What is Flexi Time and What Are It's Benefits?
The idea of a ‘normal’, nine to five work week is fast becoming a thing of the past, as employees place greater importance on work-life balance than ever before. Greater numbers of employers are looking to accommodate flexible working requests wherever they can, with flexible schedules, or flexitime, being a good starting point. Whereas not every employer can offer flexitime, it is becoming a popular benefit due to its links to improved retention and motivation in the workplace.
A brief introduction to flexitime
Flexitime, sometimes called ‘agile working’, is a working pattern where employees can request their own working schedule. There are many ways this can be done, for example, through ‘hybrid working’ (a mix of office and remote working), choosing – within certain limits – when to start and finish work, or ‘compressed hours’, where a standard working week is reshaped across fewer, longer days.
Flexitime is increasing in popularity but is often overlooked in the workplace. The CIPD’s ‘Good Work Index’ (2021) mentioned that for flexitime to be more widely accepted at work, four things need to happen. Firstly, line managers need to be educated on the benefits. Secondly, senior leaders need to get behind flexitime interventions, supporting them from the first moment they are introduced. Thirdly, the impact of flexitime on customers and operational requirements needs to be fully investigated, and finally, consultation with employees should be conducted, to determine the nature of what they do at work and how this aligns to their wants and needs when it comes to flexitime requests.
How does flexitime benefit the workplace?
Managers and senior leaders need to have the benefits of flexitime demonstrated to them. From an organisational perspective, there are three main benefits of flexitime: productivity and efficiency, recruitment and retention, and change management.
Productivity and efficiency
Employees might request flexitime for two main reasons. Firstly, they might have commitments outside of work, such as childcare or a second job, or ‘gig’. Maybe they are going to classes or courses to develop themselves. Secondly, employees might want to work the hours where they are more mentally alert and able to perform at their best. Either way, allowing employees to structure their shifts with respect to these factors will mean that they are happy and relaxed. If they are happy and relaxed, then they will be efficient and productive.
Recruitment and retention
Being able to offer flexitime as a benefit makes your organisation hugely marketable for new employees. Job seekers who are currently entering the workforce place high value on flexitime, with Forbes illustrating that 92% of Millennials view flexible working as a top priority when jobhunting, and 30% of employees preferring flexitime over a pay rise. Given that not all organisations are in a position to offer flexitime, being able to do allows for an element of competitive advantage, but you have to be sure you can follow through on any promises made to employees, otherwise the psychological contract will be broken before it has even begun.
Once onboarded, those employees in happy and productive flexitime arrangements will be highly loyal to the organisation. Assuming those productive employees are also performing well, employers will not want to lose them, either. Being able to retain employees for longer because of flexitime is one thing, but one day they will eventually need to fly the nest. When this day comes, happy employees will also be more likely to recommend people to work with you, thus enhancing your employer value proposition and reputation.
Flexitime can be used to manage change or introduce change if it is needed. If a workforce is change-averse or fighting an unpleasant or disruptive change in the workplace (one massive upheaval in recent years being the Covid-19 pandemic), then flexitime can help employers and employees deal with these changes (one flexitime trend associated with Covid-19 being the rise of remote working). Employees will be more likely to accept change if they can process it on their own terms and work on it in their own way – flexitime can go a long way to help achieve this.
How does flexitime benefit employees?
Aside from improved work-life balance, employees benefit in many other ways from flexitime arrangements. Central to this is the idea of being able to develop themselves, and work on their own wellbeing.
Learning and development
Flexitime arrangements mean that employees might have more time to work on qualifications or studies in their own spare time. For example, if an employee needs every Monday off work to attend university, then a flexible working arrangement could accommodate this. Within the workplace, flexitime can facilitate the completion of ‘on the job’ training or e-learnings. Working weeks can be structured around training times and moments where a lull in business or tasks means there is more time to complete a training course. Managers can work with employees on organising working weeks to ensure that professional development is not left by the wayside.
Arguably the greatest buzzword in 21st Century human resources practice, wellbeing concerns the physical, mental, and financial welfare of the workforce. Flexitime by its nature means that employees will have more time to focus on their own wellbeing and be physically refreshed and mentally agile to do their work. Flexitime can also give employees greater confidence in leaving work on time or having days free to focus on wellbeing interventions such as exercise, family time or simply avoiding the rush hour.
How to make the most out of flexitime arrangements
It’s important to be aware of the challenges in implementing flexitime. As mentioned before, managers need to be coached on its benefits, but also on how to implement flexitime equitably, without accusations of favouritism or at the expense of other employees who work regular shift patterns. In general, the more employees who are working flexitime rotas, the more challenging it can be to balance everyone’s requests, meaning the risk of people feeling unequal will increase.
When implementing flexitime, ensure that you consider what you can and cannot offer. Work these red lines into a formal flexitime policy. Whereas flexitime can be formal or informal (the former being contractual arrangements, the latter being ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ between leader and employee), a formal policy is important so employees know what can be offered. Once an employee has entered into a flexitime arrangement, managers should conduct regular reviews with them to ensure that the arrangement is working out and meeting expectations.
Flexitime is an incredibly popular benefit to offer employees, especially at this time when the trend of atypical working has been accelerated by changing social attitudes and the Covid-19 pandemic. There are many benefits to an organisation which offers flexitime, and employees stand to gain a lot by considering a flexitime arrangement; both professionally and personally.
Like many workplace benefits, flexitime needs to be rolled out carefully to be considered fair and accessible to all and as such, a policy or formal procedure should be implemented which outlines what it is, how it can benefit the employee and how it is to be used.