What It Is
Flexible work options are the ability for employees to work outside of the traditional five-day, 40 hours a week work model. These options include:
- Part-time work schedules: working less than full-time.
- Flex-time options: employee can vary the starting and ending times of the work day, but they still work the same total number of hours as under a traditional arrangement.
- Telecommuting: employees work at home or at an alternate worksite one or more days per week.
- Flexible work weeks: compressing the work week into fewer, longer days (such as working four, ten hour days).
- Job sharing: two or more employees share the responsibilities of one full-time job at a pro-rated salary.
Why It Matters
Flexible work options can help attract and retain quality employees. A Bain & Company study found that “the availability of viable flexible job offerings—that fit the organization’s culture—could increase retention in men by 25 percent and in women by 40 percent.” These percentages highlight the fact that women in particular place high value on flexible work options. This is likely due to the comparatively high child and elder care demands that women often face.
The President’s Council of Economic Advisers reported that the benefits of remote working include lowering absenteeism, reducing turnover, improving the health of workers, and raising productivity. Additional economic benefits include an average savings of $20,000 per year for each full-time employee that works remotely.
Flexible work options can also contribute to sustainability efforts and energy conservation. Environmental benefits include reduced costs and consumption of fuel, reduced parking lot congestion, conservation of energy at the work-place, improved air quality, reduced noise and traffic, and reduced carbon emissions. Motor vehicles have been estimated to contribute to about 50% of urban air pollution. If “10% of the nation’s workforce telecommuted one day a week, we would avoid the frustration of driving 24.4 million miles, we’d breathe air with 12,963 tons less air pollution, and we’d conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel each week.”
- Step One: Weigh the pros and cons of flexible work.
- Step Two: Make sure flexible work options support the goals of the company.
- Step Three: Communicate and plan.
Step One: You should fully weigh the pros and cons of implementing flexible work options. A business case should be made that examines the benefits and likely challenges of flexible work options. The conclusion of the business case should communicate that flexible work options gives a competitive advantage to your company. Keep in mind security concerns, as potentially sensitive data will be exchanged through the internet.
Step Two: In some business sectors flexible work options may not be a viable option. Companies with a strong focus on in-person customer interaction or that require on-site manual labor need employees physically present.
Step Three: The flexible work option concept should be discussed early with employees and survey them to see if they react positively. Communicate with managers to determine what jobs can be flexible and which employees may adapt well to flexible working conditions. This is the stage where the various issues of flexible work options related to HR, laws, and technology need to be addressed.
- Step One: Implement your plan.
- Step Two: Establish a trial period.
- Step Three: Review and evaluate.
Step One: The implementation period should follow after careful consideration and planning. Surprises and unexpected issues should be at a minimum if the planning stage was thorough.
Step Two: To see the effectiveness of the implemented flexible work options and work out any problems, test out the policy over a period of time. If during this period the employee and supervisor realize that flexible work options are not working towards the best interest of the company, they should both agree to discontinue.
Step Three: Make sure to stay up to date with the achievements and problem areas of flexible work options. This should also be the time when the environmental benefits are evaluated by asking employees about fuels savings and comparing energy costs at the office from before to after the implementation of flexible work options.
First Tennessee Bank
First Tennessee Bank, a financial services company with sites in the Southeast, began a flexible work options program in 1992. Managers at individual sites could decide attendance and scheduling policies, including part-time work options and flexible work weeks. By working 12 hour days at the beginning of the month and shorter days at the end of the month, First Tennessee Bank was able to increase productivity by halving the time it took to reconcile customer’s accounts. This resulted in a 50 percent increase in customer quality responses and an increased customer-retention rate.
Making Telework Work: Leading People and Leveraging Technology for High-Impact Results by Evan H. Offstein and Jason M. Morwick
Managing the Telecommuting Employee: Set Goals, Monitor Progress, and Maximize Profit and Productivity by Michael Amigoni and Sandra Gurvis
Managing Off-Site Staff for Small Business by Lin Grensing-Pophal
Life Meets Work – Flex and Human Resources Video by lifemeetswork.com
TelCoa: The Telework Coalition. A nonprofit organization offering information and advocacy for the adoption and implementation of telecommuting.
Executive Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisers, Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility
Flexible work options can save your company money and significantly contribute to an improved work force. Make sure flexible work options fit within and contribute to the mission and goals of your company by thoroughly planning before implementation. Flexible work options can also provide many environmental benefits including reducing energy use at the work-place, saving fuel costs, and reducing congestion and air pollution.
 MIT Council on Family and Work, MIT Human Resources Department Job Flexibility Team, MIT Center for Work, Family & Personal Life, A Guide to Job Flexibility at MIT: Tools for Employees and Supervisors Considering Flexible Work Arrangements (June 2004): 6. Available in full at: http://hrweb.mit.edu/system/files/all/worklife/flexible_work_arrangements.pdf
 Julie Coffman and Russ Hagey, “Flexible work models: How to bring sustainability to a 24/7 world,” Bain & Company, 18 October 2010, accessed 28 June 2013, http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/flexible-work-models-how-to-bring-sustainability-to-24-7-world.aspx.
 Executive Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisers, Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility (March 2010): Executive summary. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/100331-cea-economics-workplace-flexibility.pdf
 Julie Urlaub, “Is Your Business Benefiting from Remote Work Options?” Taiga Company, 29 June 2010, accessed 28 June 2013, http://blog.taigacompany.com/blog/sustainability-business-life-environment/is-your-business-benefiting-from-remote-work-options.
 “GPI’s E-Commute Initiative,” GPI Global Partners International, accessed 28 June 2013, http://www.globalizationpartners.com/contact-gpi/gpis-e-commute-initiative.aspx.
 Executive Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisers, Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility (March 2010): 20. Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/100331-cea-economics-workplace-flexibility.pdf