top of page
Image by Corinne Kutz

Flexible Work & Scheduling

Building a Culture of Flexibility


Well-chosen and well-designed flexible work arrangement options typically pay for themselves and in some cases can enhance business performance and increase profitability. (1) Employer practices that allow flexibility- working outside of the traditional Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 schedule, or working remotely- are helpful to employees in balancing their work and personal responsibilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, flexibility around work and scheduling has, and will continue to, become a necessary norm for many businesses. This shift in flexible scheduling and remote work options provides both employees and employers new opportunities to nurture a family-friendly workplace environment and demonstrate that flexible work arrangements are best for everyone.


A truly flexible workplace needs both supportive practices and supportive managers. Options by themselves accomplish little if managers subtly or overtly discourage employees from using flextime, working from home, or taking family leave. Employees must know they can succeed in the organization, whether or not they use the flexibility offered. It is important to establish and maintain consistent flexibility policies across an organization that is actively supported at all levels of leadership, as well as modeled there. For flex-work schedules to be truly considered “accessible” an equitable application is critical. (2)  


What Research Says

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures, it is estimated that more than 66% of people are currently working from home. Businesses without flexible work arrangements have had to adapt to this new way of work, and some are finding that it is a welcome change, for both employees and the business. Now many of these employees are hoping to work from home even after the pandemic, with more than 40% saying they want to work from home even after the economy is reopened, with nearly 20% in active discussions with their employers to make it happen. (4)

  • A recent global survey of more than 2,800 respondents predicts the recent pandemic will be a tipping point for employee work-from-home programs. (8)  Employers cite increased demand for work from home from employees, a reduction in fear and resistance among owners and managers, increased awareness of cost-saving opportunities, and environmental benefits. (5)

  • According to a FlexJobs report, nearly a third of workers have sought out a new job because their current workplace did not offer flexible work opportunities, such as remote work or flexible scheduling. The 2019 survey of 7,300 workers found that:

    • Flexible-job seekers say work/life balance and salary are the top two factors when evaluating job prospects.

    • In exchange for a flexible work arrangement, more than 25% said they would take a 10% to 20% pay cut.

    • More than 70% said that flexible work would allow them to live a healthier life, and 86% said they would be less stressed.

    • 80% said that they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. (6)

  • In the 1990s Deloitte instituted a flexibility initiative aimed at improving retention of women. By 2003 retention rates of women and men were approximately equal, and the number of women in leadership positions had increased from 14 to 168. (1)

Time Flexibility
Stable, Predictable Schedules

Time Flexibility




Allowing employees to work non-traditional or modified hours, subject to the requirements of all applicable California laws.

Examples include:

  • Occasional flexibility: Allowing employees to come in later or leave earlier than usual to tend to infrequent personal matters, such as meetings at a child’s school. Employees make up time rather than taking leave.

  • Alternate schedule: An employee’s regular schedule may start earlier or later than other employees to accommodate personal demands/schedules.

  • Core hours: The employer sets core hours when employees must be at work or in the office. Otherwise, employees are allowed flexibility in completing their workday. If core hours are set from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., employees must work those hours but may start work earlier or finish later.

  • Compressed workweek: Employees work four 10-hour days in a week or nine 9-hour days in two weeks.

  • Part-time work: Offering part-time options allows employers to attract and retain employees who aren’t able to work more traditional hours/shifts. The opportunity to reduce hours can be mutually beneficial when employees are preparing to retire or coming back from parental leave.

  • Job sharing: Two employees work part-time, sharing a single position, receiving full or pro-rated benefits. This may allow an employer to retain two employees who wish to reduce hours when a part-time position is not feasible. Job-sharing employees also bring two sets of skills and twice the knowledge. They can check each other’s work and provide continuity on sick days and during vacations.

With communication, creativity and commitment, many employers have successfully incorporated flexibility at all levels of organizations, from entry level to the executive level, and across all business industries and sectors. In retail, for example, cross-training and allowing employees to swap part or all of a shift and letting employees take leave in small (one or two hours) increments are strategies that benefit employers as well as employees. (8) Manufacturing companies have adopted flexibility strategies such as compressed workweeks, alternative shift arrangements, shift swapping, flexibility in start and stop times, and employee input into break times. (9)



Modifying work hours is probably the most widely implemented family-friendly policy in the United States, used by employers of all sizes, and in all industries, with smaller organizations leading the way in regards to flexibility. Time flexibility can improve attraction and retention of employees while improving efficiency and productivity in some industries with, hopefully,  very minimal impact on cost.

Managing Workplace Flexibility in California


Due to the unique aspects of California law related to the California Workplace Flexibility Act of 2013 and other laws, employers should consider these restrictions before implementing flexible work arrangements. Read more here.  

Location Flexibility



Giving your employees the ability to work remotely some or all of the time. 

  • Having a prepared telework policy, as well as the infrastructure to support it. This will be a benefit to both the employees and the organization long after the COVID-pandemic as it will allow employees to work offsite, should the need arise.

  • Successful employers and teleworkers recommend establishing clear expectations, including an employer telework policy and individual telework agreements that specify work hours.

  • Be flexible. Things come up at home that do not come up at the office. As long as there are clear goals and expectations, having some flexibility will not be an issue.

  • Establish regular, clear, and expected communication regarding workload, schedule, and job expectations using  e-mail, Slack, or a similar tools. Document everything.

  • Employers who have successfully implemented telework arrangements often document increases in productivity, reductions in turnover, and lower overhead/real estate costs.

  • It is critical for employers to remember (and possibly document) that working from home is not a substitute for child care or other dependent care.



The COVID-19 pandemic has made many of the benefits of location flexibility, such as teleworking, obvious. It has allowed millions of people to stay away from their offices to help slow the spread of the disease, provided many with the ability to be closer to their children and other loved ones, and decreased stress and anxiety for some. In addition, providing the option to perform a job remotely, or to telework, may prove to be a financial lifeline for many workers and employers alike during the COVID-19 downturn, allowing the business to go on. In many industries, this benefit costs employers little to nothing to implement. 


For SHRM Members see: SHRM's Remote Work Resource Center

Think HR: Sample Telecommuting Policy

Stable, Predictable Schedules 




In some industries it is critical for employees to have a standardized, reliable work schedule, making it easier to schedule child care and other activities outside the workplace. 



Creating a stable schedule with a consistent number of hours and offering as much advance notice as possible of schedule changes reduces emotional and economic stress on employees and their families. Many employees, particularly low-wage and part-time workers, have schedules that change, sometimes dramatically, from week to week. Moreover, they often don’t know what their schedules will be until a few days in advance or schedules may change last minute. These situations create problems for employers, employees and their families, including:


  • Employees who are counting on full-time work struggle to make ends meet when they don’t work 40 hours a week.

  • When employees spend money on transportation and child care, they can lose money when they are sent home before working a full shift.

  • When an employee is expecting full-time work or expecting a certain schedule, they aren’t able to take a second job.

  • Child care providers may be unwilling to save a place for a child that doesn’t attend regularly, so parents with unpredictable schedules may need to find new providers.

Employers who offer stable, predictable schedules save on reduced turnover and associated recruitment and training costs and see an increase in employee morale and engagement.


A recent study of the clothing retailer GAP, Inc. demonstrated that more predictable and consistent hours are not just compatible with profitability, they can significantly improve a store’s bottom line. Sales in stores with more stable scheduling increased by 7%. Labor productivity increased by 5% and it is estimated that Gap earned $2.9 million as a result of more-stable scheduling during the 35 weeks the experiment was in the field. (10)


There are several scheduling software tools available as apps, including, without limitation the following:

Location Flexibility


  1. Platt, C. (2018, April). Family-Friendly Workplace Policies and Return on Investment. do/business-leaders/

  2. Kossek, E. E., & Michel, J. S. (2011). Flexible work schedules. In APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, Vol 1: Building and developing the organization (pp. 535–572). American Psychological Association.

  3. Gurchiek, K. (2020, May 19). COVID-19 Is Creating Telework Converts. SHRM.

  4. Global Workplace Analytics. (n.d.). Work from home experience survey results.

  5. Renolds, B.W. (2019, August 13) FlexJobs 2019 annual survey: Flexible Work Playse Big Role in Job Choices.

  6. Filipkowski, J. (2013, June). The family-friendly workplace: Integrating Employees’ Work and Life and the Impact on Talent Attraction and Retention.

  7. Matos, K., & Tahmincioglu, E. (2015). Workflex and manufacturing guide: More than a dream. Families and Work Institute.

  8. Williams, J. C., Kesavan, S., & McCorkell, L. (2018, April). Research: When Retail Workers have Stable Schedules, Sales and Productivity Go Up. Harvard Business Review.

bottom of page