Alternative Work Schedules: Pros and Cons

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Whether you are a shift worker, work from home, or have been impacted by a pandemic, you may find yourself wondering exactly how an alternative work schedule is supposed to function. An alternative work schedule simply refers to anything that does not fall into the traditional 8-5 Monday-Friday job hours. It has it’s perks, but you also need to be aware of the traps so you never get caught out.

The benefits of an alternative work schedule include increased employee happiness, decreased childcare costs, increased productivity, and a more positive work environment. On the other hand, the cons include less effective communication, less collaboration and sometimes less time with your family.

Whether you are considering taking a work-from-home position, or are currently working the night shift; there are a lot of things to consider that might help you make the best of an alternative work schedule. Join us as we explore the ins and outs of alternative work schedules throughout this article.

What Are the Different Types of Alternative Work Schedules?

According to the US Department of Labor, a flexible work schedule is defined as, any work schedule that falls outside of the classic 8-5 / Monday-Friday working hours.

As you can imagine, there are a ton of work schedules that might be considered flexible based on this definition. Below we have listed a few of the most common types of alternative work schedules.

The Flexible Schedule

With some jobs, you may find that it does not matter which hours you choose to come in to the office. So long as you are coming in for your contracted number of work hours, your employer will allow you to choose your own schedule.

Working from Home

This is pretty straightforward. Working from home is a great option for companies who have the technology to get the job done without coming in to the office. In some instances, working from home may entail working a 9-5 job, but doing so without having to travel.

Here are some tips to keep you healthyOpens in a new tab. while working a desk job – even from home.

Part Time

When you do not need full-time hours, you may be able to find part-time (less than 40 hours) work.

Some companies choose to hire a combination of full-time and part-time employees in order to best serve the company’s interests.

Compressed Work Week

The compressed work week is an interesting concept.

It involves longer work days in exchange for fewer days that the employee reports to work each week. For example, employees may work 7:30am – 6:30pm, Monday through Thursday, in lieu of having to come to work on Fridays.

In some cases, companies choose to do something called the compressed workday. The general concept behind this schedule is that employees work through their lunch break. Instead of coming back to work after lunch, they simply work through lunch and then head home for the day.

Shift Work

Whether you work in a hospital, or a manufacturing plant, there are a wide variety of options for how shift work is scheduled. Generally speaking, shift work involves at least two shifts (across the night and day), on a rotating weekly schedule to avoid too much overtime.

Confused what the Terms 1st, 2nd and 3rd Shift Actually Mean?​ Click hereOpens in a new tab. to find out more.

[VIDEO] – Want to learn more about being a healthy rotational shift worker? This video will help!

The Pros of Alternative Work Schedules

With so many different types of alternative work schedules, there are a lot of pros that apply to certain types of work schedules but not to others.

We are going to explore all of the possible positive aspects of an alternative work schedule.

Increased Morale

According to research conducted by the University of Scranton, alternative work schedules often lead to increased mood and attitude toward work. This is especially true when employees get to make decisions regarding how they want their own schedule constructed.

As you can probably conclude, increased morale is a positive reaction for both the employee and the employer. After all, employees who are happy at work or about work are more likely to be productive and more likely to remain a good worker for the company. This means that the employer is less likely to have to replace the employee.

Check out 13 Advantages of Shift Work for Employees here.

Decreased Child Care Expenses

In many instances, people who have alternative work schedules spend less money on childcare than those who work a traditional schedule.

Daycares are designed to cater to traditional work days. This means that parents who need less traditional care options can often utilize a combination of family and part-time daycare to make sure their children are taken care of properly.

In the instance of an entirely flexible schedule, or a work at home situation, parents may be able to avoid the cost of childcare altogether. Although, watching your child or children and trying to work from home might become a tricky situation.

We recently published a post for those working 2nd shift whilst also having a family at home. We know the balance can be very tricky but hopefully, you’ll find some useful tips here.Opens in a new tab.

Less Commuting

In many of the instances where an alternative work schedule is allowed, employees spend less time and money on their daily travel. Even those who work shift schedules (such as 12-hour shiftsOpens in a new tab.) tend to drive to their place of employment less often. This means that in the long run, these people are able to save precious time and money on their commute.

Over time, the money saved on gas and wear and tear on your personal vehicle can really add up. You might consider putting the money you save in a small savings account to use on a rainy day just for the fun of it.

Related post: How to Stop Falling Asleep While Driving After Night Shift​

Time to Do Things During “Business Hours”

Finding the time to run errands that have to be run during business hours is significantly easier for those who find themselves working under a flexible schedule.

Whether this means grabbing a hair appointment or running to the post office, the ins and outs of doing life with an alternative work schedule are actually easier than with a traditional schedule.

As an added bonus, being available during regular business hours also gives you the advantage of taking care of “self-care” tasks.

Whether you enjoy a yoga class, or do some shopping, working during odd hours definitely gives you an advantage. Further, working parents who have school-aged children are able to accomplish some of their to-do lists when the kids are taken care of and learning at school.

Making Time for Family

When you need to find time to visit school for your child’s class, or need to arrange to help your elderly parent make it to a doctor’s appointment, then the alternative work schedule comes in handy.

Arranging your schedule around these events is much easier when you have a more flexible schedule than the traditional 9-5 job.

Less Likely to Miss Work

Most of us have felt compelled to miss a day of work here or there when we were well enough to head in to the office. However, because of the improved morale that often comes with a flexible work schedule, employees are less likely to take the occasional sick day.

The Cons of Alternative Work Schedules

As many pros are there are to the alternative work schedule, there are also a few drawbacks to consider. After all, this is where we get the old cliché saying that “the grass is not always greener on the other side.”

For every job or schedule, you can certainly find good points and bad points. However, what will make a major difference in your experience is your mentality to a perceived negative and how you choose to handle it.

Avoiding Distractions

This downside is much more prominent for employees who are working from home. At home, there are distractions that simply do not exist when you are at a place that is designated for work purposes.

Whether it is your kids, your spouse, or even your Netflix account, combatting the distractions can be a difficult task when you are working from home.

Unfortunately, one of the major downsides to working from home is that these distractions can sometimes cause employees to become less productive. When productivity wanes, the company suffers and so can an employee’s potential for continued employment if productivity does not improve.

One way that you can combat the distractions when working from home is to create a designated space for you to do your work. People who have a home office tend to be far more productive than those who try to work in the common areas of the home.

One way to create this space to purchase items that work for you such as a standing deskOpens in a new tab. and office chair. Dan often works from home and has recently heard great reviews about this kneeling chair.Opens in a new tab. It looks odd to me, but apparently it’s perfect for those working hard for hours on end and well worth the investment. Check it out hereOpens in a new tab. on Amazon.

Also, make sure your children and your spouse understand boundaries during the workday. Lastly, practice self-discipline here – you know you can do it!

Communication Lapse

Another issue that sometimes happens with an alternative work schedule is a lapse in effective communication. This can be an issue in all different types of alternative schedules including shift work and work from home situations. This happens especially when members of the team are rarely in the building all at the same time.

Not only does this sometimes cause communication issues, but it also makes it hard to coordinate meetings where all the staff members are present. When schedules are different among all employees, it can be hard to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

There are some tips that can help to manage this communication breakdown. Firstly, when an employee is unable to make it to a staff meeting, management can utilize modern technology to record the meeting. This ensures that all employees can view / listen to the meeting in their own time. Remote employees can also video conference tools to make sure that they are able to be an active participant of the meeting.

Utilizing email is also a good way to make sure that all employees are on the same page about meetings and sharing information. However, when utilizing email, tone and nuance can be lost, so it is always a best practice to meet face to face where possible or a tough conversation may need to be had.

As an employee, it is a good practice to keep a list of clarifying questions when you have to listen to a staff meeting at a later date. This allows you to make sure you fully understand any new expectations and keep the miscommunication effects to a minimum. Be sure to check in with your superiors frequently when you have a question or concern.

Related Post: Best Shift Work Apps to Make Your Life Easier

Work and Life Separation is Harder

For some employees, an alternative work schedule creates a less defined separation between family life and work life.

This is especially true for employees who telecommute or work from home. It is hard to separate your work life from your home life when you spend all of your “work” time within the walls of your home.

Again, our suggestion for combatting this issue is to create distinct boundaries within your home for your work life. When you create a defined and secluded space for your work, you will be more likely to leave it there when the day is done.

We also really enjoy breaking up work finishing and home time starting with an outdoors activity. A walk, playing sport with friends at the park or even running an errand can help the brain wind down from the work day and start a transition into some relaxation time.

Might Affect Family Time

When you are working an alternative schedule, especially a night shift, then your time with family might be interrupted or cut short. Many night time shift workers find that they only see their spouse in passing on days when they are scheduled to work.

This is especially true when your family maintains a classic 9 – 5 schedule in regards to work or school.

If you do work the night shift we have a many posts on this subject from personal experince you’ll enjoy:

Employee Relationships Suffer

Research from the American Psychological Association suggests that friendships in the workplace is an important part of a successful company.

When working in an alternative work schedule, building those relationships can be much more difficult. This is especially true in a work from home environment.

Combatting this one can be hard, but it is possible. Make every effort to touch base with coworkers through the phone. Also, work from home employees should try to attend meetings through video conference, or in person when able.

Why Do Companies Choose Alternative Work Schedules?

Many of the benefits for employers who allow alternative work schedules are similar or at least linked to the benefits for employees. Employers who choose to have employees work from home are able to choose from the top picks. This is because they can theoretically hire the top talent from anywhere in the world instead of limiting themselves to their local area.

Further, employers who allow their employees an alternative work schedule tend to have a much higher retention rate. Research on retention rates demonstrate that companies who constantly have to rehire employees are spending far too much money on rehiring new employees. So, if offering their employees flexible scheduling helps to retain good employees, it is worth it for companies to consider.

Lastly, companies who have a reputation for providing alternative work schedules tend to be spoken highly of. This is mostly true for companies that allow their employees to pick their own schedule or work from home. These companies tend to get a reputation for being more family-friendly than the alternatives. When companies have a good reputation, then they are more likely to attract the very best of the workforce.

When and How to Request a Flexible Work Schedule?

If you are considering requesting a flexible work schedule, or a work from home situation from your employer, then there are a couple of things that you need to consider first.

Before you begin to draft a request, you want to read up on the existing company policies and find out if there is already information published about how the company handles flexible work schedules.

If there is no information published, then you may consider asking your colleagues about it. Especially if you know of a colleague who has successfully been granted an alternative work schedule.

Understanding how they accomplished the successful policy will be beneficial to your ability to get a flexible work schedule.

Understand that there is a right time to request an alternative work schedule. You should only consider doing so if your company does not depend on your daily presence in the office. If your work can be done remotely, then you may consider asking about it. However, it is probably best if you do so in a formal, written manner.

You will also want to phrase your proposal in a way that clearly identifies how your flexible schedule benefits the company. While most companies do want to have happy employees, they tend to think in a company first mentality. Therefore, when you make your proposal you should adopt the same kind of mentality to increase your odds of success.

Prepare yourself for rejection and be ready to make compromises. In the end, it may be that having an alternative work schedule is simply not what is best for the company.

If this is the case, you should be prepared to accept that and move on. Who knows, maybe you at least opened a door for the management to think about the concept in the future.

Summary: Alternative Work Schedules: Pros and Cons

There are positives and negatives to pretty much every situation that we are faced with in life.

Having an alternative work schedule has a lot of really great side effects.

In turn, there are also some not so great aspects that go along with this lifestyle.

However, your attitude and willingness to overcome the downsides will make all the difference in how your workday plays out in the long run.

Happy working!


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Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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