The labor market continues to be tight with very low unemployment and steady job growth each month. The ongoing discussion about remote and hybrid work we see everywhere is leaving some employers whose businesses simply cannot support a remote work option wondering how they will compete in the current labor market without being able to offer such flexibility. Many workers have come to value and now demand work flexibility, but employers in the hospitality, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors, to name a few, need employees on-site and available to provide customer service, complete projects, and build products. Working from home is simply not an option some businesses can offer.

For workers who never left the work site, there is no discussion regarding transitioning back to on-site work. However, for those being asked to come back on-site every day, an inflation rate that has increased by an astounding 9.1% in a 12-month period and the current cost of gas may be giving them pause and causing them to consider other employment options. What is an employer to do to attempt to retain their workforce under these conditions?

While it is not a fix-all solution, one option could be considering a shorter workweek that will provide employees additional time away from work that is predictable and does not count against their Paid Time Off accruals. There are many options for shorter work weeks, for example, exempt management employees could work four 10-hour shifts to allow for three days off on a rotational basis. Longer days in exchange for an added day off could provide a different lifestyle from the typical type of schedule that is expected for those considering moving into higher-level roles but finding themselves reluctant because of concerns about work-life balance. An added day off would allow employees to spend more time with their families, which is often a factor in why workers leave a company. It would also help keep expenditures down on gas for the car and save some behind-the-wheel time.

Another option includes working eight 9-hour days with an 8-hour day off over a two-week period, which could be an alternative for employees in manufacturing or other industries. In this model, employers can set up a rotational schedule so that some staff is off on a Friday and others on a Monday to maintain adequate coverage for their operations. Alternative schedules provide some predictability in who is on and who is off so that leadership can plan for operational needs. And employees can make plans without having to ask for added time off to take care of medical appointments and other personal business they need to tend to during business hours.

Considering reducing what we consider “full-time” to a 32-hour work week is also being discussed by a number of locales and a legislative bill for a 32-hour workweek was even considered here in California but did not pass. The 32-hour workweek is somewhat common in some countries and companies across Europe. For California employers to consider alternative work schedules, there could be some added considerations to continue to be in compliance with wage and hour laws. As such, we recommend you partner with experts to ensure the options you are considering are not going to result in claims or penalties. Though we are not labor attorneys, we use our decades of human resources management knowledge to help employers navigate complex wage and hour scenarios regularly and are happy to help you design and implement an alternative work schedule or reduced full-time work week policy and plan.

The Personnel Perspective is a full-service HR management consulting firm with core expertise in human resources, leadership development, training, and recruiting. The firm’s core belief is that a company achieves organizational excellence through its people and offering more work flexibility is a key to retention. Contact us to learn more: (707) 801-0140.