This story first appeared on Women 2.0.

It’s no surprise that employees today want flexible hours. What is surprising, though, is that so few employers offer a flexible work schedule. All the while, millions of Americans choose to work part-time jobs so they can have more control over their work and personal lives.

If you don’t offer flexible working hours and conditions, you’re not only creating an unideal work environment for your employees. You could also be shutting out qualified candidates who won’t settle working for a company with an antiquated working hours policy.

Why Americans Choose Flexibility Over Money

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20 million Americans actively choose part-time work.

They’re not working fewer hours because they can’t find a full-time position; rather, they’re engaging in a deliberate, careful work-life balance. For most, working part-time is a result of simply not being able to commit to 9-to-5 jobs.

For example, they may be college or graduate students who need time to complete assignments. Some part-time employees juggle family obligations, and others are semi-retired.

However, one-third of this demographic - roughly 6 million Americans - choose part-time work so they can follow their passions. These workers want to design their own careers. Many are young and college-educated, and they want work that will cater to their lifestyle, which is largely in flux.

Among this population, the common denominator is simple: They don’t want to work long hours in a job they don’t like.

Too-Strict Hours Are Bad for Business

Even though more and more Americans choose part-time work, the percentage of employers offering flexible work has increased only minimally in the past decade -; from about 4 to 5 percent.

Inflexible hours, especially combined with low wages, place demands on employees that leave them starved for time, both for themselves and for their families.

Simply put, strict hours are bad for business because they’re bad for employees. According to research, it’s hazardous to their health. Stress takes a toll on heart health, blood pressure and getting a good night’s sleep. Spending more than 20 hours awake has the same impact on bodily and mental function as consuming five or six alcoholic drinks.

The statistics also show a much more insidious problem: increased likelihood of alcohol abuse. People who work 50 or more hours a week are three times as likely to chronically abuse alcohol than those who don’t.

As a result, the economy suffers. Experts estimate that, as a whole, alcohol misuse costs the U.S. economy $223.5 billion every year. Decreased workplace productivity accounts for a staggering 72 percent of the loss.

Why Offer Flexible Hours

Given the stats, it’s clear that changing the way you structure your startup’s hours is well worth the effort. If you still need convincing, read on for some more reasons to switch to flextime.

SMALL COST SAVINGS ADD UP

Consider the cost benefits of shutting down the office entirely for one day every week. During that day, no one is draining utilities like electricity or water - and you’re saving on smaller investments, too, like coffee, paper towels and hand soap.

Employees also save money they would otherwise spend on gas, public transit or going out to lunch. If the work can still get done, what may seem like small cost savings ultimately make a huge difference.

WHEN MENTAL HEALTH IMPROVES, SO DOES MORALE

Giving people space and time away from the office allows them to catch up on truly necessary activities, such as spending time with their families and getting enough sleep. When employees feel refreshed, they’re much happier to come to work.

RECRUITING CAPABLE EMPLOYEES IS EASIER

When one of the perks you can offer is a flexible work schedule, you’ll be able to find competent people to help your business be the best they can be - and you’ll beat out your competitors in the process.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, PRODUCTIVITY INCREASES

When coming to work is about more than showing up, things get done. As an employer, one great way to offer flexibility is to allow your employees to work remotely when you don’t need them at the office, or to work nontraditional hours.

When the employer’s focus is on the work being done, the employees can focus on meeting deadlines and producing good work - not on watching the clock tick the seconds until it’s time to go home. The luxury of the nontraditional schedule reduces stress - and when stress doesn’t get in the way, your startup will benefit.
Allowing employees to work flexible hours doesn’t mean they’re allowed to stop showing up. Consider these ideas for restructuring the way you work your startup. The bottom line is that tangible results are the goal. Many employees find it helps tremendously when they can complete tasks efficiently, but in their own way.