Flexible Work Arrangements

 

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Flexible work schedules or arrangements (flexwork) allow employees to adjust their work hours to fit their personal needs or work when they are most productive and still maintain their unit’s productivity (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.a). There are five general types of flexwork arrangements, but they can be combined or adjusted to fit individual employees’ lives. First is a compressed workweek, which allows eligible full-time employees to work longer hours on certain scheduled days and fewer hours, or no hours, on one scheduled day per week (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.c). This type of flexwork is often employees working four ten-hour days and having one day off during the workweek. Another flexwork type is flex-time, where employees adjust their work hours to either an early start and an early end to their workday, a late start, and a late end, or a normal start and early end one day to pick up the few missed hours another day that week (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.c). This can be a good option for employees with children who need to make it to an early sports practice or special appointment a few days a week. Next is telecommuting, which is work being done electronically and at a different location than in the office for a portion of or a certain day of the workweek. Teleworking is similar, but a little different, where the employee works full-time from home or from a location outside of the office (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.c). Job-sharing, a less common type of flexwork, is where two employees share a position, with each person working part of the week (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.c). This typically looks like two employees working 20 hours per week to do a single full-time job. The last type is part-time work, which allows employees to work less than full-time, but at least 50% of a full-time schedule (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.c). This can look like working four eight-hour days, therefore working 32 hours per week. Types of flexible work arrangements can be different from employee to employee and unit to unit.

There are many benefits to implementing flexible work schedules into employees’ lives. Flexwork aids in recruiting employees improves performance, decreases absenteeism, increases job satisfaction, and increases retention of employees (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.a; Oliver, 2018; Dowling, 2017). Retention of employees is especially important to universities because the average savings of retention per faculty member is over $83,000 (Gahn & Carlson, 2008, slide 6). In other words, flexwork helps universities save money and helps universities keep employees from leaving. Flexible work arrangements also increase productivity because it allows employees to have fewer distractions during the day, although this may not be the case for all employees (Dowling, 2017). Flexwork can reduce commuting time depending on the type of flexible schedule implemented, too (Oliver, 2018). Overall, flexible work schedules give employees flexibility to alter their schedules and create a work schedule that meets their needs while maintaining high productivity to benefit their employer (Williams & Multhaup, 2018). 

Employees may work from home at some point in their flexible work arrangement. Some tips on how to best work from home are setting a schedule, creating boundaries, practicing workplace safety at home, continuing communication, being realistic, and adjusting work hours to times that fit employees’ lives best (Hutchison, 2020, March 19; Brooks & Hall, 2020). Keeping to a schedule helps employees stay productive and end work at an appropriate time without feeling the day was unproductive (South, 2017; Miller 2016). Keeping distractions to a minimum by setting boundaries around employees’ work time and area allows them to be fully focused on work when they are supposed to be, and fully focused on family when they are outside of their work hours. Essentially, creating boundaries helps keep work and the rest of employees’ lives separate so they can give their whole self and their focus to each individually (Wirecutter Staff, 2019). Practicing workplace safety and creating an ergonomic workspace to work in from home helps keep employees productive and focused, as well as prevents injuries from harmful work-from-home setups (DesMarais, 2013; Levin, n.d.). Additionally, just because employees are physically out of the office for portions of their flexwork schedules does not mean they need to be disconnected (South, 2017). If employees need to talk to each other, they still can. Utilizing Microsoft Teams and Zoom are helpful ways to stay connected.  Lastly, employees should adjust their work hours to times that fit their lives best (Martin, 2017). Employees may not have to work at normal work hours if after their children’s bedtimes, early in the morning, or working on the weekend works better for their lives. Flexible work arrangements allow employees to adjust their work hours to times that fit them best which leads to a stronger commitment to their employer.

Employees can take steps to set up a flexible work arrangement.

See the steps below or visit https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work/instructions-for-flex-work for a step-by-step walk-through on how to create a flexible work arrangement proposal.

  1. List out job responsibilities and important features (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.b)
    1. Consider the elements of the job that can be performed off-site and which cannot. Consider where the work will be conducted
  2. List the benefits and challenges of flexibility in the employee’s unit (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.b)
    1. Consider what tools, equipment, and technology are needed for work to be completed. Consider how privacy requirements will be met, how computer software, hardware, databases, and other technology will be secured and protected from use by other individuals, and how the employee intends to resolve any obstacles that arise as a result of the flexible work schedule
    2. List all goals, work assignments, metrics, and/or other issues that will require consideration or change if the Flexible Work request is approved
  3. Consider 3 different flexible work arrangement options that would work (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.b)
  4. Write the proposal (Michigan State University WorkLife Office, n.d.b)
    1. Provide a detailed description of the duties and tasks within the job
    2. List the hours or days you would be doing the work, essentially creating the employee’s preferred flexwork schedule
    3. Specify availability beyond the proposed schedule
    4. Recommend a specific trial period with an end date, how the trial of a flexwork schedule will be evaluated, and how the modification will occur if necessary
    5. Recognize possible concerns and provide alternatives or solutions
    6. Request a meeting to discuss the proposal after the employee’s supervisor has read it or propose a time to meet to discuss the proposal

At a Glance

Flexible work, or flexwork, schedules or arrangements allow employees to adjust their work hours to fit their personal needs or work when they are most productive and still maintain their unit’s service and productivity.

Types of flexible work schedules:

  • Compressed workweek
  • Flex-time
  • Telecommuting
  • Job-sharing
  • Part-time work

Benefits of flexwork:

  • Increases retention of employees
  • Decreases turnover
  • Enhances productivity 
  • Aids in recruiting employees
  • Improves performance
  • Decreases absenteeism
  • Increases job satisfaction 
  • Improves work-life fit
  • Can reduce commuting time
  • Creates a work schedule that meets employees’ needs

Tips on working from home:

  • Set a schedule
  • Create boundaries
  • Practice workplace safety even when working from home
  • Continue communication with coworkers, subordinates, and supervisors
  • Be realistic
  • Adjust work hours to times that best-fit employees’ lives

MSU In Action

The WorkLife Office provides further information on the types of flexible work arrangements and how to develop a flexible work schedule that fits individual employees, their jobs, and their units. Visit https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work for more information and resources on flexwork and https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work/types for more information on the types of flexible work schedules. Visit https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work/instructions-for-flex-work for specific instructions on how to develop a flexible work arrangement. Staff also provide a Flexwork Workshop to help units develop flexible work schedules together. See the inside cover for information on how to request a presentation.

Resources on Campus

References

Brooks, C & Hall, A. (2020, March 18). Tips for working successfully in a time of social distancing. MSU Today. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2020/tips-for-working-successfully-in-a-time-of-social-distancing/?utm_source=weekly-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=standard-promo&id=f32a68f5c5dca13695d2568f5d201de3&utm_content=image3 

DesMarais, C. (2013, August 14). Get more done: 18 tips for telecommuters. Inc. https://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/get-more-done-18-tips-for-telecommuters.html

Dowling, D. W. (2017, September 14). How to work from home when you have kids. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/09/how-to-work-from-home-when-you-have-kids

Gahn, S. & Carlson, S. (2008). Breaking the norms: Measuring the impact of new policies. [PowerPoint slide 6]. Iowa State University. https://www.advance.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/Additional%20Resources/History/2008_10-11gahncarlson_ppt.pdf

Hutchison, J. (2020, March 19). Best practices for working at home with children. Michigan State University WorkLife Office. https://worklife.msu.edu/blog/best-practices-working-home-children

Levin, H. (n.d.). How to work from home if you have kids—9 pro tips. Money Crashers. https://www.moneycrashers.com/work-from-home-kids/

Martin, A. (2017, December 13). 17 strategies to survive working from home with children. The Simple Dollar. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/make-money/17-strategies-to-survive-working-from-home-with-children/

Michigan State University WorkLife Office. (n.d.a). Flexible work arrangements at MSU. https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work

Michigan State University WorkLife Office. (n.d.b). Instructions for developing a flexible work arrangement. https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work/instructions-for-flex-work

Michigan State University WorkLife Office. (n.d.c). Types of flexible work arrangements. https://worklife.msu.edu/workplace-assistance/flexible-work/types

Miller, N. (2016, September 14). Working from home with kids: 21 tips from our remote team. Buffer. https://open.buffer.com/integrating-work-family-21-tips-working-home-kids/

Oliver, M. E. (2018, September 5). Working from home with children: Tips to make it work. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/working-from-home-with-children-tips-to-make-it-work/2018/08/30/026242b4-9462-11e8-810c-5fa705927d54_story.html

South, R. (2017, June 18). Working from home 101: The complete guide to remote work [+infographic]. CakeHR. https://blog.cake.hr/working-home-complete-guide-remote-work/

Williams, J. C. & Multhaup, M. (2018, April 27). How managers can be fair about flexibility for parents and non-parents alike. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/04/how-managers-can-be-fair-about-flexibility-for-parents-and-non-parents-alike

Wirecutter Staff. (2019, March 5). How to work from home with children. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/05/smarter-living/wirecutter/how-to-stay-sane-when-working-from-home-with-children.html

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