Life and Family Challenges With Flexible Work Schedules?

Flexible Schedules Are Not Completely Problem Free

A man is working from home on his flexible work schedule.

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Employers agree on the life and family advantages of flexible work schedules for employees. The flexibility allows employees latitude when children are sick, for doctor’s appointments, teacher conferences, and the myriad of life and family responsibilities with which work competes.

Employers are not quite as convinced about the advantages to employers of life and family flexibility. You can address this concern with policies and guidelines about life and family promoting flexible schedules.

Survey Supports the Need for Flexible Work Schedules

According to a FlexJobs’ survey, "Working parents rank work-life balance (84 percent) ahead of salary (75 percent) when considering whether or not to take a job. Work-life balance was also named the top reason working parents seek flexible work, followed by family, time savings, and commuting stress."

The survey found:

  • "40% of parents who took a break in their career after having kids wanted to keep working but said their job was too inflexible to stay in the workforce.
  • "65% who took a break in their career after having kids said it was difficult to restart their career.
  • "69% of working parents have left or considered leaving a job because it lacked flexibility. 
  • "Among working moms, 29% said they had felt discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender, and 15% said they had felt somewhat discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender.
  • "Only 17% of working parents said they didn’t believe the gender pay gap and gender inequality were problems in the workplace.
  • "62% of working parents think they are more productive working from home than in a traditional workplace.
  • "Working parents are much more interested in telecommuting (82%) and flexible schedules (74%) than in freelancing (48%)."

Frequently Asked Questions About Flexible Work Schedules

Here are more frequently asked questions about flexible schedules.

What types of flexible work schedules are available for employees?

Depending on the flexible work schedule type the employee has negotiated with the employer, life and family responsibilities impact the employee in different ways. Employees who have arranged a compressed or four day week, or flexible daily hours, can normally work life and family responsibilities into their scheduled time off.

Teleworking employees have a different challenge. But, all parents face the challenge of child care in an unusual situation.

Question: Is every employee a candidate for a flexible work schedule?

That depends on your policy and the past actions of your organization’s managers and supervisors. If flexible hours are generally available to employees, all employees should be eligible. It is up to the organization to develop a policy that states how this flexibility will work in your organization.

Ask questions such as can every employee come and go at will? Or, does every employee need to inform his supervisor about his hours and arrive and leave as scheduled.

If unexpected life and family events cause an employee to arrive late or leave early, how does your organization want this handled? An email, IM, phone call or text message to the supervisor? It’s important to communicate appropriate procedure to employees.

A compressed week may not work for every employee’s job, so you’ll want to write a policy that states which jobs, if any, are eligible for a four-day work week. Because of disparate treatment and employees’ feelings about fairness, employers may decide that no employees are eligible for a four-day work week. In other organizations, particularly that use shift work, the four-day work week may make sense.

Special Life and Family Needs of Teleworking

Teleworking is the most challenging of the flexible work schedules. Successful teleworking requires:

  • An employee who is willing to work independently and alone and has the appropriate traits and characteristics for a successful long distance relationship,
  • An employee who can compartmentalize his life. (Yes, home repairs may be calling, but he doesn't answer the call.)
  • A manager who is willing to communicate electronically and who is comfortable supporting an offsite employee, and
  • A certain level of trust that the employee will succeed on the desired measurable goals and outcomes and that the manager will provide the level of support necessary for the employee to succeed.

Consequently, you will need a teleworking policy that allows the employee to apply for teleworking, but the employer must grant permission. The employer retains the right to agree or disagree with the employee teleworking at any time during the relationship.

Question: How should an employer handle employee time in unusual childcare situations such as a sick child who cannot go to daycare? Can the parent work from home?

On days when childcare arrangements are interrupted by issues such as a closed daycare facility or a sick child, require that the employee take a sick day, vacation day or PTO time to parent. Allow employees to use time in half-day increments, so the employee is not penalized when the childcare is a shared responsibility. It is unfair to an employer that an employee can care for children while he or she is working.

Question: How should telecommuting employees handle childcare arrangements?

Researching life and family-friendly flexible scheduling presented several controversial viewpoints. On the one hand, several organizations allowed employees to work at home so they could spend more time with their children.

Other organizations required alternative child care arrangements, by policy, for employees who worked from home part-time or full-time.

For telecommuting arrangements to work for the employer, the second method is preferred. Require, by policy, that an employee makes childcare arrangements that allow the employee to concentrate on their work fully.

Even if the caregiver and the children are in the home, the parent can still work uninterrupted yet, still have more time at lunch and breaks with the children.