Flexible work has been a hot topic amongst HR professionals since telecommuting became mainstream in the 1980’s. It has been framed as an option primarily for office workers, and those who earn a salary rather than an hourly wage. Flexible work for office based workers not only encompasses telecommuting, but also compressed work weeks, job sharing, and alternative work schedules.

Thanks to a considerable amount of study on the subject, we now know who flexible work affects the most, as well as positive outcomes associated with it:

Employee Engagement

The results from a recent survey by Gallup show that the American workforce is largely disengaged in their work, leaving companies on the hook for huge costs. The same survey showed that employees were more likely to be engaged and productive when given flexible work arrangements.

Retention

89% of companies reported a positive correlation between flexible work and retention according to a survey conducted by the SHRM. The savings for companies that have a low turnover rate are significant as the average cost of replacing an employee earning $8 per hour is roughly $3,500.

Mothers and Millennials

Flexible work arrangements have often been cited as a way for women to break the glass ceiling at work; due to the fact that it is increasingly difficult for women to climb the corporate ladder and have a family at the same time. In addition, an astounding 37% of millennials would take a pay cut if it meant they could receive flexible work arrangements, and 89% feel that work-life balance is essential to happiness at work.

Left Out of the Conversation

However, hourly and part-time workers are largely left out of the flexible work conversation. While those preforming office based functions may be able to accomplish desk work from home, for those who earn hourly wage in service based environments, being physically present at work for a set number of hours is essential.

Hourly and part-time workers also face a number of specific challenges related to scheduling; including instability, unpredictability, and rigidity. Flexible scheduling could most powerfully impact the rigidity faced by hourly workers, defined by Workplace Flexibility 2010 as the “Lack of control over the scheduling of work hours, including overtime or extra work hours; lack of input into starting and quitting times; and lack of control over break times”. Rigidity is a real problem for hourly workers, as unlike workers in salaried positions, any deviation from employer imposed scheduled hours could result in job loss.

The Flexible Work Answer for Hourly Workers

Often overlooked and undervalued, collaborative and self-scheduling is an answer to the lack of flexible work for hourly workers. At its most basic level, collaborative employee scheduling using workforce management software minimizes operational costs through more efficient workforce deployments, as well as improves employee satisfaction and retention through an improved allocation of labor resources.

Collaborative Scheduling

Collaborative scheduling encompasses three main functions: collection of scheduling preferences, incorporation of scheduling preferences, and schedule distribution and confirmation.

It shifts the responsibility of collecting employee availability and time off requests into the hands of employees, and eliminates error-prone processes that lead to scheduling errors. It goes one step further than typical scheduling automation, by adding another layer of employee input at the confirmation stage. Each time a schedule goes out, employees have the ability to confirm their shifts or state their unavailability by refusing the shift. Then, schedule coordinators can open the shift up to available employees in advance.

Self-Scheduling

Self-scheduling goes one step further by making a list of available shifts to employees and enabling them to sign up for shifts they prefer and are available for, while programming the scheduling software to maintain and incorporate all the required business parameters, such as overtime restrictions and minimum rest periods. Management therefore is only responsible for filling the few left over shifts that remain unclaimed.

With 59% of the American workforce receiving an hourly wage, and the increasing importance of flexible work both to the bottom line and employee satisfaction, collaborative and employee self-scheduling are increasingly important tools in HR’s toolbox.