Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Flexible Work Arrangement

flexible work schedule is typically a much-appreciated perk for employees. It allows employees a greater say over their work schedules, most commonly in the forms of flexible work time, place or a compressed work week so employees can better manage their work/family obligations.

Advocates tout the mutual benefits, noting that such situations lead to higher levels of employee engagement and ultimately retention. Critics caution that poorly-conceived plans can cause irreparable harm to a business and may set the stage for litigation.

Uncertain if a flexible work arrangement might benefit your employees and your business? Ask yourself these questions:
1.  Are your employees interested in flexible work arrangements? If there have been questions about the possibility, think through the ramifications. Would allowing employees some flexibility in scheduling impact the daily operation of your business? For some employees, arriving at work an hour earlier and leaving an hour earlier is a perk that allows them to better balance their work/family commitments. But how will the altered schedule impact their specific job requirements?
2.  Do you rely on employees to accomplish specific tasks or provide support? Examine how independently your employees work. If they are able to accomplish the majority of tasks without interaction with co-workers a flexible arrangement will be easier to implement. A receptionist who serves as the initial contact with customers will be missed if allowed to alter their work hours unless an alternative arrangement is in place.

3.  Are your employees self-motivated? If your workers have a tough time accomplishing tasks when you’re out of the office, it’s not likely that they would succeed in a flexible work environment.

4.  Would you increase the risk of a discrimination claim by implementing such arrangements? According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) managers who create a “disparate impact” with regard to policies, practices, rules or other systems that appear to be neutral, can cause a disproportionate impact on protected groups. For example, flexible work arrangements cannot be offered solely to mothers of young children. If you offer flexible schedule opportunities you must make all eligible employees regardless of age, disability, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion or sex.

5.  Have you planned the logistics of a flexible work arrangement? A formal written policy should be established, noting the specifics of the arrangement such as employee attendance at meetings and accessibility. Employees should sign a form acknowledging that they agree with and will abide by the tenets of the situation. It should also be noted that the flexible work arrangement is a trial and employees may be asked to return to a traditional schedule.

6.  Would your company realize any benefits from implementing a flexible work arrangement? If growth has caused cramped quarters, allowing employees to telecommute can eliminate the need for a larger office. Staggering arrival and departure times can also increase the time frame your staff is available to assist customers.