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Permit employees to work on a flexible schedule

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Allowing employees the benefit of working on flexible schedules creates a win-win-win situation. Employees are less stressed and better able to balance family and work commitments; employers have more productive workers with less tardiness and absenteeism; and the environment gets a boost with fewer cars on the roads and decreased traffic congestion.

How to devise a successful flexible schedule program for your employees

Flexible scheduling can be accomplished with a few different strategies, all with similar eco-benefits:

  • Flextime allows employees to vary their start and stop times around core hours; some may work 8:00 to 4:30, others 9:00 to 5:30 etc.
  • Compressed work weeks mean employees work fewer but longer days: four 10-hour days per week or 9-hour days with one day off every two weeks.
  • Staggered shifts, set by the employer, don't give employees the same level of scheduling input, but the plus is that they don't waste time and fuel sitting in traffic as they might if all employees poured out of work at the same time.

You may mix and match any of these options within your company, especially when you consider the needs of different departments. For instance, compressed workweeks may work smoothly for an accounting department but not as well for customer service. And flextime may not function well at workplaces with set schedules such as schools.

Remember, though: flexible schedule benefits may be less green if the system results in employees driving on non-work days, breaking up existing carpools, using public transit less, or moving farther from their jobs. Other environmental ramifications may result from longer hours such as increased energy use in your building.

The bottom line is to identify the objectives of your company's flexible schedule program. Is it simply an employee benefit; are you doing it mainly to reduce traffic and cut pollution; or do you want longer hours to increase production or extend customer service hours? If green is your goal, be sure to use a system that not only provides scheduling alternatives for your employees, but also supports other eco-friendly modes of transportation.

So once you've selected possible scheduling options, incorporate them into a Commute Trip Reduction program that provides support and incentives for employees who use alternative ways (walking, biking, carpooling, public transit and telecommuting) to commute to work so they don't have to give up their eco-friendly commuting modes to get a more flexible schedule.

Additional considerations you should examine include:

  • Eligibility policies: Design policies that detail what job categories qualify for alternative work schedules and outline what employees need to do to take advantage of such programs.
  • Job performance measures: Formulate measures to evaluate job performance of employees who work on flexible schedules.
  • Coordinate with neighboring businesses: When implementing staggered shifts or compressed workweeks, check with neighboring employers to make sure your changes won't conflict with their operations. You wouldn't want to unintentionally clog up the roads.
  • Evaluate the program: Re-evaluate in six months or a year with a survey of employees and supervisors to gauge success and determine if tweaks are needed.

Designing a workable, flexible scheduling system may take a little time up-front, but once you've got the policy in place, it'll be simple to find solutions that work for everyone.

Permitting employees to work on a flexible schedule helps you go green because...

  • It takes cars off the road which means fewer global-warming-causing tailpipe emissions.
  • It decreases the number of cars in peak rush hour times; reducing traffic congestion.

Commuters waste 2.3 billion gallons of fuel sitting in traffic tie-ups, a situation that flextime and staggered shifts can improve by cutting the number of employees on the roads at rush hour.[1] Every day passenger cars release one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air and burn 8.5 million barrels of oil, with a majority of the miles (27 percent) traveled by commuters.[2][3]

And employees appreciate the flexibility of alternative scheduling options, which in turn increases their morale and productivity. A study of more than 3,000 employees who used flextime at the TransAmerica Financial Corporation in Los Angeles showed that over two-thirds of them chose to start work before 7:30 a.m. to avoid city traffic. Another study found that workers with flexible work schedules shaved seven minutes a day off their commutes.[4]

A case study of employees in Ventura County, California, found that after flextime and compressed work weeks were instituted, carpooling increased from 8 to 13 percent.[5] Matsushita Kotobuki Electronics Industries of America in Vancouver, Washington estimated that compressed work weeks would save them 15 percent in utility costs due to reduced production on Fridays.[5]

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