confusion, inconsistencies, and dissatisfaction from employees and managers alike," says Sutton Fell.

"At my company, we have flexible work for employees," shares Heathfield. "They can come in when they want and go home when they want, but there is one big caveat—it must be scheduled with their manager. They have to be accountable for the hours they said they'd work."

This accountability is important. Without structure and management, you'll quickly lose control of your workforce and begin to worry that people aren't meeting their requirements. So it's important to create formalized guidelines, educate your employees, and train the managers who will be overseeing the flex-time program before its launch.

Depending on your workforce, it might be appropriate to offer the benefit to everyone, or to determine which types of positions it will work best for. Certain roles lend themselves to flex schedules better than others. Consider the type of work the individual is performing. Can it be done from home? Does it need to be performed during certain hours? Roles that allow for independent work without a lot of hands-on management are good candidates.

Flexible schedules are highly coveted by today's workforce. Build structure and clear guidelines around the program, and your company will benefit from a more satisfied and productive team.  

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