By: Lisa Taylor
Flex time is a variable work schedule in which there is a certain time in the day that every employee is expected to be at work (core hours), but the start and end times are flexible. The flex time clock below illustrates how it might work:
Employees are usually interested in flex time, as it affords them the ability to start or end the day early, depending on their personal schedules and work-life responsibilities. However, what are some of the benefits of flex time for an employer? Are there any benefits to it?
A compilation of 8 studies on flex time found some interesting results showing just how much influence a simple policy change can really have. The studies found that employees are twice as likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease when their workplace is not flexible in regards to caring for their family (e.g., leaving early to care for a sick child). Also, employees who work for a company that allows flexibility receive 30 minutes more of sleep a night; that’s 15 more hours a month. Finally, employees who feel conflict at work also feel out of touch with their children’s activities.
Flex time capitalizes on the principle of psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility is “the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being and to change, or persist in, behavior when doing so serves valued ends” (Biglan, Hayes, & Pistorello, 2008). Literal flexibility about when an employee needs to be at work allows a person to be more psychologically flexible and present at work, because they are not overwhelmed or distracted by outside problems. Recent research suggests that having psychological flexibility allows an individual to adapt to situational demands, shift mindsets and repertoires, maintain balance in various domains, and maintain consistent with our values. This flexibility also promotes overall health. These are all factors desired in employees, so it is in the best interest of employers to ensure that their employees do feel as though they have flexibility (both behavioral and psychological).
It’s becoming clear how a company can benefit from flex time. The repercussions of a rigid schedule manifest in all aspects of an employees life, which is why flex time can be incredibly beneficial in improving the health and happiness of employees. An individual with flex time feels more flexible and is able to be psychologically present and productive when they are at work. This can only increase their quality of work and keep employees happy, and in the end, keeping employees happy and healthy is key. Companies with a flexible culture have employees who support the organization more, and overall the company experiences 45% less employee turnover compared to organizations with more rigid scheduling. But, there’s a problem: the research also found that almost 40% of employees believe they are less likely to advance within their company if they were to ask for flex time. So, companies need to ensure that employees know they will not be discriminated against if they use flex time. If management in some companies is still unsure about the benefits of flex time, they need to educate themselves as soon as possible, in order to start changing to social norms within the office.
Overall, the more flexible the work schedule, the happier the employees. But clearly, flex time arrangements must be within reason for the company as well. After all, no one is suggesting that the following sign be installed in every office in the country: