Types of Flexible Work

Listed below are the primary types of flexible work options. They can be used alone or in combination. They can be a permanent or a temporary arrangement. There may be other, emerging variations that have not been defined here. As an institute of higher learning, managers should be aware of and understand the benefits of using such strategies to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce. At the same time, because the University has so many, varied types of employment, it is important for managers to assess when and how it is appropriate to use flexible work options, and to talk with employees about what might be an option for their particular position.

Flexible Start/Stop Times

Starting and/or leaving earlier or later than the “normal” office hours. This type of flexibility is becoming more and more common as we move beyond time-bound types of work that were typical in the factories of the 20th century. In fact, this type of flexibility is currently so common that many do not think of it as flexible work. Flexible start/stop times change an employee’s regular schedule to one outside the standard office hours of a unit. So, an employee that works in an office open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., requests that they come in from 8:00 a.m. – 4 p.m., or 10:00 a.m. – 6 p.m. Or that they change their schedule in a similar way a few days per week.

Compressed Schedule

Work scheduled within fewer than the normal five day week. The most common compressed schedule is “4 10s” – meaning 4 ten hour days rather than 5 eight hour days; or as is common for nurses, 3 twelve hour days and an additional 4 hours. Another variation that combines a part time and compressed schedule might be working MWF for ten hours each day rather than M-F for six hours per day.

Part-time Employment

A position that is less than 40 hours per week. This option is very popular for units with limited funds as well as with employees who have other obligations such as attending school, young children/school age children or elderly/disabled relatives who need care. UM benefits are generous (benefits for those working 20 hours per week or more) although employee contributions to medical benefits increase for those who work between 20-32 hours per week, and some of the benefits may be prorated based on the number of hours worked. U-M benefits are not available for employees working less than 20 hours per week.

Job Sharing

One full-time position shared by two part-time staff members. Staff members have the same job description and divide the responsibilities equally. When this happens at the University, it generally includes a full benefits package for each person, making the health insurance cost to the unit higher than it would be for one single employee. This type of arrangement is relatively rare but can be a good solution in some circumstances. The benefits of job sharing for employees are the same as the benefits of a part-time position – increased time to attend to other life responsibilities and goals. An example of job sharing may be two nurses that cover one position during the week, both working with the same patients.

Remote or Flexible Workplace 

Options may include Remote Work when an employee works three or more days per week at an off-site work location, or Flexible Workplace when an employee works three or more days per week at the U-M work location and the remainder of the time at an off-site work location. This could be done from home, or from a remote location such as a satellite office, or even a public location such as a coffee shop or library. Technology opens many opportunities for this type of work, however, any request to work off-site will need to be submitted for review, and in some cases that will include central office administration.  

Many companies routinely use off-site work in order to decrease the cost of company office space and utilities. Employees benefit from decreased travel and other work-related costs. Although caring for young children while working is discouraged, working remotely can reduce the cost of after-school care for older children and allow parents to be more involved in the neighborhood, school, and community (due to decreased travel time). Visit Remote Employment Policies and Agreements.

Phased Retirement

A gradual decrease in hours and responsibilities before full retirement. This option is very attractive to employees nearing retirement as it allows them to continue to be productive and engaged rather than experiencing a dramatic shift from full-time employment to full retirement. It is attractive to employers as it allows for knowledge transfer and retains highly skilled employees longer than might otherwise be the case. Issues with social security, health insurance, and Medicare eligibility need to be addressed.

Gradual Return to Work

A gradual increase in hours after a leave of absence for birth, adoption, illness, injury, or other life-altering events. This option is very attractive to new parents and others returning after illness or trauma as it allows for gradual acclimation to the workplace, greater bonding time for new parents and less stress for anyone experiencing a major life event. It is a win for employers in that it keeps talent on board and engaged rather than risking losing valuable employees and the ensuing costs of turnover.