Alternative Work Schedules: How to Maximize Flexibility

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Different Types of Alternative Work Schedules

Currently, most organizations offer some type of alternative work scheduling options, however how they operationalize it is quite distinct. There are a number of different types of alternative work arrangements and options in order to provide flexibility to employees. These options include:

  • Work Sharing
    • In Canada, work sharing is a federally-run program that is designed to help avoid temporary layoffs during tough economic times. Work sharing allows employers to reduce the number of hours that an employee works. The employee can then receive employment insurance benefits to make up for some of his or her lost salary.
  • Job Sharing
    • Job sharing involves two or more people working part-time to fill a position that was once filled by a full-time employee. This provides flexibility for employees, such as an employee who would like increased flexibility to address personal issues or an employee who is near retirement but would like to keep working in some capacity.
  • Telecommuting / Remote Work / Working from Home
    • This is a work arrangement where employees do not work from a central place of work. This provides employees with the ability to perform work off-site and generally with minimal or no core ‘business hours’ requirements. Working remotely gives employees the flexibility to structure their days independently and it is increasingly being voiced as an employee expectation during the recruitment process.

The Benefits of Adopting Flexible Schedules

One major benefit to adopting more flexible schedules is that it allows an organization to shift its focus and culture from face-time to results. Rather than judging employee performance based on how often a manager sees an employee sitting at his or her desk, evaluations become more results-focused – what did the employee accomplish? The more employers encourage flexibility in work arrangements, the more they are challenged to truly base performance discussions on objective criteria, results and deliverables. This leads to higher-performing employees as they know that they will be evaluated on and their ability to excel is almost entirely based on the work they do, rather than where or when they complete it.

Flexibility at work also improves work-life balance for employees. They are provided with opportunities to manage their own schedules and weave their personal lives within the work day, while still delivering results. This increases employee engagement which translated into higher level of productivity and performance.

Generational Responses to Flexible Work Schedules

Traditionalist and Baby Boomer employees do not necessarily expect flexibility in the workplace. They are used to working at set times and in set locations. Any type of flexibility is seen as a reward and something that is earned. Baby Boomers may desire more flexible work arrangements to accommodate their need to care for aging parents and young children, but they don’t have the expectation of receiving these arrangements from the outset and will rarely ask for them. This means that they are very appreciative if employers offer or encourage flexibility.

Gen Xers feel that they should be able to manage their time as they see fit. They view their careers as only one part of them and they have many other interests that extend beyond work. This means that flexibility is a must-have for them.

Gen Ys take this even further. They have grown up in a world filled with technology that makes it easy to work at different times and from different locations. They expect complete fluidity in their workday and providing a flexible work environment is often a key in recruiting top talent from this cohort. Gen Ys will ask for the flexibility they want and they expect to be able to blend work and life within their day.

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