Best planning and implementation toolbox

FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULES:

Purpose of Tool:
Allowing employees to have some flexibility in their work schedules, also known as flextime or variable work hours, can result in benefits to the individual, their employer, and the community at large. Flexible work schedules can help reduce the level of commute period traffic and encourage more people to share a ride in buses, vanpools, or carpools. Flextime can be sponsored by public or private sector employers who see the program as a means of attracting and keeping talented workers, and improving employee satisfaction, while not negatively impacting productivity. There are three main variations of the flextime concept that employers can use:

  • Flextime allows for employees to arrive and depart at different hours within established limits, such as a core work period, as long as the total number of hours logged per day is equal to a traditional work schedule.
  • Compressed Workweek means that workers may put in fewer, but longer work days, such as four 10-hour days with the fifth day off each week, or five 9-hour days with one day off every two weeks.
  • Staggered Shifts are designed to reduce the number of employees arriving and leaving at the same time. This method has the same effect as flextime, but does not give the workers control over which schedule they are assigned.

    Benefits of Using Tool:
    Flextime programs can have the following benefits for a community or region at large:

  • Alternative work hours help reduce traffic congestion and commute trip times by shifting some of the commute traffic to times other than traditional commuter periods (earlier or later).
  • Reduced traffic congestion and reduced trip times can reduce pollutants emitted, such as CO2 and the compounds that cause smog, which can improve overall public health, and
  • Schedule flexibility is highly valued by most employees and can increase productivity, enhance job satisfaction and reduce stress.

    Steps Involved to Use Tool:
    Flextime programs are usually implemented as part of a commute trip reduction program and in conjunction with other trip reduction strategies, such as ridesharing or parking cash-out programs [transportation and mobility\transportation demand management\car-sharing programs].
  • First, employees and managers must come to an agreement on hours and expectations. The agreed-upon work schedule may vary from day-to-day or week-to-week depending on the circumstances.
  • The schedule should be formalized into an existing policy that is subject to periodic review to determine if it is effective.
  • Changes in management approaches may be necessary, including relying more heavily on electronic communication for those that utilize flextime or telecommute.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    Not all employers or individual positions can accommodate flexible work schedules, and not all employees who could participate in a flexible work program choose to do so. For example, in a study of University of California workers, two-thirds of the employees surveyed were allowed flexible hours, yet less than 20 percent actually shifted their commute times to avoid congestion. This suggests there might be significant challenges to implementing alternative work schedules for congestion management purposes.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    If flextime or compressed work weeks are coordinated well with alternatives to single-occupancy vehicle commutes, such as rideshares, casual carpools and public transit, and the time savings to the worker prove to be significant, this strategy may be very effective in ‘flattening’ the peak of the traditional travel times and improving conditions for all commuters.

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    The University of Pennsylvania has had success with implementing a number of flextime and alternative work schedules to both improve quality of life and encourage alternative commuting choices to campus. The UPenn Flexible Work Options Program is conducted as part of the University’s “Work Life Balance” campaign, designed to help employees improve the quality of their work life by striking a better balance between work and personal commitments. This program includes a detailed guide for managers and staff which outlines model guidelines and agreement documents for implementing a successful flextime program.

    University of Pennsylvania
    Quality of Work Life Programs
    3401 Walnut Street, Suite 527A,
    Philadelphia, PA 19104
    (215) 898-0380
    kraut@exchange.upenn.edu
    Online: http://www.hr.upenn.edu/Quality/WorkLife/FlexOptions/Default.aspx

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    A wide range of research and studies have sought to determine the effect of flexible and alternative work hours on commute trips and trip times. A Transportation Research Board study published in 1991 determined that flexible work hours resulting in a compressed work week (CWW) produced a significant decline in single-occupancy vehicle trips (from 82 percent to 77 percent) and ridesharing at the workplace increased from eight percent to 13 percent. Additionally, a study released in 2000 determined that workers with flexible schedules saved an average of seven minutes per day in commute time, and that a compressed work week schedule can reduce total vehicle travel by as much as 10 percent. However, with a compressed work week schedule, a separate 1995 investigation observed an increase in additional trips made on non-work days by CWW participants. Additionally, compressed work weeks may encourage workers to move further from work sites and drive to them, rather than seek alternative commute modes such as rideshares or transit.

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
    See the following sources for more information:
  • TDM Status Report, Variable Work Hours, PDF: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/5000/5600/5647/tdmvwh.pdf
  • Rosella Picado, A Question of Timing, Access Number 17, PDF: http://www.uctc.net/access/access17lite.pdf

    Citations:

    1 Rosella Picado, A Question of Timing, Access Number 17, Fall 2000, page 6. Online: http://www.uctc.net/access/access17lite.pdf
    2 Freas and Anderson, The Effect of Variable Work Hour Program on Ridesharing and Organizational Effectiveness, Transportation Research Board, 1991. Online: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/5000/5600/5647/tdmvwh.pdf
    3 TDM Encyclopedia, Alternative Work Schedules, Online: http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm15.htm