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What You Need to Know About the Flexible Work Model

With the rise of technology, our jobs are becoming more flexible and accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. The COVID-19 pandemic has proved it's not only possible, but it's also more sustainable. According to Gartner's end of year forecast, "31% of all workers worldwide will be remote (a mix of hybrid and fully remote) in 2022.  This article explores how companies and organizations can better accommodate this growing trend for flexibility by implementing a variety of strategies like flextime and job sharing to attract top talent and increase overall productivity.

What is the Flexible or Hybrid Work Model?

The hybrid working model is a location and/or schedule-flexible arrangement. Some refer to the hybrid model as another word for flexible working. Some examples of flexible work include telecommuting or remote working, which allows employees to perform some tasks from home instead of commuting into a central office location. Another setup is when an employee can work a few days in the office and telecommute for the rest of the week, which is commonly known as the hybrid work model. This can be done either part-time or full-time depending on the arrangement made between the employer and employee(s) involved.

On top of a location-flexible arrangement, how does flexible working work? In a flexible schedule arrangement, employees have flexible days and/or hours to complete their tasks or projects. For example, instead of working from nine to five every day in an office setting for five days a week, some companies allow workers to set up a flexible schedule where they can choose their own hours. Both arrangements enable employees to achieve a better work-life balance while remaining productive contributors.

Types of Flexible/Hybrid Working Models

There are dozens of combinations for flexible work arrangements that go beyond offering flexible location and work hours. So, what are other examples of flexible working?

Flextime

Flextime is a more flexible arrangement where employees can vary their working hours. Flextime usually is discussed and agreed upon by both parties beforehand to lay out the start/finish times an employee will work. Deciding on a flexitime policy ensures the total number of hours will stay fairly consistent throughout your day regardless of you're working late or early! In some companies, employees have total control of their schedule and total hours. A good example is Amazon's flexible work schedule called Anytime Shifts where employees can choose their own schedule and can even work only four hours per week.

Compressed Work-week

As the name implies, compressed workweeks occur when an employee works for longer periods per day or shift in exchange for a day off; this is one of the most popular examples of being flexible at work. For example, if you usually work from nine to five from Monday to Friday, you are able to compress your workday into four days and start earlier or finish later and still make the total weekly hours.

There are more flexible work schedule examples that you can implement for your company, and to be honest, the possibilities are endless.

For more flexible options, check out our flexible working arrangements case studies.

Job sharing

While not as popular as flextime or a compressed workweek, job sharing is a good flexible working request example. It is a unique way for employees to share certain jobs or tasks. This can be an option when there are not enough full-time positions available, and the company wants you on board but doesn't need your entire workload all at once. It's important that job sharers communicate well with each other so they work as efficiently together as possible. Above all, effective communication is critical, especially when one person decides to take some time off from their shared responsibilities in the case when someone needs more days off than usual.

Agile Working vs. Flexible Working

Flexible work from home is pretty straightforward to understand, but now there's another concept that you might be exploring: agile working. So, what's the difference between the two?

Flexible Working

Flexible working is a work style that has been created for a specific employee or a group of employees that need more freedom in terms of their location and schedule.

Agile Working

Agile working, on the other hand, is the overall concept of improving performance and productivity through adapting processes. And one of these processes could be creating flexible work arrangements. This often means that an organization's operations will undergo a whole shift, with it no longer being focused on where or even when employees work but how well they perform in their jobs.

Flexible Work Environment

Okay, so now that you have a better understanding of the foundations to help you create a flexible working policy, the next question is: How to create a flexible work environment? One of the first things on your list is to build a solid digital infrastructure, so you can support flexible working requests from employees. This includes setting up tools, such as Slack, Notion, and other asynchronous tools that support open and transparent communication. Plus, get the right tools in place to connect all of your employees not just to collaborate on work but also to socialize.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Flexible/Hybrid Working Model

As we go deeper into exploring flexible work, you might ask, "Is flexible work good?" Well, there is no cut-and-dried answer. Flexible work schedule benefits workers because it creates more freedom. Employees can manage their working hours according to their needs rather than those of a boss or company. From the company or organization's point of view, it results in increased productivity. According to a flexible work study from IWG:

Eighty-five percent of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their business because of greater flexibility. What's more, 63 percent of those surveyed report at least a 21 percent improvement in productivity because of flexible working.

Other benefits of a hybrid work model:

  • Improved company culture and employee satisfaction.
  • Better collaboration and work relationships.
  • Improved work-life balance and mental health.

While there are numerous benefits, there are also cons of flexible working.

  • Strong in-office company culture may weaken if a hybrid working model is implemented incorrectly.
  • Collaboration and communication may be challenging for some employees resulting in miscommunication.
  • Remote employees may feel isolated.
  • The challenge of knowing who's in the office or working remotely at a given time.

Think about the pros and cons of this work model before planning to switch. Just like anything new, it's best to test and get the initial data. For example, can you test out the hybrid work model with 5-10 employees for the next three months? Having an experiment allows your leadership team to better understand the effort, resources, and mindset shifts that are needed to pull it off. Because let's face it, it's going to be a bumpy ride. But as long as everyone is buckled in and has a map, the destination to a hybrid work model is worth it.

Adopting the Flexible/Hybrid Workplace Model

If you're ready to adopt the different types of flexible working, it's time to sit down and consider the next steps. It might seem overwhelming at first, so here are guiding questions that can help you:

Is the hybrid workplace model right for your company?

Just because every company seems to be transitioning to a flexible work model doesn't mean that you have to. This setup is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Do we have the time and resources to implement it right now?

There's more to implementing a flexible working policy than installing Slack and sharing Google Docs. First, it's critical to check the legalities involved, as each country and state may have different rules and regulations.

What do our flexible working options look like?

As we discussed earlier, there are a dozen of combinations. For example, Microsoft employees can work remotely forever, but they would have to give up their desks in the office. And of course, you will have to consider the flexible schedule options.

Here's a good guideline for hybrid work models from TogetherPlatform.com:

  • Employees choose when/where they work.
  • Individual teams decide which option works best for them.
  • Employers decide which days are remote or in-office.

Asking these questions will give you a better understanding of what your flexible working policy will look like before implementing it. And once you start rolling it out, your employees and potential hires might start asking some questions too. Or if you're someone who is looking for companies that support flexible work, here are some of the most popular questions:

How to ask for flexible working hours during the interview?

If it's not stated in the job advertisement that the position allows for a flexible work schedule, try to ask an open-ended question about their culture. For example, you can ask, "How does your company support work-life balance for their employees?"

Can an employer withdraw a flexible working agreement?

It depends on the original agreement you have in place. Just like a traditional work contract, there are clauses as to when and which aspects of the contract can be changed.

Can my employer change my flexible working hours?

If you have a flexible working agreement in place, your employer can only change it with your consent. It's best to talk to your employer if you're planning to change some of your options, such as the total hours you'd like to complete each week.

Flexible Work is the Future of Work

Years ago, remote leaders were talking about how flexible work was the future of work. The COVID-19 pandemic has moved the timeline and the future starts today. That's why it's crucial for companies to start thinking of a flexible work model as a long-term solution. With that said, it's not the right choice for every employee or company. If you're considering which route would be best for your team, keep in mind what kind of company culture you have established within your organization as well as how much flexibility can help promote creativity or reduce burnout with your employees.