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Taking Flexible Schedules Into the Future

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 08/16/2021

employer sorting out employee time and taking flex schedules into the future

Table of Contents

In 2021, one thing is for sure: The hybrid work model is here to stay. After a  year of quarantine and lockdown mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic – with some companies making the shift to telecommuting indefinitely – many companies that can accommodate employees working remotely are doing so. Other companies that are finding a way to return employees to the office safely, or have some work that can’t be done virtually, are adopting a “hybrid” work model, which may include some people working remotely while others are on-site or have everyone splitting different days between home and the office. Either way, the “new normal” can mean adapting to digital and remote workspaces for some or all team members.

And while telecommuting has its benefits, work from home burnout is a real consideration for many companies trying to help their employees balance a world where they share a workspace with other family members (including children or spouses) in their home.

Like the hybrid work model, flexible schedules are more important than ever in balancing work from home culture and the stress associated with it, but how many people have the opportunity to adjust their working hours? To find out, we surveyed over 1,300 workers across a range of roles about the flexibility they’ve been offered at work and how it’s impacted their satisfaction and stress. Read on as we explore how often people prefer a flexible schedule; how adjusting their working hours can contribute to work-life balance; the issues managers have encountered with flexible schedules; and how men and women may value the rigidity of their workday differently.

Finding Value in Flexibility

Among the more than 1,300 people surveyed, 73% reported being on some kind of flexible schedule with their job, including those who had complete or a majority control over the hours they worked or people setting their schedule with their manager’s approval. In contrast, 27% of people still had a rigid work schedule, including those who could only control minor aspects of their schedule or whose schedule was completely written for them by a manager or supervisor.

A vast majority (85%) of people who adopted a flexible work schedule were also working remotely to some extent, including 45% exclusively working from home, and 40% working a hybrid system on-site and at home. Slightly more than half (51%) of people with rigid work schedules were also working remotely, including 26% fully remote and 24% working in a hybrid environment.

Among most people surveyed, a flexible working schedule was a very important part of their working life. Seventy-nine percent of people working on-site said a flexible schedule was valuable to them, followed by 77% of people working fully remote and 67% of those working in hybrid environments. Half of people who’d adopted flexible working hours said the shift happened when their company made changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 1 in 10 people said flexible schedules were a company perk, though roughly as many people said they had to negotiate the ability to work flexible hours for themselves.

Happy With Their Jobs During COVID-19

The structure of work-life balance has changed significantly for millions of working Americans trying to find harmony between the new reality of living and working in the same space at the same time that their spouses, children, and other family members are doing virtually the same thing. To help them cope, experts recommend managers prepare for disruptions to the work environment, bring transparency to them, and try to maintain morale through the changes. As our survey found, a flexible work schedule can be a core component of establishing a work-life balance in 2021.

Twenty-one percent of people with a rigid work schedule said they had no work-life balance, compared to 9% of people working flexible schedules. In contrast, 63% of people working flexible hours said they had a good work-life balance, compared to 48% of those with a rigid schedule. Non-married people with rigid schedules were more likely to say they had no work-life balance versus married individuals, but working people with children were even more likely to suffer from lack of work-life balance. Roughly 1 in 4 people working a rigid work schedule with children at home said they had no work-life balance.

Thinking about their job happiness, 28% of people with a rigid schedule were unhappy with their job, compared to 10% of those with flexible schedules. Entry-level employees working rigid schedules (31%) were the most likely to be unhappy with their job, followed by midlevel employees (26%), and management (16%).

Overcoming the Challenges of Flexible Schedules

Eighty-one percent of people said controlling the timing of their work was an advantage of having a flexible schedule, but there were some disadvantages as well. Fifty-eight percent of respondents indicated flexible work schedules meant that work and personal time overlapped, followed by those who said it was difficult to track hours worked (38%) and who struggled with coordinating team communication (35%). Overwhelmingly, flexible schedules were far more likely to lead to general issues with scheduling, including 47% of people who reported very or extremely consistent schedule-related issues at work.

Still, despite the increased proclivity for scheduling snafus, 70% of people said flexible schedules made them more productive than when someone else set their schedule for them. More than half of people working a rigid schedule said they felt flexible work hours would be very or extremely useful, and 60% believed they would be more productive if allowed to work such a schedule.

The Gender Gap With WFH

For some , the transition to working from home has posed challenges, forcing them to try and balance their professional responsibilities with their tasks and chores at home. Working mothers have had a particularly difficult time balancing distance learning with distance work where everyone lives under the same roof together for a majority of the day.

Women (78%) were more likely than men (70%) to indicate that a flexible schedule was very important to their job. Non-married women (79%) were also more likely to value flexible schedules than non-married men (73%) and married women (76%), while married men were the least likely to value a flexible schedule (68%).

Among people looking for new jobs, 69% of respondents working flexible schedules said having that flexibility would be important to them in a new role, and 36% of people working a set schedule said finding flexible hours was important to them. Baby boomers (28%) were the most likely to say that flexible schedules were extremely important to them in a new job, followed by Generation Z respondents and millennials. Sixty-eight percent of respondents with children at home said a flexible schedule was either very or extremely important to them in a new job, compared to 52% of people without kids.

Finding the Balance You Need

In 2021, hybrid work is becoming a long-term reality for millions of Americans. Whether they’re working from home or working on-site, a vast majority of people said they valued the ability to set flexible working hours for themselves. More than helping to improve their work-life balance and general job happiness, people working flexible schedules said they felt more productive while on the clock.

Managing flexible schedules can be complicated, but can be implemented for some jobs  with the right policy. You can help your employees gain control over their hours while making timekeeping quick and painless for your payroll team by letting Paychex help your employees decide how and where they want to clock in. With calendar integrations, configurable alerts, visual schedulers, templates, and shift swapping, time tracking options from Paychex can make it easier to adapt to a hybrid work world for you and your teams. Learn more online at, and start exploring our COVID-19 Help Center for more resources to help you navigate the new normal for your business and your people.

Methodology and Limitations

We collected 1,357 responses of employed Americans from Amazon Mechanical Turk. 49% of our participants identified as men, 50% identified as women, and roughly 1% identified as nonbinary or nonconforming. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 88 with a mean of 38 and a standard deviation of 11.2. Those who reported no current employment or who failed an attention-check question were disqualified.

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

Is the new hybrid work model affecting your readers? We encourage you to share the results of this study for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story so they have full access to our methodology and findings.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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