Benefits of Flexible Work

Benefits to the Department

Enhanced recruitment of highly skilled employees: Workers in all fields and at all levels are expecting more flexibility and control over their working conditions as technology and best practices make workplace and work schedules more and more variable. Managers are finding that for many highly skilled workers, the ability to set flexible workplace or time is as attractive as pay and benefits.

Enhanced retention of highly skilled employees: The cost of replacing trained, experienced employees is significant. Managers that find ways to accommodate employees who request flexibility at different points in their life path are rewarded by keeping experienced, engaged employees on board longer.

Increased employee engagement, productivity and health: Decreased stress due to use of workflex to fit employee life needs has a demonstrated return on the loyalty, focus and satisfaction of employees. This in turn brings new energy and talent to meeting the goals of the unit. It also contributes to decreasing stress and associated health problems that affect the University’s costs for health insurance – a primary goal of the University in this time of escalating health care expenses. Flexible work also reduces absenteeism since employees are able to adjust schedules rather than taking time off from work.

Extended office and service hours: Flexible work scheduling can add to the ability of a unit to meet its service delivery goals. For units with extended hours or round the clock duties, a variety of scheduling must be in place. Examples include nurses/doctors covering 24/7 operations of a hospital, resident hall managers and cafeterias serving students, or early childhood teachers covering a twelve hour schedule at a children’s center. These businesses need to have a variety of staff on different schedules to meet the needs of customers. Managers can accomplish this by working with staff to see who needs an earlier or later shift, who might desire part time employment, who might like a compressed schedule. This does not mean that each employee’s desires will always be met. The business needs of the unit must be the priority. However, collaboration with employees to find the best fit in schedule as much as possible is a smart and productive way to approach these situations. In this case, the use of flexible work schedules can extend traditional office hours to better serve customers.

Savings on salary and benefits: Part time employment is extremely desirable for many employees who have other pressing life responsibilities such as parenting or pursuing higher education. It is also a benefit to managers with limited budgets. Part time employees can be highly productive, as their work time is limited, focused and generally uninterrupted by breaks. Many managers find that an employee at 80% time is every bit as productive as a full time employee. For many companies, benefits for part time employees are also less expensive. At U-M, although some benefits may be provided to part time employees, the employee contribution to those benefits is higher than that for a full time employee, thereby relieving the unit of part of the cost of benefits, as well as the salary of an FTE.

Savings on office space and equipment: Telecommuting, or working from an alternative space such as home or other workspace, can save costs on office space, furnishings, utilities and computer equipment when deployed on a regular basis. Some small companies do not maintain regular office space at all, but use home offices or public meeting spaces to pull together employees for face to face meetings. Large companies such as Chase/Manhattan, Sun Microsystems and many others have saved millions of dollars by implementing off site work for large numbers of employees. This strategy can be very useful to the University if implemented on a large scale for workers whose primary activity is computer based. It can be useful for smaller units, especially those whose primary funding is grant income, who are responsible for contributing to the cost of space and equipment used on site. This strategy also decreases pressure on needs for parking on campus, and contributes to a healthier environment for the community by decreasing the number of people commuting long distances to work.

Benefits to Employees

Increased work-life balance: When given the opportunity to exercise flexible work options, employees are better able to meet their many obligations outside of work such as pursuing job training and education, caring for family members who need them and having the time to exercise and eat well.

Enhanced health and wellbeing: Helping employees handle and reduce stress is a top goal of the University’s MHealthy program after findings show that stress is one of the top three health risks of the University population. Flexible work schedules can help meet that goal by enabling staff to meet the often conflicting demands of work, family and self-care.

Possible reduction of need for additional time off for personal appointments: Working a flexible schedule gives employees an opportunity to take care of personal business without having to ask for additional time off such as assisting family members with elder care appointments, taking care of banking needs or other personal errands.

Possible reduction or elimination of commuting time and other work-related costs: A flexible schedule could reduce travel time by avoiding rush hour, eliminate a day of travel or eliminate almost all travel to the office. Savings include cost of gas, child care (particularly after school care), work clothing and meals at work.