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What is a flexible workplace—really?

What is telework—really?

How do we ensure our company culture advances with, and benefits from, our work/life programs?

How do we improve our recruiting and retention—and our bottom line?



Q:  What is a “flexible workplace” -- really?

A:  It is an organizational culture with programs and policies that let managers, teams, and individuals engage in a variety of work schedules and locations, while ensuring every business objective is accomplished with optimal quality, timeframes, and budget.  In other words, it means achieving superlative business performance by accommodating individual styles and needs.

Starting simply, it’s an acknowledgment that some of the best people may do their best work on a schedule other than 8am to 5pm, in locations other than the office cubicle.  A “flexible schedule” is usually defined in five forms:

Flextime when an individual arrives and departs each day at a time that is different from the typically prescribed office hours.  For example:
  • Bill’s hours are 6am to 3pm, so he can pick up his kids after school
  • Suiyet works 9:15am to 6:15pm, starting each day with an early-morning aerobics class
  • Kurt arrives by 11am and stays till 8pm, because his primary customer is in California (and he’s really a night person)

Compressed Schedule:  Working the requisite number of hours for a given period, but in longer hours across fewer days than usual in order to have paid time off during the work period.  For example:

    • Carlotta’s company has a typical 2-week measure of 80 hours, but Carlotta, an exempt employee, works longer hours to complete her assignments in the first nine days, and takes every 10th day off for personal errands and her children’s biweekly orthodontist appointments.
    • Trang’s company has a typical 5-day week of 40 hours, but Trang, a non-exempt employee, completes his 40 hours by working 10-hour days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; he takes every Wednesday off to volunteer at a local seniors center.
    • Sonja’s company has a typical month of four, 40-hour, 5-day weeks, but Sonja, an exempt employee, works longer hours with her project teams 18 days out of 20 in order to take two days off in the middle of each month to attend a Master’s degree program.

Job Share:  when two employees of balanced (not necessarily equal or identical) skills, knowledge, and ability each work part time, and share the responsibilities of a single job position, usually coming to work on different days to fill out the entire week.  For example:

    • Jack and Toni each have personal reasons for wanting to work part-time:  Jack is a couple of years from retirement, and wants to start cutting back on his hours; Toni has a new baby at home she wants to spend time with.  In their Customer Service Manager position, they share a typical 5-day week; Jack works every Monday through Wednesday, and Toni works every Wednesday through Friday.  They overlap on Wednesday to ensure each is fully briefed and knowledgeable about all the clients and each other’s work.  Each is paid and receives benefits according to a 24-hour week.
    • Andre and David are both associate counsels for their company; they each work 20 hours a week, but together they carry the case load of one 40-hour/week full-time position.  Andre works 8am-12pm each day; David works 12pm to 4pm each day at the same desk.

Part-time:  When an employee works fewer than the number of hours specified for a full-time employee; pay and benefits are pro rated accordingly.  For example:

    • Ken works 3 days a week, Tuesday-Thursday, 8am to 5pm each day, for a 24-hour week.
    • Madeleine works 5 days a week, Monday-Friday, 7am to 1pm each day, for a 30-hour week.

Teleworking:  Working from home or another alternative site outside the office, one or more days per week.  Often used in combination with other flex schedules defined above; for example:

    • Brad lives near the Bay Bridge; traffic is horrendous Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.  So, he teleworks from home every Monday and Friday, and comes into the office every Tuesday through Thursday, for a standard 5-day week.  Teleworking lets him start work by 8am Monday mornings -- instead of starting at 10:00am, exhausted after fighting traffic for 2 hours.
    • Karen is the key client contact for an important customer; in order to have close, regular contact with them, she teleworks from a small office at the customer site every Wednesday from 7am to 3pm, but works 8:30am to 4:30pm in her own office the other four days of the week.
    • Raj’s partner has been given a fellowship and housing at a university 160 miles from Raj’s office; now, Raj works a creative, part-time schedule:  teleworking from home all day Monday and Tuesday; traveling to the office on Wednesday and putting in a few hours that afternoon with his manager and team mates; working a long day in the office on Thursday, and driving back home on Friday.



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Frequently asked questions

What is a flexible workplace—really?
What is telework—really?
How do we ensure our company culture advances with, and benefits from, our work/life programs?
How do we improve our recruiting and retention—and our bottom line?