Does Flextime Benefit You More Than Your Employees?

Are you resisting offering employees at your small business flexible working hours because you think it’ll give them an excuse to slack off? Well, some new research should convince you otherwise. It seems flextime may actually be less flexible than a regular schedule.

stop time

The 2012 National Study of Employers, released by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), found that U.S. employers are offering employees more options for managing when and where they work. The tradeoff for the employees, however, is that employers offering more flexibility are also requiring  them to essentially work more.

Compared to 2005, the study found significantly more employers are allowing at least some employees to:

  • use flextime and periodically change starting and quitting times within a range of hours (77 percent, compared to 66 percent in 2005);
  • take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (87 percent, up from 77 percent in 2005);
  • work some of their regular paid hours at home on at least an occasional basis (63 percent, nearly double the 34 percent in 2005); and
  • have control over their paid and unpaid overtime hours (44 percent, compared to 28 percent in 2005).

But although employers were offering more flexibility in some ways, they were offering less flexibility in others. The study found significant decreases in the number of employers allowing at least some of their employees to:

  • return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption of a child (73 percent, down from 86 percent in 2005),
  • take a career break for personal or family responsibilities (52 percent, down from 73 percent in 2005), and
  • move from full-time to part-time work and back again while remaining in the same position or level (41 percent, down from 54 percent in 2005).

In other words, fewer companies are letting employees take extended time off. So what are the costs and benefits of flextime? You’re probably getting more work out of your employees in the short term; a 2010 Brigham Young University study of IBM employees found that those with flextime worked an average of 19 hours more per week than those on traditional schedules.

But are you risking burning them out in the long term?

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a huge proponent of flextime and, as the study noted, offering some form of flexible hours is pretty much essential to attract employees these days. But as entrepreneurs, we have “flextime” too—and it doesn’t take a study to convince any smartphone-toting business owner that flextime doesn’t necessary lead to work-life balance.

Flextime is a great option for employees, but make sure you give them some real time off, too.

Stop Time Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

6 Reactions
  1. Thanks for sharing, Rieva! Very interesting article.

  2. I strongly believe that allowing employees greater flexibility can result in higher productivity (and maybe even more hours) because it shows trust…and if you don’t trust your employees, why did you hire them?

  3. The more you give relief to an employee more he/she will be productive, resulting in growth of business. This doesn’t mean to fulfill their all legal & illegal desires, but it does mean to take care of them.

  4. Robin Manougian

    Some of you know I used to work for Entrepreneur magazine; now I am part owner of an entrepreneurial company. As someone who used to have to adhere to a strict clock as an employee, I fully believe a flexible schedule leads to greater productivity. The flexibility to know when to put in overtime, occasional weekend work, work more hours fewer days in a given week, or stay later to come in later so they can attend a child’s event or appointment results in a happier, more productive employee. My office manager has been here 17 years and our most recent hire will hit four years in October. There’s something to be said for understanding people work to live not live to work. The costs of training are excessive (and the learning curve in my business steep). I’m not suggesting employees hold employers hostage, but you can run a successful business, retain employees who are an investment, and still not be a slave to a standard clock.