Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) such as casual dress and flexible hours have been around for decades. However, in recent years there has been increasing interest in offering flexible solutions to meet employee needs, spurred by the pandemic, an aging workforce, labor and skills shortages, and the expectations of Gen Z as they enter the workforce.
The shift to remote working during the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation that was already influencing work pre-pandemic. COVID-19 taught many companies and employees that it’s not only possible to work remotely, but It can be done productively, efficiently, and collaboratively.
According to research in Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index: Annual Report, over 80% of managers say they expect more flexible work from home policies post-pandemic, and more than 70% of employees say they expect to take advantage of these types of policies. Additionally, research from SHRM reported 55% of employees cited work-life balance and flexibility as very important aspects of their job satisfaction.
As employees and companies look to the future of work, it’s becoming clear that many don’t want—or can no longer support—a traditional 9-5 work model.
Benefits of flexible work models
- Reduce stress
- Increase productivity
- Increase collaboration
- Attract and retain top talent
Emerging work models
- Flexible hours
Flexible hours allow employees to work during the hours they feel most productive and also lets them shape their work schedules around their lives. For example, one employee may prefer starting work at seven a.m. to avoid rush hour traffic on their commute to and from work, while another may come in later so they can drop kids off at school.
Flexible hours can also accommodate splitting up work hours. For example, leaving work at lunch to run errands and then completing their work hours that evening at home.
2. Compressed workweek
A compressed work schedule allows an employee to work a traditional 40-hour workweek in less than five workdays. For example, a full-time employee could work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.
3. Hybrid work
Hybrid work schedules let employees work a certain number of days each week at the office and the rest at home. Employees may select which days they’ll be in office based on priorities such as important meetings and when other team members will be in for in-person collaboration.
4. Job sharing/Top sharing
Job sharing or work sharing is an arrangement where two or more people work on a part-time basis to perform a job normally fulfilled by one full-time person. This model often benefits parents and caregivers but can be beneficial for a wide variety of situations.
Top sharing is job sharing but at a leadership level. This work model is perfect for managers and leaders who are nearing retirement and want to work at reduced hours. This allows them to share their knowledge and experience a more phased, smooth transition to retirement.
5. Assignment-based work
An assignment model is similar to an agency model where different individuals form temporary teams to solve problems and run projects. They get a monthly retainer and a specially designed suite of benefits whether they’re working on an assignment or not. This model benefits a wide variety of individuals who want more freedom and flexibility, from those nearing retirement to those embracing the gig economy.
How HR managers can prepare for and manage alternative work models
- Talk to employees and listen to their needs
Modern work models accept the fact that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for employee productivity. Some employees will prefer a traditional work model while others need or want something more flexible. The goal is to make sure everyone can embrace a model that is healthy and productive.
Consider sending out a survey to collect feedback from employees about what is and isn’t working for them currently and ask for their thoughts on flexible work models. Doing so anonymously will encourage individuals to be more candid with their thoughts and expectations.
2. Create a framework and set expectations
Once you’ve determined which flexible work models interest your employees and which make sense for your organization, start planning an implementation strategy. It may take some time, and may require a phased approach, or even the help of an outside consultant.
Create a framework that will continue to deliver on the business’s strategy and goals. Set clear expectations, boundaries, and performance targets for managers and individual contributors.
3. Monitor and adjust as necessary
Monitor and measure performance against goals and targets and continue to solicit feedback from employees about how it’s working. A new work model isn’t likely to be a set it and forget it experience. Adjustments may need to be made over time.
The goal is to find a balance between flexibility and consistency. Watch out for burnout and blurring the lines of home and work. Sometimes a flexible model can lead to employees never truly shutting off, and an exhausted workforce is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
When implemented with thought, care, and honesty, flexible work models can reap great benefits for employees and employers. SHRM research shows that participation in FWAs in recent years has yielded positive results for companies’ recruitment and retention.
Need additional help with recruitment and retention?
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