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Flexible work arrangements: definition, types, policies, pros & cons


June 8, 2023


June 16, 2023

Have your team members embraced the benefits of home office a few days a week? Working flexibly is part of the norm for most organizations. Yet, implementing flexible work arrangements doesn’t only mean hybrid work. There are plenty of other flexible work policies companies can opt for. Flextime, shift swapping, or compressed weeks models are some of them, just to mention a few.

But why is flexible work a must to remain an attractive and competitive business? What are the pros and cons of these new ways of working? How can you enjoy more of the perks and fewer of the downsides? This is what we are going to explore in this article. 

As a leader in workplace management, we place flexible work schedules at the heart of everything we do. After years of analyzing the future of work trends and the different types of flexible work arrangements possible, we have become experts on this topic. We will share all you need to know about this modern and unavoidable working style

Meaning of flexible work arrangements

Before digging into the topic, let’s quickly define flexible work arrangements. This modern working style implies that businesses allow employees to embrace more flexibility in their professional lives. This may be in terms of time or location. 

For example, a flexible workforce can be required to perform the amount of weekly working hours stated on their contract over four or five days. As long as the number of hours per week is completed, they are free to choose to work eight or ten hours a day.

Types of flexible work arrangements

According to your industry and workforce, you might think implementing more flexibility in your work environment is impossible. It simply wouldn’t work. But the good news is that many forms of flexible work arrangements exist. This allows you to align with the trends of the future of work while still matching your business’s and your employees’ needs.

Here are the major types of flexible work models: 

  • full remote work schedule;
  • full office;
  • hybrid work model;
  • flexitime and staggered hours;
  • compressed hours;
  • part-time jobs;
  • unlimited time-off;
  • annual hours;
  • job-sharing;
  • distributed teams;
  • shift swapping;
  • phased retirement.

👉Discover more in detail about the 12 examples of flexibility at work.

Benefits of flexible work arrangements

Align with employees’ expectations

Most workers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, expect flexibility in their professional lives. A rise in flexible work practices has marked the last couple of years. Studies prove that employees aren’t less productive or efficient with this working model, quite the opposite. Therefore, people don’t see why companies would stick to a strict and fixed working schedule and expect them to embrace these new ways of working.

Reduce office costs

Another significant advantage of flexible work arrangements is the impact it has on office costs. Many consequences of this working style enable companies to reduce their expenses. For example, how your office is used changes when half of your team works from home or a third workplace. Not only might you be able to decrease the size of your workspace, but you definitely see a drop in your energy bills.   

Boost productivity

As you can read in our article about hybrid working, 64.3% of Millennials and 63.4% of Gen Z declare being more productive in a hybrid work environment. Some of the explanations include:

  • adapting working hours to peak productivity hours;
  • having more time for physical activity (= better focus);
  • being less distracted;
  • being less stressed;
  • having higher levels of happiness and job satisfaction.

Good to know: studies show that happy employees are 12% more productive than others. This is another excellent reason to make your staff happier by implementing flexible work arrangements. 

Improve work-life balance

Reaching a better work-life balance is one of the core reasons people want more flexibility at work. They can adjust their schedules to juggle work-related and personal responsibilities better. They can finally enjoy a morning run, or bring the kids to school without stress, and start the day on the right foot! Improving the equilibrium between private and professional lives isn’t only great for your staff. Businesses also benefit from this perk of flexible work as it boosts employee happiness, experience, satisfaction, and productivity.

happy girl working from home with her laptop and mobile phone

Retain and attract talent

As flexible work is a major employees’ expectation, it obviously plays a crucial part in retaining your workforce and attracting talent. Let’s say you are looking for a new head of marketing. You offer decent remuneration and other advantages; however, the person has to be on-site every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If one of your competitors proposes the same job position with similar benefits but allows flexible work, you likely miss recruitment opportunities. This example is also valid when it comes to retaining talent. 

Decrease carbon impact

At home, as much as in the workplace, being more sustainable and minimizing our carbon footprint is crucial for all of us. By working more flexibly, businesses and employees can lower their CO2 impact. If they stay home or go to a coworking space by foot in their neighborhood, they don’t have to use the car or other polluting means of transport as often. Introducing a BYOD (Bring Our Own Device) policy also helps be more sustainable as it decreases the need for equipment, which therefore reduces the sourcing of raw materials.

🍃 Looking for solutions to create a more environmental-friendly work environment? Check these 21 ideas for more sustainability in the workplace!

Woman working from cafe with many plants
Flexible workers can work from anywhere, like this green space

Downsides of flexible work policies

Impacts corporate culture

Working from various locations and at different times makes keeping a strong corporate culture more challenging. This is one of the downsides organizations often face when switching to more flexible working policies. Maintaining a sense of belonging and connection is difficult when employees don’t see each other daily or sometimes weekly. Yet, as flexible work is here to stay, businesses find new ways of fostering culture. 

Makes it harder to notice when employees struggle

Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be a negative consequence of giving your staff more flexibility. As employees work alone at home more, they tend to disconnect from the workplace, their colleagues, and, ultimately, their job. Moreover, from a leader’s point of view, noticing symptoms of burnout or trouble is more complicated when the team is working hybridly than when meeting in person and daily.

stressed and overwhelmed woman in front of a laptop

Triggers micromanagement practices

For managers who struggle to trust their team members, flexible work can encourage a micromanaging leadership style. The psychological effects of micromanagement have negative outcomes opposite to what you want when being more flexible with your staff. It creates a toxic work environment where employees feel unvalued, unhappy, and dissatisfied with their jobs. We invite you to check out our toxic workplace checklist to learn more about this topic and make sure you foster a positive and thriving atmosphere!

Puts cybersecurity at higher risk

Letting your staff work from multiple locations and various devices increases your cyber exposure. For example, working in a third workplace with public wifi compromises data protection and security protocols. 

Companies have to be well aware of that and provide IT teams with the resources they need to reinforce cybersecurity. Cyber risk management and risk mitigation strategy must be redefined to align with this new way of working without jeopardizing important and confidential data. 

Isn’t suitable for all job positions

Certain jobs require specific equipment or collaboration in person. It, therefore, makes it more challenging to introduce flexible work policies. However, we started this article by listing the major flexible work arrangements. We also highlighted that you can make your own rules according to your workforce and industry. You might not be able to allow remote work for all your employees, but trying to find an alternative for those who are needed on-site every day is crucial.

👋 Start a free trial of the deskbird app and give your employees more flexibility with workspace booking and week planning!

Tips for enjoying more of the perks of flexible working and fewer of the downsides

Ask your flexible workforce for feedback regularly

The core purpose of flexible work arrangements is to boost employee experience and satisfaction. Increasing productivity and growth will hardly happen if your staff is unhappy and unsatisfied. Avoid implementing a flexible work model because you “think” it’s what they need. Instead, ask your team for feedback, this will:

  • boost employee empowerment;
  • foster a more employee-centric approach;
  • understand your workers’ needs;
  • detect areas of improvement;
  • enhance employee experience and satisfaction.

Create a flexible work policy

As we discussed in our article about the idea of sharing a team expectations template, employees want and need clear guidelines. Creating a flexible work policy and sharing with your team what they can and can’t do in terms of scheduling is part of it. Having straightforward rules helps managers to:

  • get everyone on the same page;
  • avoid favoritism and abusive practices;
  • enhance a fair and equal work environment for all.

Maintain a positive and strong corporate culture

Building a strong corporate culture is already fundamental in a traditional work model. But how do you overcome the decline of the company culture in a flexible work environment? Doubling the efforts and focusing on this aspect is even more crucial when employees work on different schedules and in various locations. You can do this by:

  • keeping some days on-site;
  • organizing company events;
  • check for team-bonding ideas (online and in-person);
  • enhancing workplace connection.
2 happy female employees

Check your workplace analytics and redesign your office space

With the development of flexible work practices, employees use the office differently. First, it becomes a place where workers meet again, social interactions occur, and team bonding happens. This changes the whole dynamic of the workplace. It also impacts the way people work when coming on-site. Instead of working on individual tasks, they tend to focus more on group projects these days as they know they can work with their colleagues in person. Using workplace analytics, you can have better insight into these aspects and redesign the office space accordingly. This could, for example, mean:

💡 Do you want to know how to optimize space and cut costs with a flexible office? Learn how you can save up to 30% with these cost-cutting ideas!

Invest in the right technology

Working flexibly shouldn’t affect collaboration and communication. Yet, you can't expect to keep the same level of seamlessness without reviewing your communication strategy. Virtual communication requires businesses to invest in the right technology to make their team thrive no matter when and where they work. Keep in mind that everybody works differently. While some people are comfortable using Slack, others prefer sending WhatsApp messages to their colleagues. But communication tools are not the only technology you need. Among others, you also have to:

  • upgrade your cybersecurity equipment to protect and secure your data;
  • provide cloud-based and file-sharing solutions;
  • invest in the most appropriate project management system for your team;
  • equip your workplace with smart technology.

Improve and smoothen flexible work management using a desk booking platform

For managers and team members, keeping track of who is working when and where is key. A flexible work model demands seamless organization. As you might no longer require that much office space, your staff must still have access to the workspace they need when coming on-site. Collecting workplace analytics is fundamental to optimizing your employee experience and improving your flexible work environment. Investing in a desk sharing and desk booking platform like deskbird helps you cover all these aspects and more, as it:

  • gives a clear idea of who works when and where;
  • boosts collaboration and efficiency;
  • enables team members to manage their timetable autonomously and in a few clicks only;
  • provides businesses with relevant insight into office use that helps them strengthen their strategy;
  • reduces scheduling conflicts.

You now know the important takeaways about flexible work arrangements! Whether you’ve already embraced hybrid work or implemented other types of flexible work policies, there is no doubt that the future of work is flexible.

It has shaken the world of work and pushed companies to adapt to remain attractive and competitive. Working flexibly is definitely a benefit employees are not ready to give up, especially Millennials and Gen Z.

You now have all the keys to enjoy the perks of flexible work! But don’t forget, it implies some changes and efforts. As this working model represents a modern way of working, it also requires efficient technology and tools to make it work.

Request a free demo of the deskbird app to learn more about our desk booking platform and all the other features that support both employers and employees!

Flexible work arrangements: definition, types, policies, pros & cons

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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