The 21st century lifestyle is besieged by endless choices. Paper or plastic? Cash or card?
Facebook or Instagram?
And then there’s the fairly recent question hounding both employers and employees: Flexi or Fixed? (I’m talking about working hours, mind you, not salaries).
The rise of the remote work model has changed the expectations of many workers with regards to their working hours. In the US alone, more than 20 million Americans have chosen part-time work over its full-time counterpart, even if it meant missing out on a bigger paycheck. Apparently, this is down to more and more people engaging in a more deliberate work-life balance, which flexi-time is known to provide.
Still, if that was all there is to it, flexi time should be the norm for most companies in the world. But it isn’t. Why? Because fixed and flexible working schedules each have a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, and you need to look at both carefully to make the right decision for your company.
Under flexi-time, for instance, one advantage is that it empowers an employee’s autonomy. Because most remote workers are assessed on the quality and timeliness of their deliverables rather than on the time it took them to make such, there’s a lot of room in their work day for other things.
Someone who works remotely on a flexible schedule can take up additional classes to hone their skills, look after their children while working, skip out on an often arduous rush hour commute to and from work, and even get cracking at whichever time of day they’re most productive (i.e., early birds vs. night owls). All these things usually add up to a refreshed, productive, and happy employee who’ll not only work well, but will probably stay with the company longer too.
A flexible working schedule can also be offered as a non-monetary benefit, and when implemented correctly, can drastically reduce absenteeism and tardiness due to stress, sickness, and heavy traffic.
On the business side, offering flexible working hours greatly opens up an employer’s pool of candidates for key positions. Want the best search engine optimization (SEO) expert? Take your pick from applicants in your area or even someplace as far as Great Britain or the Philippines since they don’t have to be physically present to do their jobs.
Another advantage is that having flexi-time workers on your payroll can reduce your operating expenses. Fewer heads in the office means less energy consumed, less office supplies used up, and less space needed.
Lastly, having employees on flexible working schedules can allow you to offer your services to clients well outside traditional business hours, giving you a considerable advantage over your competitors.
Now, let’s talk about the possible drawbacks of a flexi-time setup.
Unless you are a self-starter who thrives on working alone, working from home, even on a flexible schedule, can prove difficult and perhaps even counterproductive. Having license to slack off is a grave misconception when it comes to remote work. You may get to pick when and how you go about your tasks, but you still need to deliver. If you’re not good at managing your time and keeping distractions at bay, you’re probably not a good fit for flexi-time.
It can also be isolating for some. When everyone on your team works according to their own schedules, getting everyone to be in the same place at the same time can require a monumental effort, so it can be hard to foster cooperative workplace relationships.
For employers, cost can be a drawback when it comes to flexi-time, ironically. Keeping track of people who work at different times throughout the day requires a whole different system, so you may have to invest in new software or technology to be able to monitor all your remote workers.
Another thing to consider is the challenge in overseeing the performance of flexi-time remote workers. Should there be a time-sensitive assignment, it can be hard for managers or supervisors to get in touch with key people for crucial updates or corrections if they’re on a incompatible schedules.
Because it’s been tried and tested, are fixed working hours the way to go? It depends.
On the plus side, working on a fixed schedule makes it easier to coordinate with people. Giving instructions to and monitoring the progress of employees working the same hours is a lot more manageable than doing the same for those working different shifts.
Having both a shared time and a common workspace can also help establish better camaraderie and as a result, stronger working relationships within a team. Productivity can even be heightened by the “normal” pacing and scheduling that fixed schedules engender, as these make it easier to focus on project deadlines, team initiatives, and company goals.
Then there’s the matter of compensation. With the exception of overtime and holiday differentials, it’s easier for employers to figure out their workers’ salaries if they’re on a fixed schedule as there are no irregular hours to grapple with.
What’s the downside? The lack of pretty much everything that flexible working hours can provide.
Let’s see: typical office hours are 9-5 pm, which means you need to hit the road around 8-8:30, along with everyone else. Depending on how bad the rush hour traffic in your area can get, the crush of the daily commute can stress you out long before you arrive at the office, and that’s not a good beginning for any employee who’s got a long day of work ahead. Do you think you’d be as productive if you came in to work all stressed and exhausted? Didn’t think so either.
As a result, employers often have to contend with high instances of absenteeism or tardiness due to bad weather, heavy traffic, or the train to work getting bogged down yet again. Imagine how that would impact your company’s overall productivity.
It should also be said that having only rigid work hours to offer can put off a lot of potential employees. Remember what I said in the introduction about how some people these days put a bigger premium on good work-life balance rather than on the size of a paycheck?
What’s the Verdict?
It ultimately boils down to the nature of the job, and the employer’s wherewithal to make things happen. Can it be done remotely, and do you have the structures needed to support the monitoring of such in place? Will the employee in question be actively facing customers during traditional business hours?
If the answer to the first question is yes, then by all means, proceed with offering a flexi-time arrangement.
A “yes” to the second question, on the other hand, indicates a better compatibility with a fixed schedule. Jobs like assembly-line manufacturing and hands-on health care don’t exactly allow for whole days working from home, obviously.
You can actually have a combination of fixed and flexi-time workers in your company, it seems. However, the real challenge now is deciding which ones can be given permission to work from home, and how to compensate those who’ll have to stick to the traditional timetable so that they don’t feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick.