Working With a Flexible Schedule

What Does Working With a Flexible Schedule Mean to an Employee?

Woman working from home on a flexible schedule using her laptop at her kitchen table.

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A flexible schedule allows an employee to work hours that differ from the normal company start and stop time. Particularly in an environment for exempt employees, those hours are generally 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., and tallied, they total a 40-hour workweek. (Any regularly scheduled work hours allow an extra hour for lunch whether the employee takes the time or not.)

In the past, flexibility has meant that an employee might work 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. every day as an option that gave the employee an extra hour in the morning in exchange for losing an hour in the late afternoon. But, today's employees demand more from their employers, especially Millennial employees.

They require different options for flexible schedules and even flexible schedules that can change based on their need for flexibility in their lives at any given time. So, for example, an employee might want a flexible work schedule, not every day but on days when children have doctor's appointments, when classrooms have parental helper opportunities, or when attending annual medical appointments for themselves.

In a non-exempt workplace, often industrial, production, warehousing, or customer-facing such as retail, medical caregiving, grocery, and service stations, a flexible schedule depends on the amount of interdependence required in the work. A nurse who works the afternoon shift will have trouble exercising flexibility, for example, if they can't find another employee to cover their shift.


A flexible schedule is also dependent on employee availability to cover all aspects of the job and all hours of the day during which a business makes products or serves customers.

Employer Expectations in a Flexible Workplace Environment

In all flexible schedules, the employer expects a full-time employee to work the required hours or more. A flexible schedule involves either a compressed workweek or flexible starting and stopping times. These are the approaches most commonly used.

Four Day Workweek

In a compressed workweek, the most common flexible schedule is a four-day workweek in which employees work four ten-hour days. (Variations on this flexible schedule exist including twelve-hour workdays but this is not recommended.) This flexible schedule allows employees to have an additional day for any activity that affords the employee more work-life balance.

In a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week operation, employees may choose to take Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off or any three days to meet their desired schedule. Employers will want to see that workstations are covered when they need to operate while still allowing employee flexibility.

Daily Flexible Schedule

A daily flexible schedule enables employees to come to work early and go home early or stay late and arrive late or take extra time at lunch that is made up. In this schedule, employers may require that employees work core hours, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., as an example.

Or, the employer may allow a flexible schedule that becomes the employee’s regular schedule, 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. every day, for example. This type of regular schedule that strays from the normal working hours is generally agreed upon by the employee and his or her manager.

Workplaces With the Most Flexibility

In the most flexible workplaces of all, employees come and go as they please when they please. They are still responsible for performing a whole job and achieving the goals of their position. But, if they can achieve them with only 15-20 hours in the office and working remotely the rest of the time, more power to them. These opportunities increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

Making a Flexible Schedule Work

In a typical workplace, a compressed schedule, or a daily flexible schedule, once agreed upon with the employee's manager, the employee is expected to adhere to this schedule as their normal schedule. When the employee works hours that are different than the agreed-upon schedule, the employee must keep the manager informed so that accountability exists in the schedule.


Even in the most flexible schedule, that allows employees to come and go at will, or telework, employers must believe that the employee is putting in their time and accomplishing their goals. The quality and quantity of the work must also reflect the efforts of a full-time employee.

In a flexible environment, trust is a significant factor. Measurable goals and clear expectations are also significant so the employer is comfortable with the employee’s ongoing contribution. 

Important also to employers is the recognition by employees that a 40-hour workweek is expected from exempt employees even when following a flexible schedule. This is important for employers to communicate and for employees to understand or a disconnect will cause tension and conflict between the employer and the employee.

To ensure that these factors exist for employers who allow flex schedules, a firm set of guidelines should be implemented and employees trained before the adoption of a flex schedule. This will limit any confusion or uneven or unfair implementation across your organization. 

The Bottom Line

A flexible schedule is one of the benefits that is most appreciated by employees—even more so by your millennial employees. The advantages when a flexible schedule is allowed, to both employers and employees, are key as you implement a flexible schedule.

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