Today, there is a shifting paradigm in the workplace. The traditional 9-to-5 schedule for many employees has come and gone, and the future of work looks very different. Shifts had already begun with the globalization of economies resulting in physical locations became less and less important. But with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, existing models of business and modes of work have been radically altered. With social distancing requirements in effect worldwide, both employers and employees have to adapt to major changes. This means creating flexible work hours and hybrid work arrangements to adapt to the times.
What Are Flexible Work Schedules?
Flexible work schedules have become the new normal for many businesses. Flexible work hours include both the time employees work and their work location. Some employers have chosen to offer compressed workweeks, as an example. In this type of flexible work hour schedule, a workweek could be four days instead of five. To make sure the employee reaches 40 hours, they may work 10-hour days instead of the traditional eight hours. Some offer the option of flexible work hours that include different times of the day. Such flexibility might benefit some employees, such as those who must care for a family member in addition to working full time.
Flexible work schedules have helped employees gain better work/life balance and greater autonomy. Along with these flexible schedules, many small businesses have also given their employees the option for hybrid work schedules.
What Are Hybrid Arrangements?
Though many employees are able to work remotely or telecommute for their jobs, there is a benefit to having some office time. These are hybrid work schedules, where an employee’s time working is split between the home and office. In this type of work schedule, the office can remain an anchoring point for team building, in-person connections, and training, as well as maintaining the desired small business culture management seeks to develop. Having a hybrid work schedule also allows employees to more easily access office assets such as better Internet, office supplies, and other resources that they have been accustomed to having with traditional work schedules.
How Do Small Businesses Benefit from Alternative Work Schedules?
Today, hybrid work schedules are the preferred solution for many small businesses. Why? Besides accommodating a variety of schedules, they offer many advantages.
- Studies have shown social isolation in a purely remote work environment is not always the healthiest option for employees; a hybrid work model ensures employees have regular communication and collaboration with their offices.
- Flexible and hybrid work schedules enhance the morale of employees, which is shown to improve overall productivity.
- Employees commute less, which cuts down on the carbon footprint a small business will make on the environment.
- With fewer employees coming to a physical location, the small business needs less square footage in their workplaces to hold all their employees and has fewer overhead expenses.
- Flexible workplaces also give extra support to working parents and increase overall job satisfaction.
What Challenges Might Small Business Owners Face?
There are challenges a small business may encounter converting to and maintaining flexible schedules. There are, of course, communication challenges since employees are not face-to-face in the office at all times. Management may also be resistant to change, and face control and supervision issues. Employees can have distractions at home, and the day-to-day flow of information from the office can be hindered in flexible work scheduling.
Other factors that can become challenges for small business employers may be the need to upgrade technology to make remote work more efficient. Some employees may not have the appropriate updated technology at home. Data security and integrity have become more important than ever since employees must exchange data remotely. There is also the issue of employee availability during “off business” hours that can present further hurdles. Additionally, employers must watch more closely for unauthorized on-clock work, as well as employees reporting time they have not worked.
What Solutions Exist for Small Business Owners?
Small business owners must be keenly aware of both federal and state laws that govern remote workers. There are many factors like OSHA compliance, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more. Issues can arise with overtime pay, and what constitutes full-time or part-time employees. A small business should track employee work time with computerized clocks, or mechanical ones, to ensure maximum productivity and compensations. Some businesses have chosen to convert full-time employees to contract workers. However, this could cause more problems for the employer if the employee is actually full-time, regardless of where the work is performed. Partnering with professional CPAs can help a small business navigate the nuances.
Communication challenges often have technological solutions; a variety of software applications are available, designed specifically for coordinating communications, centralizing information, and facilitating collaboration. Technological solutions also exist and are absolutely critical when it comes to employees’ home technologies and remote worker data security.
Above all, your business must have written policies in place to guide both staff and management in the transitions.
It is important for small businesses to both speak to and hear from their employees. This is especially true when a company begins to implement flexible work schedules. You may need to invest in proper technology to make your hybrid workplace more efficient and streamlined for your workforce. Though upgrading technology may pose a significant upfront investment, the quick return is usually worth the cost.
Another investment small businesses should make in today’s world of changing work schedules is to be aware of resources available to them. Hiring an expert CPA can save much time and money in the long run. Furthermore, talking with a professional small business consulting firm can make a difference between success or failure in implementing flexible work schedules. It is important for employers to set clear policies, enter into employee agreements, and provide necessary education and training on adapting to newer models of work scheduling. Contact our team at BradyRenner CPAs so we can help get you started on the right path.
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