What Is Flex Time? (With Definitions and Examples)
Having flexible time schedules can make it easier to manage our hectic modern lifestyles with multiple work, family and personal commitments. Usually, companies have flexible working policies in order to offer employees a better work-life balance. Understanding what flex time is, how it's used and how to request it can help you achieve a better balance between your work and personal life. In this article, we discuss what flex time is and why it's important, provide you with examples of jobs that often have flexible hours and look at different flexible work patterns.
What is flex time?
As you explore new career opportunities, you may hear the term 'flex time' being used. Flex time, short for flexible time, allows you to adjust your work hours to fit your own preferences or needs instead of adhering to a traditional fixed pattern. Flexible working allows employees to start and finish their shifts at various times, as long as they fulfil their contractual weekly hours. For example, you might start work at 9am one day and 10am the next, working an extra hour later in the evening to accommodate the school run or other appointments.
Flexible working permissions vary from company to company, but some list it as an additional benefit, while others require a negotiation process to fit in both the candidate's and the company's requirements. Candidates may see flexible working hours offered in a job advertisement as a company benefit. Some companies also include working from home under their definition of flexible working.
Related: 13 Types of Work Schedules (with Benefits and Challenges)
Why is flex time beneficial?
Adopting a flex-time policy is generally beneficial to both the company and its employees. Employees often experience higher job satisfaction rates in businesses that value their personal obligations. Below is a list of ways that flex time can be beneficial to a business and its employees:
Promotes work-life balance
Flex time helps promote a better work-life balance by accommodating personal routines into the work week. With flex time, employees can start work later to take their children to school or find time for valuable self-care. Work-life balance is essential to mental and physical health and businesses usually find that employees with better work-life balances produce higher quality work. A business that allows people more control over their schedules may also be more attractive to potential candidates, which increases the talent pool.
Many candidates find it difficult to balance work and family commitments. Flex working has some advantages for families that don't have outside childcare support. Parents who work full time can take advantage of later starts and earlier finishes to pick up their children from school or organise childcare. This can decrease stress and result in higher quality output. Flexible working is also beneficial for working parents who are easing back into full-time employment after parental leave.
Helps avoid commuting issues
Flex time allows candidates to avoid commuting delays on public transport and heavily congested roads. Travelling outside of peak times can improve punctuality and attendance rates and reduce stress and anxiety levels, improving employee wellbeing. It may also reduce travel costs.
As employees have more time for their personal life and less stress and anxiety from commuting during busy periods, businesses may experience a boost of productivity. Improved mental health rates, reduced sick leave and potentially longer opening hours have the potential to improve production rates. This boosts revenue and helps businesses to hit key development milestones. This may also help team members progress in their careers, increasing their chances of promotion and pay rises.
Improves employee retention
Team members that benefit from flex time often experience more job satisfaction, which may lead to higher retention figures. Team members who feel valued and in good physical and mental health are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. It can encourage company loyalty and may result in higher career development opportunities.
Extended operating hours
In the absence of conventional working hours, businesses may have enough employees to keep trading later in the evenings. This is useful for industries that require regular contact with their customers. With more employees available, businesses can operate longer hours, potentially increasing revenue and promoting more development opportunities. Customer-facing roles may benefit from this the most.
Saves money on certain expenses
Some businesses include remote working under their definition of flexible work. Remote working is a great way to save money on commuting and expenses like lunch or dinner. This may increase job satisfaction and help employees to reach personal goals much faster. Remote working can increase productivity because employees feel more comfortable and confident in their own space. Even without remote working, employees that use public transport may financially benefit from not travelling at peak commuting times when prices are often higher and travel conditions worse.
What industries benefit from flexible working?
Different industries use flexible working patterns for different reasons. Some use it to increase job satisfaction, whereas others use it because their business is open for extended periods of time, such as in an emergency clinical setting. Below is a list of industries that implement flexible working patterns:
Health care and clinics
Other industries that offer freelance and remote work
Examples of flex working patterns
Below are some examples of flexible working patterns:
Staggered hours are hours that differ from one employee to the next. This means that one employee may finish work at 4:30pm, while the other finishes at 6pm at the end of business. This ensures consistent workflow at all business hours. This pattern may be beneficial for customer service-based industries that use phone lines or email engagement.
A varying schedule means there is a regular change of work hours from one day to the next. For example, a team member may start work at 9am on Friday, but 10:30am on Monday. This schedule is beneficial for those who often have appointments or personal engagements and require regular flexibility. Regardless of the start time, people with variable schedules still perform the same amount of work over a set period, by either starting earlier or finishing later.
A split-shift is when an employee takes a long break during their work hours. This may be beneficial for those who work long hours, i.e. in the healthcare sector. Employees may work from early in the morning with a break of several hours in the middle of the day before resuming their shift.
Short-term flexibility refers to a system of flexible work in which an employee's work hours vary over a short period of time. This could mean you work shorter days in one month before resuming normal working hours afterwards. This can be beneficial for employees who have experienced an illness, new parents or those still in part-time study at university. This offers employees a chance to trial flexible working patterns to assess whether it improves their work-life balance or working quality.
Related: What are Average Work Week Hours? (With FAQs)
How to implement flex working
If you're a manager or leader, you may decide to implement flex time for your team members. Here is a step-by-step guide you can use to help you:
1. Think of how it may benefit employees
Before employing any policies, assess whether the current work situation is beneficial or productive. This can be from a mental health standpoint or productivity. Consider encouraging employees to discuss any concerns or queries about current working patterns to understand their views.
Related: What Is Workplace Flexibility and How Can It Benefit You?
2. Get opinions from team members
After careful consideration, ask employees for their opinion on flexible working. This may be of value to employees and provide them with an excellent opportunity to ask questions. Getting their opinion should help you decide whether flexible working is necessary at all. This form of open discussion promotes good communication and upholds integrity and transparency, fostering better working relationships and increased job satisfaction.
3. Develop a policy and rules for flex time
Once you have made your decision, develop stringent guidelines to ensure there is no abuse of flexible working patterns. These guidelines may help address any concerns or clear up any confusion. Ensure the rules are realistic and applicable to changing circumstances. You may wish to highlight the potential benefits from a personal and company standpoint, as this may lead to better reception.
4. Roll out flex time schedules
Your next step is to initiate the policy for flex time, but before implementing a permanent policy, set a trial period to see whether flex working is both practical and beneficial. Trial-based policies ensure managers can quickly return to normal operations, given that the policy was ineffective. During the trial period, consider asking employees what they think about the flexible working patterns. This not only shows that you appreciate their point of view, but it also helps quantify the benefits of flex time.
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