Alternative Work Schedules

Flextime, Compressed Work Week, Staggered Shifts

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Updated 26 January 2010


This chapter describes alternative work schedules, which can reduce peak-period commute travel and help accommodate ridesharing and transit use. These include flextime, Compressed Work Week (CWW), and staggered shifts.

 

 

Description

Alternative Work Schedules (also called Variable Work Hours) include:

 

·         Flextime. This means that employees are allowed some flexibility in their daily work schedules. For example, rather than all employees working 8:00 to 4:30, some might work 7:30 to 4:00, and others 9:00 to 5:30.

 

·         Compressed Workweek (CWW). This means that employees work fewer but longer days, such as four 10-hour days each week (4/40), or 9-hour days with one day off every two weeks (9/80).

 

·         Staggered Shifts. This means that shifts are staggered to reduce the number of employees arriving and leaving a worksite at one time. For example, some shifts may be 8:00 to 4:30, others 8:30 to 5:00, and others 9:00 to 5:30. This has a similar effect on traffic as flextime, but does not give individual employees as much control over their schedules.

 

 

Flextime and CWW are usually implemented as an employee and manager option (both employees and their managers must agree). They may vary from day-to-day or week-to-week, depending on circumstances. Of course, not all jobs are suitable for alternative schedules. Positions that require employees to provide service at a particular time and place demand a rigid schedule. Not all workers want to use flextime due to personal preference or the need to match schedules with other family members. In one case study, two-thirds of employees surveyed are allowed to have flexible work schedules, yet less than twenty percent of them actually shift their commute times to avoid congestion (Picado, 2000). 

 

 

How it is Implemented

Alternative Work Schedule is typically implemented as part of a Commute Trip Reduction program. Employers work with managers, employees and labor organizations to develop suitable policies and practices. Informal Alternative Work Scheduling is common at many worksites, so an official policy may simply formalize and support existing practices. The policy should specify:

·         Which job categories are suitable.

·         What is required of employees to qualify.

·         What criteria are to be used to evaluate the performance of employees on alternative schedules.

·         How employees’ schedules are determined and what is required to change schedules.

·         Periodic review of the arrangement.

·         Model contracts and forms for establishing and tracking Alternative Work Schedules.

 

Alternative Work Schedule may require changes in management practices that reduce the need to have employees physically together at one time, including more outcome-oriented management practices (evaluating employees based on their performance rather than simply the amount of time they spend at their desk), and increased use of electronic communication to compensate for reduced face-to-face interaction. An organization may start with an Alternative Work Schedule pilot project before expanding to all employees. Anderson and Ungemah (1999) provide detailed information on implementing Variable Work Hours.

 

 

Travel Impacts

Flextime reduces peak period congestion directly, and can make ridesharing and transit use more feasible (Freas and Anderson, 1991). Picado (2000) finds that employees with flexible work schedules save an average of 7 minutes per day in commute time. Staggered shifts can reduce peak-period trips, particularly around large employment centers. Ewing (1993) estimates that flextime and Telework together can reduce peak-hour vehicle commute trips by 20-50%. Modarres (1993) found that flextime is a significant factor in Commute Trip Reduction program effectiveness in reducing peak-period traffic.

 

Compressed Work Weeks reduce total vehicle travel. One survey of commuters found that it could reduce automobile commutes by 7-10%, making it among the most effective commute trip reduction strategies considered (CUTR, 1998). Another analysis estimates that CWW can reduce up to 0.6% of VMT and up to 0.5% of vehicle trips in a region (Apogee, 1994). Sundo and Fujii (2005) find that Compressed Work Week significantly reduces participant’s total commute time, and reduces the time they devote to household activities and sleep. However, other research indicates that Compressed Work Weeks may provide modest reductions in total vehicle travel, in part because participants make additional trips during their non-work days (Ho and Stewart, 1992; Giuliano, 1995). Compressed Work Weeks may also encourage some employees to move further from worksites or to drive rather than rideshare.

 

Table 1          Travel Impact Summary

Objective

Flextime

CWW

Comments

Reduces total traffic.

1

2

Flextime supports ridesharing

Reduces peak period traffic.

3

2

 

Shifts peak to off-peak periods.

3

3

 

Shifts automobile travel to alternative modes.

1

-1

CWW may reduce ridesharing.

Improves access, reduces the need for travel.

0

-1

CWW may encourage longer commutes and sprawl.

Increased ridesharing.

1

-1

CWW may reduce ridesharing.

Increased public transit.

1

0

CWW may reduce transit use.

Increased cycling.

0

0

 

Increased walking.

0

0

 

Increased Telework.

0

0

 

Reduced freight traffic.

0

0

 

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.

 

 

Benefits And Costs

Flextime benefits include reduced traffic congestion, support for Ridesharing and Public Transit use, and benefits to employees. Flextime allows commuters to match their work schedules with transit and rideshare schedules, which can significantly increase the feasibility of using these modes. Compressed Work Week reduces commute travel, although total vehicle travel may be modest if employees take additional car trips during non-work days or move farther from worksites. Because it does not reduce total mileage, Flextime probably provides no direct road safety, energy conservation or emission reduction benefits (Emission Reduction Strategies).

 

Schedule flexibility is highly valued by many employees and can increase their productivity and job satisfaction. Flextime and CWW help employees meet other household scheduling requirements, reduce commuting time and stress, reduce fears about being tardy, use rideshare and transit for commuting, and work when they are most productive (some employees are morning people, others are not). One survey found that 68% of employees would like to have flexible work hours, and 53% would participate in a compressed workweek (CTS, 1994). Since Flextime and CWW are usually implemented as an employee option, those who participate are almost always better off, or they would not choose it.

 

Costs include increased administrative and management responsibilities, and more difficult evaluation of employee productivity. Alternative Work Scheduling may reduce staff coverage and interaction, and make meetings difficult to schedule. Compressed Work Weeks may reduce productivity (employees become less productive at the end of a long day), reduce total hours worked, and it may be perceived as wasteful by the public (for example, if staffing at public agencies is low on Fridays). Compressed Work Weeks may lead to more dispersed land use patterns.

 

Table 2          Benefit Summary

Objective

Flextime

CWW

Comments

Congestion Reduction

3

3

Both reduce peak-period driving.

Road & Parking Savings

1

2

Flextime reduces peak-period trips. CWW reduces total trips and parking requirements.

Consumer Savings

1

2

Reduces commuter stress. CWW reduces travel costs.

Transport Choice

3

3

Increases commuter choice. Flextime supports ridesharing and transit use.

Road Safety

0

1

CWW reduces commuting but may increase other trips.

Environmental Protection

0

1

CWW reduces commuting but may increase other trips.

Efficient Land Use

0

-1

CWW may encourage longer-distance commuting.

Community Livability

1

1

Reduces congestion.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.

 

 

Equity Impacts

Alternative Work Schedules can help achieve equity objectives. Many economically and physically disadvantaged workers (e.g., single mothers, transit-dependent non-drivers, people with physical disabilities) place a particularly high value on optional Alternative Work Schedules. However, some disadvantaged workers have jobs with inflexible schedules (factory staff, receptionists, service workers, etc.) and so may feel excluded and disadvantaged compared with employees who can use Alternative Work Schedules.

 

Table 3          Equity Summary

Criteria

Rating

Explanation

Treats everybody equally.

-1

Not appropriate for some jobs. Employees who cannot participate may feel excluded.

Individuals bear the costs they impose.

0

No impact.

Progressive with respect to income.

1

Benefits many low-income employees, but some are excluded.

Benefits transportation disadvantaged.

3

Improves commute choice and the convenience and feasibility of transit and ridesharing.

Improves basic mobility.

3

Can improve commute choice.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.

 

 

Applications

Alternative Work Hours are generally implemented by businesses, often as part of a Commute Trip Reduction or regional TDM Program. It is most appropriate for jobs that do not require rigid employee schedules, and in organizations that have effective methods to measure employee performance. It is particularly suitable in urban areas with serious traffic congestion problems.

 

Table 4          Application Summary

Geographic

Rating

Organization

Rating

Large urban region.

3

Federal government.

1

High-density, urban.

3

State/provincial government.

2

Medium-density, urban/suburban.

3

Regional government.

3

Town.

2

Municipal/local government.

3

Low-density, rural.

2

Business Associations/TMA.

3

Commercial center.

3

Individual business.

3

Residential neighborhood.

2

Developer.

1

Resort/recreation area.

2

Neighborhood association.

1

 

 

Campus.

3

Ratings range from 0 (not appropriate) to 3 (very appropriate).

 

 

Category

Improves Transport Choice

 

 

Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

Alternative work schedule is usually implemented as part of a Commute Trip Reduction program. It is often implemented along with Telework programs. It supports Ridesharing and Public Transit use by giving employers greater travel scheduling flexibility. Congestion Pricing can provide an additional incentive for employees to request and use Alternative Work Schedules.

 

 

Stakeholders

Alternative work schedules are primarily implemented by employers. Labor organizations can be involved in developing policies and practices. Governments can encourage alternative work schedules as part of Commute Trip Reduction or regional TDM Program, and allow it for their own employees.

 

 

Barriers To Implementation

Alternative Work Schedules may need to change existing institutional practices. It requires more flexible and outcome-oriented management.

 

 

Best Practices

Several organizations and publications listed below (particularly Anderson and Ungemah, 1999) provide guidelines for Alternative Work Schedules. These include:

·         Implement Alternative Work Schedules as part of a comprehensive Commute Trip Reduction program.

·         Develop policies that identify job categories suitable for alternative work schedules, and what employees must do to qualify for alternative schedules, and how it will be reviewed.

·         Develop standard agreements between employees and managers.

·         Develop appropriate performance measures for employees working alternative work schedules.

·         Allow flextime to help commuters match transit and ridesharing schedules.

·         Structure schedules to insure adequate coverage of client services.

 

 

Wit and Humor

When I was in high school, I got in trouble with my girlfriend’s Dad. He said, “I want my daughter back by 8:15.”

I said, “The middle of August? Cool!”

 

 

Case Studies and Examples

Flexible Work Hours As An Emission Reduction Strategy (www.tc.gc.ca/envaffairs/subgroups1/passenger_urban/study1/FinalAppendices/appendix_e.htm)

According to the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre (analyzing data from the 1995 Statistics Canada Survey of Work Arrangements), alternative work arrangements such as compressed workweeks and flexible work schedules are becoming more common. Approximately 10 percent of the workforce follows a compressed work week schedule and 25 percent have flexible work schedules.

 

There are many examples of these alternative work arrangements in public and private-sector employment. In Edmonton, Alberta, for example, a compressed workweek is one of several options available to City employees to reduce VKT. The City of Winnipeg has implemented flexible work arrangements. The Royal Bank and the Toronto Star are examples of companies that have also implemented flexible work arrangements and modified workweeks.

 

 

Commuter Challenge Program (www.CommuterChallenge.org)

The Commuter Challenge website has detailed descriptions of more than two-dozen Puget Sound area employers that offer alternative work schedules. Each case study describes the type of employer, the policies and resources they offer, the program’s effectiveness, and feedback from administrators who manage the programs.

 

Compressed Workweek

Flextime

ARCO Products Company

BSC Northwest Technology Center, Inc.

The Bon Marché

DDB Seattle

Entranco

Evergreen State College

Frank Russell Company

Immunex Corporation

KCTS Television

Matsushita Kotobuki

Orion Industries

Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories

Precor

Providence Yakima Medical Center

Red Dot Corporation

Seattle Housing Authority

Washington State Department of Transportation

Entranco

Frank Russell Company

Immunex Corporation

KCTS Television

Seafirst Bank/Bank of America

Seattle Housing Authority

 

 

 

Flexible Work Options (www.hr.upenn.edu/quality/flexoptions/default.htm#fwo overview)

The University of Pennsylvania has developed a Flexible Work Options Program as part of the university’s Work Life Balance for employees. This program includes a detailed guide for managers and staff which includes model guidelines and agreement documents. Below is a section from the guide.

 

Flexible work options offer alternative approaches to getting work done through non-traditional work hours, locations, and/or job structures. They offer creative approaches for completing work while promoting balance between work and personal commitments. They do not reduce work hours or output. They cannot overcome an unmanageable assignment or difficult work relationship.

 

Typical flexible work options are flextime (flexible start, stop and lunch times), flexplace (work away from the office, typically at home), compressed work schedules (compressing standard work week hours into fewer days), and part-time and job sharing assignments (less than full-time work, either for a reduced assignment, or a shared one).

 

 

TransAmerica Financial Corporation (CTS, 1994)

Transamerica Financial Corporation, located in downtown Los Angeles, has had a flextime program since 1974. It employees 4,000 employees, of which 3,700 are salaried employees eligible for the program. Over 90% of those eligible for flextime make use of it. Employees are allowed to start at any time between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., and depart between 3:15 and 5:45 p.m. Lunch lasts from a half-hour to an hour.

 

Over two-thirds of the employees who using flextime arrive before 7:30 a.m. to avoid downtown traffic and free up their afternoons. Early schedules are also a benefit to the company, which deals extensively with the East Coast. To ensure coverage the company requires at least one employee in each department to stay until 5:00 p.m., the end off the regular workday.

 

The company considers flextime a major success. Employees benefit from setting their own schedules and missing the worst traffic congestion. The company capitalizes on these benefits, which aid recruitment and retention. The company also benefits from higher morale and longer hours of operation. The program is as popular with management as it is with workers and is an integral part of the company’s benefit package.

 

 

Southern California Association of Governments (www.scag.ca.gov)

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has had flextime and a compressed workweek program since 1980. SCAG has 125 employees, of whom 100 are professionals and 25 are support personnel. All employees are eligible for compressed workweeks, and 95% take advantage of the option. Employees work 9-hour days and get every other Friday off. They schedule which Fridays they have off with their supervisors, who maintain coverage in the various departments.

 

The program was introduced as a pilot project. Compressed Workweek proved immediately popular with employees. As an agency directly concerned with Los Angeles’ transportation system, SCAG is intensely aware of the benefits of the reduced number of commuting trips generated by Compressed Workweeks. SCAG also feels that its employees’ obvious satisfaction with Compressed Workweeks benefits the organization as well as individuals.

 

SCAG encountered some hurdles in implementing the program. Time recording methods have been revised several times. Most recently, methods had to be modified to avoid paying time-and-a-half on long weekends with the two-week cycle. Sparse staffing on Fridays makes scheduling meetings for that day difficult. However, SCAG employees have learned to adjust and take advantage of the opportunity. An employee’s usual Friday off is coded on the agency’s internal telephone directory. In addition, SCAG employees use their working Fridays to put in long, uninterrupted periods of work.

 

 

References And Resources For More Information

 

Stuart Anderson and David Ungemah (1999), Variable Work Hours: An Implementation Guide for Employers, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (www.deq.state.or.us); available at (www.vtpi.org/vwh.pdf).

 

Apogee (1994), Costs and Cost Effectiveness of Transportation Control Measures; A Review and Analysis of the Literature, National Association of Regional Councils (www.narc.org).

 

Association for Commuter Transportation (www.actweb.org) is a non-profit organization that supports TDM programs.

 

BC Transit (2003), Travel Options Manual, BC Transit (www.transitbc.com); at www.transitbc.com/traveloptions/manual/Travel%20Options%20Manual.pdf.

 

Comsis Corporation (1993), Implementing Effective Travel Demand Management Measures: Inventory of Measures and Synthesis of Experience, USDOT (http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/474.html) and Institute of Transportation Engineers (www.ite.org).

 

CTS (1994), Variable Work Hours; Alternatives to 9-5, Commuter Transportation Services (Los Angeles).

 

CUTR (1998), A Market-Based Approach to Cost-Effective Trip Reduction Program Design, Center for Urban Transportation Research (http://cutr.eng.usf.edu), for Florida DOT; available at http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/3000/3600/3633/cashdoc.pdf.

 

Reid Ewing (1993), “TDM, Growth Management, and the Other Four Out of Five Trips,” Transportation Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 343-366.

 

Bonnie Sue Gariety and Sherrill Shaffer (2001), “Wage Differentials Associated With Flextime,” Monthly Labor Review, Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://stats.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2001/03/art4full.pdf).

 

Genevieve Giuliano (1995), “The Weakening Transportation-Land Use Connection, ACCESS, Vol. 6, University of California Transportation Center (www.uctc.net), Spring 1995, pp. 3-11.

 

Rudy Hung (1996), “Using Compressed Workweeks to Reduce Work Commuting,” Transportation Research A, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 11-19.

 

Alyssa Freas and Stuart Anderson (1991), “Effects of Variable Work Hour Programs on Ridesharing and Organizational Effectiveness, Transportation Research Record 1321, TRB (www.trb.org), pp. 51-56.

 

Amy Ho and Jakki Stewart (1992), “Case Study on Impact of 4/40 Compressed Workweek Program on Trip Reduction,” Transportation Research Record 1346, TRB (www.trb.org), pp. 25-32.

 

Ali Modarres (1993), “Evaluating Employer-Based Transportation Demand Management Programs,” Transportation Research Record A, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 291-297.

 

OPM (1998), Handbook On Alternative Work Schedules, U.S. Office of Personal Management (www.opm.gov/oca/aws/index.htm).

 

Rosella Picado (2000), “A Question of Timing,” Access 17, Fall 2000, pp. 9-13.

 

Marloe B. Sundo and Satoshi Fujii (2005), “The Effects Of A Compressed Working Week On Commuters’ Daily Activity Patterns,” Transportation Research A (www.elsevier.com/locate/tra), Volume 39, Issue 10, December 2005, pp. 835-848.

 

UPenn (1988), Flexible Work Options, Flexible Work Option Task Force, University of Pennsylvania (www.hr.upenn.edu/quality/flexoptions/default.htm#fwo overview).

 

USEPA (1998), Work Schedule Changes, Transportation and Air Quality TCM Technical Overviews, US Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov/oms/transp/publicat/pub_tech.htm).

 

WSDOT (1999), Employee Transportation Coordinator Handbook, Washington State CTR Program (www.wsdot.wa.gov/partners/wsro).


This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.

 

VTPI

Homepage

Encyclopedia Homepage

Send Comments

 

Victoria Transport Policy Institute

www.vtpi.org       info@vtpi.org

1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC,  V8V 3R7,  CANADA

Phone & Fax 250-360-1560

“Efficiency - Equity - Clarity”

 

#15