Work/Life Balance Through Flexible Work Arrangement Initiatives

In today’s hectic business world, employees not only have heavy work demands, but plenty of family and home responsibilities, as well. The average employee is in constant search of some form of work/life balance. Employers can take steps to help their employees by incorporating flexible work arrangement initiatives into their wellness programs.

The use of flexible work arrangements is a growing trend for many established employers, like IBM, The Dow Chemical Co, Intel Corp, and Lexmark International Inc. These companies have seen happier, healthier, and more loyal employees as a result of implementing a flexible work environment.

Benefits of flexible work arrangements

Employers are using flexible work arrangements or flex schedules to attract and retain talent, and to improve the overall wellbeing of their staff. Qualified candidates and employees who otherwise might not be able to work 9 am to 5pm can make a significant contribution to the company with work options like compressed work schedules and telecommuting. Flexible work arrangements also allow employees to manage their work and home demands better. Childcare and elder care demands become less stressful. Less stress means happier employees. These arrangements can also benefit employers when they’re incorporated as an added, no-cost employee benefit or cost saving alternative to a reduction in workforce. Many companies who offer flexible work schedules notice an overall increase in employee morale, job satisfaction, and loyalty.

Work/life balance studies show that flexible work arrangements are also associated with employee health benefits. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s analysis of workplace flexibility and health behaviors concluded that employees with flexible work schedules are more likely to maintain a constant exercise routine, enjoy a healthier diet, and sleep better. Claire Bambra, of Durham University of the United Kingdom, also conducted studies on the impact of flexible work arrangements on employee health and wellbeing. Her results showed that employees’ physical health parameters (i.e. blood pressure, heart rate, sleep duration and quality, and alertness) were improved.

Types of Flexible Work Arrangements
There are several types of flexible work arrangements an employer can implement. The right type will depend on your corporate culture, nature of the job, and your industry. The ultimate goal in each option is to offer employees better work/life balance. Below are examples of widely used flex schedules:

Job Sharing – Two employees work half the time and share the job duties, roles, and responsibilities equivalent of one full-time employee.

Flexible Shifts – Employees work different hours in the day, usually earlier in the morning or later at night.

Compressed Week – Employees work less than five days a week, but work additional hours during the week to reach a full work schedule.

Summer or Season Hours – Employees work a compressed workweek, but receive time off during the summer or during the off peak season for that industry.

Telecommuting – Employees work from home or away from the office for a set number of hours or days.

Implementing a successful flexible work arrangement program
When implementing a flexible work arrangement program in your office, there are a few key elements that should be determined and discussed with senior management and your employees.

Create a written policy that is visible to your employees – Be sure to create a clear written policy that discusses eligibility criteria, required approval, and expected production goals.

Clearly define the employee’s roles and goals – Managers should discuss the company goals and employee duties that will be expected of them while participating in the program.

Determine communication mode and frequency – Communication is extremely important in a flexible work arrangement. Managers should determine the correct mode and frequency of communication that will be necessary for a successful and productive schedule.

The bottom line
Flexible work arrangements are getting the much-deserved attention they need these days. Research shows that flexibility in the workplace provides a variety of benefits, including greater attraction and retention for employers, and a less stressful and healthier lifestyle for employees. HR professionals can implement a successful flexible work arrangement program by implementing a clear written policy that addresses overall program goals and communication measures.

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