Even as the economy shows signs of revival, several economic indicators, such as consumer confidence, consumer spending, and the nation’s unemployment rate, suggest that it will still be a tough road ahead for many small businesses over the next few months.

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Those small business owners looking for ways to get through this difficult economic period may want to re-evaluate their employee work week and/or hours of operation. Not only will this help to cut costs and improve overall productivity, but it may also help small business owners to hold on to their workers.

Here are a few of the most popular flexible work scheduling options among employers and their employees:

1. The Compressed Work Week

Many businesses big and small are realizing the advantages of operating on a compressed work week which include: less commuting, a reduction in utility costs, and a more productive workforce. All of this is accomplished without dramatically changing the actual amount of hours an employee works or the business’ operating time. There are several ways to set up a compressed work schedule:

  • A 4-day work week with 10-hour shifts

  • A 3-day work week with 12-hour shifts

  • Working for 9 or 91/2 days, every two weeks

2. Flex Time

With a flex time schedule, employees work their usual amount of weekly hours, but are granted flexibility when it comes to their starting and stopping times. So, for example, one employee might choose to begin work at 7:30 am and end at 4:00 pm with a half-hour lunch period, while another person could start at 10:00 am and work till 7:00 pm taking an hour for lunch.

3. Job Sharing

With this flexible work option, two or more employees share the same position either by being jointly responsible for that position or by splitting up the functions of a particular job. This option is best for those businesses that require additional tasks be done but cannot afford to hire additional workers, or those businesses that have been forced to let some workers go thereby leaving gaps in work productivity.

4. Telecommuting/Teleworking

In this scenario, employees work from home instead of commuting to work. Advances in mobile technology, communications, and computing have made home-based employees increasingly more productive and versatile. Some businesses choose to have such employees work exclusively from home; others require a combination of home-based and office-based hours.

5. Reduced Hours, Days Off, and Unpaid Vacations

This final option is typically the least desirable from the employee’s prospective, but it may be a better choice then laying off workers outright. Either employees can cut back their weekly hours, or take days off (for example, not coming in every fourth Friday of the month), or they can be given the option for unpaid vacation time.

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