Yesterday marked the first official day of summer and the longest day of daylight this year. (Although, if you are located in South Carolina like us, it’s tough to believe that this string of upper 90s could be anything other than summer!) For many employers, summer marks the beginning of the requests for sneaking out early, showing up late, and taking time off to soak up the sun. As a manager or employer, how do you begin to decide between flexibility and the need to show up and get stuff done? Many companies have made four-day workweeks feasible, but how do you know if your company is capable of making that leap?

Flexible work schedules are often associated with increased satisfaction, reduced tardiness, and increased company loyalty. Despite the fact that standard work hours see a decrease, flexible work hours often result in increased productivity overall.

It’s not a guarantee though. Offering employee flexibility has been known to backfire. Some employees are too afraid to use the benefit because they feel that doing so will show a lack of commitment. Sometimes, the flexibility is just too much to manage. With different schedules, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep everyone on the same page.

So should you offer flexibility? It’s really up to you, but it should be a strategic decision based on what’s best for your organization and employees, not just because it’s the last HR fad to come across your desk.

Here are four things you should never forget when experimenting with flexible work schedules:


1. Start with an actual experiment. Don’t get in over your head right off the bat! Stick with a small change that is easy to manage and track. Perhaps offer the option to leave early on Fridays through Labor Day. That way you’ll have time to analyze the impact it has on your company and evaluate if it’s a practice you should continue in the future.

2. Address role differences. Flexibility doesn’t always translate to certain roles. For example, if your customer support hours are 9 to 5, you are going to need to have someone available to respond. If you only offer the perks to certain departments, it can create animosity between team members and cultural divides. Make sure you are upfront with mission critical team members, and explain to them why they are valuable and needed for those specific hours. Also, don’t be afraid to get creative! See if there’s a way to rotate, or have other departments help out so everyone can enjoy the benefit.

3. Set clear expectations. Certain events are going to trump heading to the pool early. Client meetings, deadlines, or other important projects might take precedent for you and your organization. Make sure you are up front with the entire team so they know when is and is not appropriate to use the benefit. Employees will also feel much more comfortable using their time if clear expectations are set.

4. Up your planning game. In order for flexible schedules to really work, you are going to have to put in a little leg work up front. Make sure you have a tracking system in place to make sure that schedules, deadlines, and important meetings are covered by the appropriate staff so nothing slips through the cracks. Also make sure to over communicate everything! Reduced face time between team members can be a good thing, allowing more time for heads-down work, but you want to avoid any possible communication gaps. Don’t be afraid to lean on technology! There are lots of project and employee management tools to help you along the way.

Do you set summer hours or have you experimented in flexible work weeks? Share your experience in the comments below.

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