Great Workplaces Share Their Top Examples of Workplace Flexibility

 Culinary colleagues prep meals at Park Hyatt Chicago
Culinary colleagues prep meals at Park Hyatt Chicago

Employee Experience

Here are some examples of workplace flexibility that are helping workers find a healthier work–life balance, even when remote work isn't an option.

Is everyone missing the point amid the “return to office” debate?

New data shows that employees like hybrid or remote work, but not as much as they like having a flexible schedule. A new survey from Bankrate reports 81% of employees want a four-day workweek, compared to the 64% who want full remote work, or the 68% who want a hybrid work.

These numbers suggest that workers don’t value working from their spare bedroom as much as they crave the flexibility offered by hybrid or remote positions.

This comes as many companies are reevaluating their policies around remote work.  

Amazon’s Andy Jassy is telling employees who don’t want to come back to the office to update their résumés. Even Zoom, the video conferencing company that became a darling of the remote work era, is bringing employees back to the office at least a few days a week.

But remote work isn’t the only example of workplace flexibility worth pursuing.

Any company can be a great workplace even if they don’t offer remote work options. Great workplaces embrace flexibility by finding the right balance that serves both business needs and employee well-being.

Consider these tips for adding flexibility at your company, based on examples of workplace flexibility from Great Place To Work Certified™ companies: 

1. Start with a pilot.

Not sure what will work best for your organization? You can offer several flexible schedule options to a small group of employees and let employees report what offers top results.

Hyatt Hotels, No. 76 on the 2023 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List, was struggling to compete with other companies that offered more flexible schedules. Employee turnover increased from just over 19% in 2019 to almost 27% in 2021 as the pandemic fueled a high pressure work environment.  

To respond, Hyatt launched a 90-day experiment to test different ways to provide its operations leaders with more flexibility. Participating hotels offered at least one of these options:

  • Two-week scheduling to allow for better planning, and managing time off.
  • Scheduling at least one remote workday per month and increasing to one remote workday per week.
  • Offering at least one four-day workweek per month, with an eventual goal of having a consistent four-day work week, with no adjustment to salary or workload.

The results were compelling. At the end of the 90 days, the number of leaders who reported feeling rested after taking time off doubled from 31% to 66%. And when leaders took time off, their teams were able to step into new roles and shine.

“We have relied on our experienced line cooks to help lead some shifts, and they love it as well; it gives them an opportunity to shine in their respective restaurants,” shared the executive chef at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. “All things considered, this is one of the most genius Hyatt proposals I have ever been a part of.”

Based on these results, Hyatt went on to share an implementation toolkit with all of its U.S. hotels and more than 40 hotels have adopted one or more flexible work options.    

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2. Develop infrastructure to support complex scheduling.

For hospital systems, shift work already offers some flexibility for workers who must meet strenuous standards when on the clock. To support increased flexibility, WellStar Health System in Marietta, Georgia, built its own internal staffing agency to facilitate the staffing to cover immediate needs across its system.

The new program seeks to reduce reliance on expensive third-party vendors who supply traveling nurses to cover staff shortfalls, while also offering nurses within the WellStar system flexible work opportunities.

“During the pandemic, the price for hiring travel nurses increased to an all-time high of $200 an hour,” says Paola Buitrago, assistant vice president, workforce engineering at WellStar. “Our new staffing models will reduce spending by eliminating third-party vendors. It will also provide our staff with the flexible work they desire and ensure the community receives high quality care.” 

Nurses who work for the internal agency will cover for permanent roles who take a leave of absence, or help cover increased workloads without losing the flexibility and increased earnings potential offered by third-party staffing vendors.

“Over the past two years, people have left their jobs to gain autonomy about where and when to work,” said Buitrago, “Our internal agency will give them the opportunity to do that.”  

3. Increase communication with hourly workers.

When considering flexibility for hourly and shift work, there are different factors for employers to consider. While hourly workers by definition have more flexibility in their schedule from week to week, there are other factors that limit their ability to balance work and personal needs.

Do your hourly workers have consistent hours? Do they know their schedule far enough in advance to schedule doctor’s appointments and family events? When they have a personal emergency, is there flexibility so they can switch shifts to avoid losing hours and wages?

Target, No. 26 on the 100 Best list for 2023 and No. 9 on the 2023 PEOPLE® Companies that Care List, emphasizes the importance of communication to increase flexibility for its retail workers. Regular check-ins and one-on-one meetings with managers ensure the company can help workers meet their goals and find a stable work schedule that meets their needs.

To support more flexibility, Target offers an “On Demand” program which allows team members the ability to pick up occasional shifts, a feature that is popular with team members who are full-time students, retirees, or other workers looking for part-time employment.

Technology can also provide solutions, and Target’s mobile scheduling app allows team members to add or swap shifts to align with their schedules.

4. Embrace flexibility as a core value.

Employees valued workplace flexibility long before the COVID-19 pandemic reorganized workplace norms and customs.

For PCL Construction, No. 90 on the 2023 100 Best list, it has always been a priority to ensure employees work to live, not live to work. Construction workers in its various offices must always be on-site, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t flexibility for what days are worked or when shifts start and stop.

“Family is core to my company’s culture, obviously taking into account that it looks different to everyone,” President and COO Deron Brown wrote in Forbes. “I’ve often shared my belief that we work hard to support our family and passions. If we don’t make time for them, what are we really working for?”

In practice, this means PCL offers rotating weekend project schedules and allows for workers to flex their time to participate in important family activities.

PCL says their ability to offer flexibility to workers is based on trust: Trust that leaders are working hard to provide flexibility when employees need it, and trust in their employees to balance personal needs and business responsibilities.

“Culture, not location, is key when building a successful workforce,” Brown says.

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Ted Kitterman