What is Flexible time off?

Flexible time off provides employees the flexibility to use their time off however they like. In this case, time off is usually provided as a bundle of days, without any distinction such as sick leave, casual leave, vacation, etc. 

Flexible time off is a fairly new concept, often seen in unorthodox job settings that do not have a 9-5 workday, such as remote work, compressed workweeks, and so on. A flexible PTO policy is about trusting your employees to be responsible and not abusing flexibility. Firms often provide national holidays, mental wellness leaves, bereavement leaves., etc, in addition to flexible time off.

flexible time off in freshteam flexible time off in freshteam

Flexible time off vs Unlimited PTO

Flexible time off and Unlimited PTO were introduced as employee perks that can give a superior employee experience. They are often used interchangeably and are similar in a lot of ways,  there are subtle differences between Flexible time off and unlimited PTO. 

While using flexible time off, employees can utilize the time off without the labels of sick leave, casual leave, vacation, etc. That said, it is not necessarily unlimited. Companies usually have a cap on the number of days employees can use in a month or a year. Employees have to give prior notice on their leave requests, get them approved by the managers, and stay away from work to attend personal errands, or for their mental well-being. 

In the case of unlimited time off, it is quite similar to flexible time off by offering leaves without the labels. However, there is no limit on the number of leaves an employee can take in a year. As long as the employee finishes their tasks, gives due leave notice, and does not cause hindrance to the team goals, they are allowed to take long leaves for whatever reason they see fit. 

Although there are multiple pros and cons to unlimited time off, and flexible time off companies who have implemented them have seen a spike in productivity, and have found ways to tackle the challenges.

Benefits of using Flexible time off

1. Fosters a culture of acceptance, accommodation, accountability, and diversity.

Not all your employees have the same cultural beliefs and sentiments. They do not celebrate the same holidays as the rest of their peers. In such cases, flexible time off provides your employees the opportunity to observe their holidays as they see fit. 

It shows that the company respects their cultural differences and accepts these differences wholeheartedly. The idea behind offering flexible time off is that employees are responsible adults with their own cultural beliefs and difficulties. As long as they finish the tasks responsibly, there is no need to micro-manage them and curb their freedom. 

2. Increased employee commitment and productivity.

Employees would prefer being with a company where their differences are accepted. It is one of the driving factors in retaining employees. By providing exceptional employee experience, employees remain more loyal to the organization and perform to their best abilities, which will ultimately up the company’s profit. 

3. Helps attract and retain top talent.

Perks such as flexible time off, remote working, compressed workweek, etc are progressive, sought-after benefits by millennials. By offering those, your company becomes an attractive job destination for well-qualified candidates who are looking for an environment that understands and accepts their necessities. The same applies to existing employees as well. 

4. Focuses on employee well-being.

A healthy employee is a happy employee. Bear in mind that health is not restricted to physical ailments alone. It also includes the mental abilities of a person. Flexible time off lets you be accommodative of their illness and gives them the necessary time off to recover and get back to work. 

5. There’s no use-it-or-lose-it pressure

Employees are no longer under the pressure to use all their time off before the end of the year since flexible time off is taken by the employees only on a need-to basis. 

Creating a Flexible time off policy

Challenges of implementing flexible time off

It is foolhardy to not consider the challenges of any new policy. It applies to Flexible time off as well. The best approach would be to weigh the pros and cons and identify methods to tackle these challenges faced in flexible time off. Some of the challenges are:

1. Employees might abuse the flexibility: 

It is likely that some employees may choose to use the time of bundle in one go, leading to their unavailability for a long time. This can affect their team’s performance, which will ultimately affect the company’s goals. 

2. Employees might underutilize the time off: 

With flexibility kicking in, employees are unsure about how to utilize their time off. This can be problematic, particularly when the team does not take leaves at all. In the lack of a role model showing how to use it, employees will not take time off at all, leading to an unhealthy stressed workspace. 

3. Might lead to employee burnout: 

Due to lack of clarity, employees may not take sufficient time off, which will affect their performance at work and their mental well-being, eventually leading to burnout at work. 

4. Inability to incentivize time off: 

In most companies, time off is often rewarded for a job well done, which motivates employees to do more. With flexible time off, organizations can no longer reward employees with time off. 

5. Overlapping leaves: 

Multiple employees may take long leaves at the same time, leaving only a few employees to manage the team’s workload. 

6. Lack of clarity on how to handle mandatory leaves: 

How do you handle maternity leaves, sabbaticals, and vacation time? Will there be a separate policy for the same? Or, would it be the discretion of the managers?

How can the Flexible time off policy help tackle these challenges?

Once you identify the cons of a flexible time off, the next step would be to draft a time off policy that can solve them. Here are some points to include your flexible time off that will help tackle these challenges:

1. Communicate the limits and restrictions through the flexible time off policy, and the consequences if it is flouted. Let them know how many days of time off employees can take at a time. 

Similarly, ensure that all your employees are sufficiently rested and taking the necessary time off that will help them rejuvenate and get back to work refreshed. This will avoid policy abuse, and underutilization, and avoid employee burnout.

2. Clarify how flexible time off is different from other mandatory leaves. This would include the national holidays, maternity leave, sabbaticals, disability leave, and so on. At the same time, let them know of the exceptions allowed, such as grievance leave, emergency leave, and so on. 

3. Talk about the request process. Let your employees know about the importance of the request process, why it is necessary to provide prior notice, and how soon they should inform, and so on. This will allow better planning of the team’s time off calendar without affecting the team’s performance.

4. Set up an approval process. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that adequate team members are available to handle the workload at all times. This can be done by implementing a time off approval process. It will also help track absenteeism and ensure that their leaves are compliant with the time off policy. 

FAQs on Flexible time off