Flex hours is just one of a selection of flexible working patterns which offer businesses and employees an alternative to the traditional 9-to-5 working day. Also known as flexi time, schemes allow employees to balance their work and personal lives. This involves the employee varying the pattern he works his contracted hours, usually by altering his arrival or departure times on a daily basis. Exact details of flex hour schemes vary from organization to organization and fall into several different categories.

Daily Flex Time

Employees on daily flex time plan their own working day around a central compulsory "core time" of attendance which covers the busiest part of the working day. Employees are required to be in work during this core time. Otherwise they are free to choose their start and finish times and even the length of their lunch breaks. This means they can start early and leave early and vice versa. They can also work over or above their contracted daily hours, giving them the potential to accrue hours that can be taken as leave.

Non-Core Time

The ultimate in flex working, non-core time operates on a similar principle to daily flex accept that there is no requirement to attend at specific times of the day. Instead, the business will set a minimum number of hours to be worked. Employees can start and finish when they please as long as they work this minimum and ensure that their contracted hours for the month are met.

Standard Flex Time

At the other end of the spectrum are standard flex hours. Instead of working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., employees stipulate their own set pattern of working. They could choose to work from seven until three every day or work for long days and one short day. Once chosen, however, they cannot deviate from their working pattern as they have committed to attend between their chosen hours.

Pros and Cons

Businesses can achieve a longer working day by extending business opening hours to accommodate different working patterns and can maximize profits by paying employees who work over in time rather than money. On the flip side, a poorly managed scheme that does not ensure adequate cover across the day and in key busy periods could damage a company. For a successful flex hour scheme, that meets both business and personal needs, cooperation and communication are key. A constant level of cover throughout the working day, coordinated through cooperation among the work force, allows for a successful business and happy employees with a good work-life balance.