What are the pros and cons of flexible work schedules? The world of work has been transformed beyond recognition. We’ll qualify that by saying it’s changed drastically in some ways, and in some industries more than others! Increasingly, though, we find that the 9-5, Monday – Friday model is becoming a thing of the past. More people want and need greater flexibility. More people are part of the gig economy. More people are starting side hustles (and even quitting their jobs) to pursue their passions. More people need more “life” in the work/life equation.
Whatever the case, the push for employee flexibility has been growing stronger and more insistent. But as with any shift in the foundation of a system – in this case, the work world – it’s not all black or white, right or wrong. There are a million shades of gray and in-betweens to consider. Let’s explore the pros and cons of flexible work schedules.
What Are Flexible Work Schedules?
First, what does a flexible work schedule actually mean? We need to define what exactly we’re talking about – and this can become a “con” in its own right (as we’ll discuss in a moment). Generally, flexible schedules do not use a “butt in the seat” mentality; that is, workers can complete tasks from home, from a company’s property, from a coffee shop, from a coworking space, from a private office, from the field… wherever they are, and as long as deliverables are met.
Further, flexibility can encompass schedules that are part-time or full-time, as well as hours that are:
- Annualized (e.g. instead of 40/hours per week, it may be 1900 hours a year)
- Staggered (e.g. employees start at 8 and end at 4 some days and go 7 to 3 others)
- Compressed (they work 40 hours in four days rather than five)
- Split (e.g. four hours in the morning, four in the evening)
As you can see, “flexible” can have a variety of meanings. And as we will explore, it can also have its share of advantages and drawbacks.
Pros and Cons of Flexible Work Schedules
Even before the pandemic, the majority of employees expressed interest in flexible work schedules, so let’s start with the pros:
Better Work/Life Balance
As we live in the so-called Great Resignation, one fact has become abundantly clear: companies need talent more than talent needs them. They have options, and they are not afraid to flex when it comes to their personal time. Not only is the ability to work a flexible schedule a key differentiator when it comes to choosing an employer, but it also leads to better employee engagement and morale – so their companies will be able to retain them more effectively.
According to the London School of Economics and Political Science, “Being able to achieve work-life balance is an indicator to employees that they are being treated favorably by their bosses. This most commonly leads to reciprocating accordingly by showing a greater sense of commitment and productivity.”
More Effective Recruitment
As mentioned, when companies promote their flexibility, it becomes a key differentiator that attracts the best and brightest – particularly when it comes to younger generations. For example, 84% of millennials prioritize a healthy work/life balance, and over three-quarters say they want a flexible schedule at work so they can spend quality time with family, friends, community, etc.
Flexible schedules oftentimes lead to happier employees – a clear win for workers! For companies, it often means higher levels of retention. Turnover is a significant cost for businesses, and the expense associated with hiring a new employee to replace an existing one is about $4000 on the low end. On the high end: you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars.
Research indicates that those with a flexible schedule are happier and that they have higher levels of engagement.
Happer employees = greater productivity. When people can work when they’re at their best – and when they can attend to obligations in their personal life – it reduces stress and improves mental (and physical) wellness. This leads to the ability to work more efficiently and effectively.
Both employees and employers benefit from flexibility in terms of work schedules. On the worker side, they save on the daily commute, on childcare (a huge factor in many people’s decisions regarding workplaces), and on other expenses associated with making the trek into a physical office.
On the company side, there are tremendous efficiencies achieved when it comes to employee overhead. They can reduce physical space needs (and thus costs), and remember, they will see savings regarding decreased turnover.
The Cons of Flexible Work Schedules
Now onto the flip side of the coin:
Boundaries Can Be Vague
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of working too much when on a flexible schedule. It can feel as if you are always at work. And managers and employers may not always adhere to the “business hours” aspect and email or text their people at all hours, expecting responses and action. Boundaries need to be clearly established – and maintained on both sides.
On a related note: it can be difficult to establish boundaries when working from home. Because you are there physically, family/friends may think you are there mentally to do anything from chat with them to feed them!
Some People Don’t Respond Well to Flexibility
Some people prefer structure, and that’s great! It works for them, and they perform better when they are clocked in at the office, logged into their system at X:00, have lunch at Y:00, and go home at Z:00 each day. For these folks, flexibility can be too overwhelming and difficult to manage.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
In some cases, remote workers may be doing a fantastic job – but since they are not “front and center,” so to speak, it is possible that they may be bypassed when it comes to optimal assignments or promotions. Again, a transparent system needs to be in place for flexible work schedules to… well, work.
Difficulty Coordinating Time Together
It can be challenging to coordinate meetings, client presentations, collaboration sessions, etc. when people are in different locations. Technology certainly helps, but sometimes it’s not as seamless as it could be (Can you hear me now?!).
In weighing the pros and cons of a flexible work schedule, it is important to realize that there is no “wrong” answer. Instead, there are the answers that work best for the specific employer and specific employees. For the most part, increased flexibility leads to greater results and success.
Office Evolution offers solutions that keep pace with the speed of business. By accessing coworking space, private offices, conference rooms, and other amenities, you can work effectively and efficiently – incorporating the benefits of working in a professional environment with those of working on your own. It’s a win-win for everyone.
To learn more about our services, contact Office Evolution. Let’s get to work.