Talent Connection Blog

To empower and engage their employees, many organizations are experimenting with nontraditional working arrangements. Flexible schedules are a hallmark of these efforts, but do they really have a positive impact on workforce development?

Depending on who you ask, answers will vary widely. Nowadays, flexible schedules aren’t exactly a new concept, and everyone – no matter their opinion – can cite data to bolster their assertions.

Yes, flexible schedules are valuable for workforce development.

Proponents of flexible schedules, which can refer to any work arrangement deviating from the typical five-day, nine-to-five, on-site norm, love to cite studies like this World at Work survey, in which a mere 2 percent of respondents report flextime workers as “less productive” than others. Far more respondents (44 percent) said flextime workers were equally or more productive than their on-site counterparts.

And it makes sense. When you’re not tied to a desk during a specific, eight-hour time block every day, you can focus more on your work because you’re less stressed about other things. Childcare, housekeeping, errands, traffic… You just don’t have to worry about those issues as much.

At Talexes, we find this pattern again and again at organizations that embrace flexible schedules. Less stressed workers are happier workers. And who would argue that happier employees are detrimental to workforce development?

No, flexible schedules don’t really benefit workers and employers.

It’s easy to characterize flexible schedule skeptics as heartless, workaholic, corporate-types with unreasonable expectations. But that wouldn’t be fair, and we won’t do it – especially since much of the criticism of flexible schedules comes down to simple pragmatism.

According to an experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, many bosses develop a “morning bias” toward employees who don’t show up at the time they’d be expected to arrive under a traditional schedule. The flextime workers were given lower performance ratings, even when actual performance matched that of their nine-to-five peers.

Now we realize that’s not fair to flextimers, and it’s the sort of thing we strive to identify when we consult with organizations. At the same time, this scenario does create a potential workforce development problem. After all, it’s hard to “develop” a workforce when participants are subject to the arbitrary prejudices of superiors.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question.

It could also be that flexible schedules don’t have much to do with workforce development. Perhaps they’re a neutral force with the potential to yield positive or negative results for employer and employee depending on the nature of the arrangement.

Whatever the case, flextime is here to stay. Could your company benefit from allowing employees the freedom to create their own work schedules – or would it create a rift between managers and the managed?

For additional guidance on workforce development, contact Talexes today . We’ll help you identify tools and strategies that do empower your employees, no matter how they prefer to work.