Flextime – a Benefit with Many Advantages

Please be aware that this article primarily pertains to Swedish rules and regulations, which may not necessarily apply or be valid in jurisdictions outside of Sweden. A way to facilitate the everyday puzzle, avoid rushing to work in the morning, and have the freedom to clock out a little earlier once today's tasks are completed. Flextime has become an increasingly common phenomenon in today's workplaces. Here’s the guide that gives you a thorough overview of this popular work time benefit.

  1. This is Flextime Most people have come across the concepts of flextime and "flexing out" or “flexing in” in some way, but just to be sure, let's briefly go through the meaning. Flextime means allowing employees to determine their workday start and end times. In other words, you can vary your working hours and come in a bit later and/or leave a bit earlier than the schedule initially states – as long as you stay within the allowed time frames and it works concerning your colleagues and tasks.
  2. Why flextime was introduced and how common it is Flextime has been present in Sweden since the 1970s, but it is only during the past twenty years or so that the system has gained significant popularity. It’s said that it all started when Karlahuset, a massive office building in Östermalm, Stockholm, was completed in 1972. Chaos ensued in the subway as thousands of employees had to commute to and from the office. They simply needed to spread out the commuters over a longer time span – and flextime was born. Are you a male and work as a salaried employee for the government? In that case, the probability of you having flextime is high. 86 percent of male employees within SACO (Sveriges akademikers centralorganisation) have flextime, while the corresponding figure for female employees within LO (Landsorganisationen) is 33 percent. If we calculate the number of all employed individuals in Sweden, it is slightly less than half, or approximately 40 percent, who have flextime.
  3. The flex frames determine your sleep-in window Feeling a little extra tired on Monday morning? Or ready to start the weekend a bit early? Although the models for flextime can vary slightly between workplaces, there are usually time intervals that determine when you can start in the morning (for example, between 06:00 and 09:00) and when you can finish in the afternoon (for example, between 15:00 and 18:00) – what is commonly referred to as flex frames. Moreover, there may be a possibility to extend/shorten lunchtime using flex (although generally, you are not allowed to take a lunch break shorter than 30 minutes). The flex frames may also differ between the weekdays.An recinciliation is usually conducted at the end of the month, and your flex balance (the number of hours you have accumulated or "owe") is transferred to the next month.

    Flextime is a benefit that can strengthen the employer brand and make it easier to attract new employees.

  4. Facilitates the everyday puzzle and makes the employer popular Drop off and pick up children, inspect the car, walk the dog, see the dentist, squeeze in that run while it's still daylight, catch the bus and train... For many, the opportunity to flex is valuable when life's obligations pile up, and the everyday puzzle is challenging. In fact, researchers have found that flextime leads to a better-perceived balance between work and personal life. In a functional flextime system where all times and discrepancies are recorded, you also avoid the mistrust and skepticism that can otherwise occur between colleagues. One example is if someone comes in late or takes a slightly longer lunch: when this is the case, everyone knows that it means a deduction from the flex balance and will somehow be compensated. But it doesn't end there – it has also been observed that flextime can lead to: - Improved efficiency and productivity among employees (you complete your job, and then you can finish, regardless of whether it's earlier or later than your official end time) - Reduced stress - Increased control and autonomy, thus enhancing motivation - Satisfied and healthy personnel who are more likely to stay with the company. And then we have the matter of the employer brand. An employer offering flextime (and other popular benefits) will not only have satisfied employees but will also likely have a more straightforward task in attracting and recruiting new talent.
  5. Sounds great! But what should you keep in mind for it to work smoothly? Freedom with responsibility – this slightly clichéd phrase captures the essence of the flextime concept quite well. This, in turn, means that flextime is a system that requires a little extra trust and confidence in the workplace. Achieving that may not always be easy, but by establishing clear frameworks, rules, and fostering open dialogue, you’ll have a solid starting point. A great opportunity to disseminate information about the policies in your workplace is, for example, the introduction training for new employees. Also, invest in clear written information that is easily accessible to all employees, such as in the company's employee handbook and/or on the company's intranet. Employees need clear information regarding questions such as: - What are the flextime frames during the day? - How many hours are allowed in the plus balance and minus balance? - What happens if an employee exceeds their allowed plus or minus balance? (Usually, excess hours in the plus balance are reset during the monthly balancing, but some agreements may involve payment as salary. An exceeded minus balance typically results in a deduction from the salary.) - What rules apply to how and when flextime can be taken? For example, is it allowed to take whole days off if there are many hours in the plus balance? Is a leave application required? In other words, ensure that you have a clear structure from the beginning, so that everyone is aware of the guidelines and no ambiguities arise along the way.
  6. Flextime and overtime – what's the difference? An essential question – let's clarify the concepts! Flextime is based on a voluntary choice for the employee to adjust their working hours. Overtime, on the other hand, refers to unexpected circumstances that require a task to be performed outside regular working hours – and is usually ordered by the employer in advance. It's important to remember that the employer can never force anyone to use flextime to replace overtime.
  7. Does everyone have the right to flextime? It's easy to understand why flextime is highly sought after. But what are the legal requirements – is flextime a right for everyone? No, is the short answer. Employees have no legal right to flextime according to the Working Hours Act (in Swedish arbetstidslagen), and generally, there are no regulations for flextime in the central collective agreements either. It's simply up to the employer to decide whether to offer flextime and determine the conditions – either through a local working hours agreement or within the company's personnel policy framework. As we mentioned before, flextime must also be adapted to the needs of the business. In sectors such as healthcare, certain service occupations, rescue services, and similar fields where staffing is required throughout the entire shift, it simply wouldn't work to allow flextime for employees. In such cases, alternative working time benefits may exist, such as flexible annual working hours (also known as annualized hours) and/or individual scheduling.
  8. But with flextime, doesn't everyone constantly have to keep track of their working hours? How do you solve that? Exactly – a prerequisite for making it all work is for everyone to keep track of their hours and minutes. But the truth is, it doesn't have to be difficult at all – as long as you use efficient system support. With digital time reporting, managers and employees can easily keep track of the hours worked, the flextime usage, and the accumulated balance month by month. It might work to jot down your hours on loose papers or in an Excel timesheet template, but the risk is that time reporting falls behind – and suddenly, you forget when you had that dental appointment and how long you were away. Then it becomes much more accessible and smoother with a modern time management system, where you check in and out as you come and go – whether on your work computer, in a mobile app, or on a touchscreen in the corridor. In other words, your company has everything to gain by transitioning to a user-friendly, mobile, and flexible time management system. If you do that – and also make sure to communicate the terms and rules that apply in the workplace – then flextime can hardly be anything but a success.

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