Alternative Hours

What are Alternative Hours?

Alternative Hours is an option for you to deal with outside-of-work responsibilities without losing work time or taking leave. With alternative hours, you can arrive earlier or later than the company’s “regular” hours, work your full day, and leave. Hours can be fixed or adjusted on a periodic or daily basis if mutually agreed upon. 

If you are exempt, you may already be doing your own version of alternative hours. They may not need to make a formal proposal. But others, such as support and administrative staff, may need to make a proposal for this schedule change.


If you use alternative hours, you can:

  • Select one start time and end time that includes the designated core hours and keep it
  • Change schedules at some logical interval depending on organizational need and manager approval
  • Vary their schedule and length of their days daily if the job requires/allows

You can also request mid-day flexibility. The schedule requires a minimum half-hour lunch, but you may extend the lunch period to up to two hours as long as manager approval is obtained and the operations of the work group are not disrupted. Start and quit times are changed to assure a full workday.

Example of a Standard Workday:

Example of an Alternative Hours Workday:

The key elements of alternative hours are:

  • Bandwidth: The time you may be on the job. This may differ from office to office, but typically is a 12 hour band, say from 7:30 a.m.  – 6:30 p.m.
  • Standard Service Day: The time during which normal service and functional operations must be available. 
  • Core Time: The time when all employees are to be on the job, unless specifically excused.

Success Factors

Managers can assess the staffing needs and workflow of their functions based on the work process, external needs and coverage requirements.

You and your manager should work together to mesh their flexible scheduling needs with business requirements.

You should make sure the schedule provides adequate coverage for the time(s) of day when others typically need you the most, regular scheduled meeting times, core hours, etc.

While most jobs can accommodate some degree of flexibility in scheduling, jobs that require your presence at unpredictable times throughout regular business hours do not lend themselves to Alternative Hours. Independent, task-focused work is a particularly good match for Alternative Hours.

Managers often feel that they have to be available at all times when their staff are working. Alternative Hours requires a model that focuses on results and productivity rather than face time and oversight.

If it is essential for you to be supervised at all times, then the manager should identify a back-up manager or delegate specific functions for the times the manager is out of the office. This will ensure that their direct reports will always have someone to turn to.

You and your manager should both think through who needs to know about your revised schedule and how that information will be communicated. Communication can be via:

  • Posting a weekly work
  • Schedule in a place where
  • Everybody will see it
  • Staff schedule white board
  • Electronic calendar
  • Memos
  • Email
  • Voice messages

You can use voicemail messages to remind people of their schedule. This can be:

  • A standard message that includes the schedule or
  • A message that changes daily and explains how to reach the person

A manager may choose to set core hours when all employees must be present.

Core hours as part of Alternative Hours ensure satisfactory flexibility for the employee and sufficient shared work time for the work group and colleagues.

Core hours should be well communicated and fully recognized as critical to the success of Alternative Hours.

Presence in the office is not the same as access. If you can be available for critical needs without being in the office at all times.

For example, if you are working an early Alternative Hours schedule, and there is a vital late-afternoon meeting, you would do well to be accessible by phone for the meeting.

Questions About Alternative Hours

No matter how well Alternative Hours is planned and implemented, from time to time breakdowns do occur. Here are some common breakdowns that managers or employees might experience once an arrangement is operating.

Click on any of the potentially challenging situations for some suggestions on how to more effectively manage ongoing Alternative Hours.

The manager should involve the staff in working out a schedule that will provide the coverage that is needed. The staff should understand that if a schedule can’t be worked out, everyone will have to return to a regular schedule.

For all flexible schedules, managers should use the request process to manage toward required coverage.

The manager should deal with these abuses as he or she would any disciplinary problem.  A step might be a warning and coaching.  If the abuses continue, the individuals involved can be required to return to a standard schedule.

Coworkers can also put peer pressure on employees who are abusing the system so that they don’t lose their own flexible arrangements.

The managers of the different departments should meet to discuss the situation.  A valid response would be to have communications between the departments involved take place during core hours.

Managers of other departments can be encouraged to learn about FWAs and how they can benefit their own units.

No. Managers should think of themselves more as coaches than overseers. They should be encouraged to delegate or rotate some of their responsibility and present themselves as a resource for their employees.

A flexible schedule is not an entitlement.  If employees abuse the system, a manager should counsel them.  If the abuse continues, a manager can require that the employees return to a standard schedule.  

If everyone wants to “flex” at the same time and organizational needs will not allow it, the schedules must be revised to assure coverage. Ask the employees who want the new schedules to develop a solution that addresses coverage.

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