Flextime

The most requested, easiest to manage, and most affordable flexible work option, flextime offers flexibility in arrival, departure and/or lunch times, typically with a designated core-time mid-day during which all staff are present. Even when some jobs aren’t suitable for other flexible work arrangements, a flextime option may be feasible. For many staff members, an adjustment to some part of the job’s timing can make a big difference in the ability to manage life’s many demands.

How Does Flextime Work?

Flextime scheduling options include:

a. Individualized starting and quitting times that remain constant throughout the workweek or longer (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or at some other logical interval). For example:

  • Staff member 1 (on a 35 hour workweek) works 8am to 4pm daily.
  • Staff member 2 (on a 35 hour workweek) works 9am to 5pm daily.

b. Individualized starting and quitting times that vary daily but retain the same number of total hours worked daily. For example:

  • Staff member 3 (on a 40 hour workweek, with 9:30am to 4:30pm designated as core hours) works 7:30am to 4:30pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and works 9am to 6pm Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Staff member 4 (on a 40 hour workweek with no core hour requirements) works 7:30am to 4:30pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and works 12pm to 9pm Tuesday and Thursday.

c. Individualized starting and quitting times daily with the same number of hours worked weekly. For example:

  • Staff member 5 (on a 37.5 hour workweek, with 9am to 4pm designated as core hours) works 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday and Wednesday, 8am to 4pm Tuesday and Thursday, and 8:30am to 5pm on Fridays.

d. Extended lunch times offset by adjusted start or end to the day. For example:

  • Staff member 6 (on a 40 hour workweek with no core hours) works 8am to 6pm daily, with lunch scheduled for 11:30am to 1:30pm.

Benefits

  • Expands service, encourages cross-training, recruitment and retention.
  • Reduces stress through the ability to better balance work and personal responsibilities.
  • Improved coverage and scheduling.
  • Allows for fitness activities at lunch time, early departure for school or community activities, and/or timely childcare drop off and pick up.
  • Offers a range of time frames for arrival and departure (e.g., commuting during low traffic times).

Challenges

  • Requires outcomes management.
  • Requires increased efforts regarding communications between team members and/or staff and supervisor.

Considerations

  • Is the arrangement right for the office/job?
  • Can the job be done at hours outside the range of traditional workweek hours?
  • Will the organization's overall mission be met with this adjustment in place?
  • Is it necessary for all staff members in a similar job or in a unit to work the exact same schedule?
  • Will customers' needs be met?
  • Is staff interaction an important component of the work?
  • Is the arrangement right for the individual?
  • Does the staff member require supervision or access to a supervisor at all times?
  • Will it be necessary to monitor arrivals and departures?

Next Steps

  1. Review the Guidelines for Managing and Working Flexibly, along with the Working Together for Success and Common Questions sections below.
  2. Complete Staff Member Flexible Work Arrangement Self-Assessment.
  3. Prepare a written proposal for your supervisor to clarify the desired arrangement and the likely benefits to the organization. The proposal should focus on the business case and be in alignment with your manager’s work style. Highlight the benefits to your supervisor and team. Contact Human Resources at qowl@hr.upenn.edu for assistance with drafting your proposal.  Be sure to include the following:
    1. advantage to the unit
    2. proposed work plan
    3. proposed schedule
    4. plan for communication/cooperation
    5. plan for continuity
  4. Present your proposal to your manager/supervisor and ask how you can make your proposal stronger.
  5. If the proposal is accepted, a formal agreement can clarify approved plans and the pilot nature of the arrangement. A pilot experience of 3-6 months is recommended.
  6. Develop a communication plan that covers how you will be reached, scheduling meetings, and communication with internal and external stakeholders.
  7. At the end of the pilot period, the arrangement should be evaluated. Either party may end the arrangement if it does not meet the organizational or personal needs.

Working Together for Success

Developing trust, encouraging staff responsibility and independence, and managing outcomes are important aspects of successful flextime management. Supervisors have found that staff members with flextime schedules are more inclined to practice self-management, work productively, and experience improved morale. In order to achieve these results, special attention should be paid to the following:

For the manager/supervisor:

  • Supervision. When a staff member arranges to be in the workplace for more than eight hours in a day, supervisors often feel they must put in more hours to monitor the program. Supervisors should be encouraged to think of themselves as a resource for their staff members, rather than an overseer, and to delegate or rotate some of the oversight responsibilities. Supervisors should attempt to delegate more responsibility or schedule work in such a way that the work can be done independently. Systems should be in place for obtaining guidance through email or telephone interactions or through individuals identified for providing leadership in the supervisor's absence. Supervisors should be prepared to work on possible glitches in the start-up stages and be willing to try to work them through before abandoning the plan.
  • Availability. There may be fewer staff members in the workplace at the same time due to a shorter span of hours when everyone is working together. Meeting times and interaction between staff members need to take this into account and be scheduled into core hours. 
  • Coverage. Thinner coverage may result in some work challenges. Turnaround time may need to be adjusted, or special tasks/projects may need to be distributed differently. This must be a consideration when reviewing requests for adjusted schedules.
  • Overtime. Weekly paid staff members must receive prior authorization from supervisors before arranging for more than 40 hours of work in a work week, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Remember: out of sight does not mean not at work. One of the most difficult aspects of managing staff working during non-traditional work hours is maintaining confidence in the staff member's commitment to work and productivity even when you cannot observe the work being done. It can be challenging to overcome the mindset that work is done more effectively during traditional work hours. Individuals who care about their performance and are committed to the organization will alter a flexible arrangement if it is not working. Individuals with productive work histories typically will remain productive with a changed schedule, especially one requested to meet a personal need or preference.
  • Manage for results. In order to effectively manage for results, criteria for success should be established at the beginning of the arrangement, as well as prioritization of which tasks are most critical and which can be deferred. By setting outcome goals, milestones and time lines, production can be measured and fears of lost productivity allayed.
  • Establish review periods. Set intermediate reviews to determine progress on tasks. Intervals can be set based upon completion of certain tasks or on a recurring convenient basis.

For the staff member:

  • Communication. Co-workers need to be kept informed of your typical schedule. This calls for extra attention to communication for the first few weeks. After that, problems with customers or coworkers should diminish. A weekly work schedule should be posted in a prominent visible place. If your schedule changes often on a regular basis, communication about the changes needs to be constant and consistent.
  • Accessibility. While you are offsite you should be accessible during specified periods or within a reasonable amount of time. Some individuals use beepers to facilitate this, others schedule specific communication times.
  • Accommodate changes in circumstances. When jobs change either in their nature or in their interrelationship with the overall objectives of a department, aspects of the flextime arrangement may have to be adjusted or it may signal that it’s time to return, at least temporarily, to a standard schedule.
  • Accommodate seasonal changes.  When there are department needs that occur seasonally and may conflict with a flextime arrangement, it may have to be adjusted or suspended temporarily.

Common Questions

"Everyone will be coming and going when they please. How will we be able to get the work done?"

The business needs of the work unit remain the primary concern. Most staff understand and support this priority. In practice, most staff do not vary their schedules much even when offered the opportunity to do so.

"Won't I have to work longer hours in order to supervise everyone on flextime?"

Some supervisors assume that they need to be on site whenever their staff members are working. However, this isn’t the best way to manage flexible schedules. An additional benefit of flextime work is that staff members can be encouraged to self-monitor and supervisors can be a resource for staff rather than overseers.

"What if no one is here to answer the phone?"

If everyone appears to want to “flex” at the same time, schedules must be adjusted in order to assure coverage.

"What do I do if staff members come in late or leave early without making up time?"

Flextime is a privilege, not a right. If staff members abuse the system, they can be required to return to a standard schedule.

"Who is responsible for establishing flexible scheduling?"

Both staff members and supervisors can propose implementing flexible scheduling. However, supervisors have the final say when implementing flextime on either a case-by-case basis, or as a program within their departments. Because flextime is so popular, however, they are encouraged to experiment with a program approach.

"How will this affect benefits and compensation?"

Staff members on flextime earn the same rate of pay and are eligible for the same benefit programs as those working on a traditional schedule. Overtime and bonus eligibility are on the same basis as for traditional schedule workers as well.