Flexible Work Arrangements: Types and Benefits

Flexible Work Arrangements: Types and Benefits

Are you struggling with employee turnover and high hiring costs? Do you want to boost your workers’ productivity? A flexible work arrangement (FWA) might be the solution.

Many companies are now taking initiative in offering adaptable working options to full-time employees. Flexible work options have become increasingly common, with 45% of U.S. employees partly or fully working from home in September 2021—even as some companies are pursuing a return to the office as the coronavirus pandemic subsides. That’s nearly half the U.S. workforce!

Flexible work arrangements factor in employees’ needs outside work, helping them balance their personal responsibilities with professional obligations. Benefits include improved recruitment efforts and increased employee engagement and retention.

Knowing about the different flexible work options will help you choose an arrangement that fits your situation best, for your employees and your overall organizational needs. This article explains what flexible work is and describes the most common types of flexible work arrangements available.

What is a flexible work arrangement?

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) are employment options involving giving employees significant leeway in fulfilling their responsibilities. For example, an FWA may allow employees to choose start and end times and work locations that are convenient for them. Employees under flexible work arrangement programs may also receive logistical assistance from their employers in the form of child care and elder care services.

Companies using flexible work arrangements often require that the employee’s work meets core business needs for timing, albeit with some level of scheduling freedom.

Common flexible working arrangements

Flexible work arrangement is an umbrella term that covers many forms of work, depending on the needs of employees and businesses. Let’s discuss common types of flexible work arrangements.

Common flexible work arrangements

1. Flextime

Flextime is a working arrangement that allows employees to choose their start and finish times at work. Note that a flextime schedule generally requires employees to work a certain number of “core hours” within a specified period.

This gives employees more freedom in terms of managing work and other commitments, but it keeps them available for group engagement or customer responsiveness during specified times. According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, over 40% of respondents believed having flextime helped them be more productive at work.

2. Part-time position

Part-time work refers to a role in which an employee works less than 40 hours per week. The required work hours are fixed for a part-time employee. As of 2021, 25.4 million people working in the U.S. were employed on a part-time basis.

Often part-time roles are designed to attract students, parents, and other working populations who don’t want to or are unable to work full time. Such work arrangements also help businesses with fixed or small budgets reduce their costs by hiring a part-time employee instead of finding a worker for a full-time position. For example, part-time employees may not be eligible for certain overhead benefits or perks, such as employee insurance or retirement plans.

3. Remote work

Remote work refers to a work arrangement that offers employees greater flexibility in choosing their work location. A remote work arrangement lets employees choose where they work instead of committing to working at a specified place where the business is located.

The 2021 Future Workforce Report predicts that 40.7 million American professionals will be fully remote in the next five years. Even the social media behemoth Facebook expects 50% of its employees to work remotely by 2030.

Besides saving the average American worker about $4,000 per year on commuting costs, car insurance, gas, and clothing, remote work allows companies to widen their talent pool to find highly qualified workers from anywhere in the world.

4. Compressed workweek

Compressed workweek schedules allow full-time employees to complete 35 to 40 hours of work compacted into less than five workdays. For example, instead of putting in eight hours daily over five days to work 40 hours a week, employees can complete the same number of hours per week by working four 10-hour days.

The idea behind a compressed workweek schedule is to provide an additional day off. This arrangement is most popular in client-facing industries, such as utilities, retail, education, and health. According to a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by SimpleTexting in 2021, 95.4% of respondents said they would prefer to work four days a week instead of following a traditional five-day work schedule.

5. Shift work

Shifts are typically implemented in industries that require companies and agencies to operate 24 hours a day for five-day or seven-day workweeks. Employees work in rotations called shifts. For example, while one employee works during the day (day shift), another employee assumes the same job in the evening (swing shift) or at night during the same week (night shift).

Shift work is prevalent in industries like law enforcement, transportation, manufacturing, hospitality, health care, and the military. In fact, about a quarter of the American workforce are considered shift workers. Some industries adopt unique schedules with concentrated 12-hour days, allowing extended time off, up to seven days in a row.

6. Job-sharing

A job-sharing arrangement includes a full-time job split between two employees. Each individual in a job-sharing arrangement is responsible for the success or completion of the total job. There were an estimated 870,000 shared-work positions in October 2020. As you can see, this approach is less common than the other flexible work arrangements we’ve discussed so far.

The division of work duties varies. For example, two employees can participate in a job-sharing arrangement that divides duties according to a percentage split. Companies that adopt job-sharing arrangements often benefit from the quality of work since instead of one person, two people put their minds and efforts into resolving problems for the same cost.

Benefits of flexible work arrangements

Businesses reap many benefits through flexible work arrangements. Some advantages of adopting flexible work options include:

1. Attracting high-performing employees

Flexible work arrangements expand the number of potential workers for a company. For example, offering a remote work arrangement can allow companies to hire highly skilled and experienced talent even if they live across the world.

Today, professionals actively seek flexible work options to strike an ideal work-life balance. A 2021 survey of 10,000 knowledge workers found that 95% of respondents want flexible schedules and 78% want flexibility in their work location. Flexible work arrangements can help companies hire talent who would otherwise have been out of reach.

2. Retaining employees

According to Quantum Workplace’s 2021 Employee Turnover and Retention Trends Report, employees who are given reasonable workplace flexibility are four times less likely to quit their jobs. Employers who help their staff juggle work and personal life make significant strides toward retaining their valuable workforce.

3. Reducing absenteeism

Flexible work arrangements can help businesses reduce rates of absenteeism by allowing employees to work from home in circumstances that might otherwise have led to their absence from the work site. According to Airtasker’s survey of 1,004 full-time employees across the U.S., remote workers worked 1.4 more days every month when compared to non-remote employees.

Circumstances requiring time away from work vary widely and could include anything from taking care of family responsibilities to visiting the bank or doctor. Flexible work arrangements allow employees faced with such situations to fulfill personal obligations at fixed times and complete their work at other times of the day.

4. Increasing ability to handle stress

Working a traditional workday can be incredibly demanding, especially if workers also juggle other responsibilities. Constant high pressure at the workplace can increase employees’ stress levels, which sometimes leads to burnout and mental and physical health issues.

In these full-time work situations, flexible work arrangements can help. One study in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology found that flexible work environments led to an overall decrease in occupational stress among participants.

5. Boosting productivity

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by SimpleTexting in 2021, 98% of respondents suggested that a compressed workweek would improve their mental health. By nurturing employee well-being and boosting morale, flexible work arrangements can also improve employee efficiency and productivity.

6. Decreasing hiring and office costs

An average U.S. employer incurs a cost of $4,000 for hiring an additional worker. By increasing employee retention rates, flexible work arrangements can help companies reduce their hiring and human resources costs.

Flexible work arrangements can also reduce other operational costs, directly impacting a business’s bottom line. For example, when Microsoft Japan experimented with a four-day workweek, the company reported that electricity use went down by 23%. The range of flexible work options can benefit businesses by reducing their overhead costs, such as cleaning, office supplies, and food and commuting services they provide.

7. Encouraging a better work-life balance

Improved work culture and higher employee engagement are the primary motivations driving the popularity of flexible work arrangements. Such outcomes are possible when businesses assist workers in striking a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible work options. Contented and happy employees nurtured by a supportive work culture are instrumental to a company’s success.

Seek flexible working arrangements to boost performance

If your business is open to flexible working arrangements or offers remote work, why limit yourself in the type of workers you can hire? In situations where your company requires a resource for a limited period or for a new or specific skill, you can find flexible talent to fill gaps, even on short notice.

Gig work relying on temporary and freelance workers has become a vital part of our culture and economy. More than ever before, it’s possible to hire exceptional talent that prioritizes flexible work arrangements. Consider Upwork if you’re looking to hire independent professionals.

We have a large roster of talented independent workers who can help you meet your business’s needs.


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Flexible Work Arrangements: Types and Benefits
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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