Take a quick look around and you’ll notice that the 9-5 workday is fading. As a millennial, I can attest that flexibility is a leading priority in job hunting. As of today, 21-36 year olds make up 35% of the US workforce and our work preferences are reshaping the corporate culture.
Granted, most people still need to render a 40-hour work week. However, ‘flextime’ allows you to avoid time-consuming and stress-inducing factors like rush hour traffic. Others are even able to work at night, which was exactly what Sebastian Raposa shared here on Sophaya. It’s not only work schedules that are changing but location, too. An increasing number of companies use technology to set up virtual offices and manage teams. My projects are location independent, which means I have the liberty to work in the comfort of my own home.
Naturally, whether remote workers should follow a 9-5 schedule or flextime is something to be considered. Since it is a relatively new concept, the advantages and disadvantages of each are still being debated.
There are good and bad things to be said for both in terms of productivity. Companies against flextime say that employees work more efficiently when following a schedule. Having to clock in and out at set hours can help with pacing and distributing work throughout the day. The rigid schedule can also encourage more focus. Knowing that you have to be finished by a certain time can keep the wheels turning.
The problem with this model is that people have different internal schedules, and a flexible schedule can address said issue. Daniel Pink reintroduced the concept of ‘chronotypes’ in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Citing Pink’s book, Fast Company broke down the three chronotoypes which are morning people (14%), night people (21%), and people who fall in between (65%). There’s a specific time of the day where each type has more energy and perform more effectively. Although the majority can function well within a regular schedule, the rest may stall productivity, especially if they have bigger roles in the company.
Knowing which group you belong to can help you schedule your work when you’re most productive. It can help the company improve quality overall as long as the workers can minimize distractions and sustain focus. These factors are among the main hindrances that impact the productivity of many remote workers.
Some organizations feel that having the same working hours encourages employees to collaborate. Virtual team meetings are easier when everyone is used to being online at certain hours and response is in real time.
There are other companies that still see proximity as an issue, but Inc points out that they should simply focus on keeping communication lines open. The proximity issue then becomes irrelevant. It’s hard to imagine that a team will have to meet every single day for hours at a time if they want to be more productive. A two-hour meeting a week can be enough if leaders know how to conduct them effectively. Remember though that employees may still need to agree on “core hours” when everyone has to stay in contact.
Staff morale is difficult to assess with remote workers. It is harder for the employees to develop interpersonal relationships if they don’t have a shared environment. In relation to the previous point, however, a shared schedule (core hours or the full 9-5) can still bring everyone together. Sophaya placed emphasis on getting to know workers personally rather than just professionally. Work relationships complemented by friendships can encourage teamwork. Various video-messaging or text-messaging programs encourage virtual hangouts. The company can use these tools to help build rapport between co-workers. This will help employees stay satisfied with their jobs and instill a sense of belongingness with the company.
Another challenge for leaders handling flexible remote teams is supervision. This aspect also falls down to communicating with staff constantly in order to stay updated with their progress. The leader’s organizational skills are a factor as well, and how he/she can use them to keep everyone connected. Maryville University’s page on Organizational Leadership details that this approach looks at how each individual works and where they fit into the whole organization. Leaders can employ strategies that help them oversee each team member. For instance, the group can use technology that makes supervision or giving instructions easier, such as video chat. Organizational leaders are more understanding of how each member operates and how to handle them in the best way possible.
One factor that’s in favor of a flextime setup is the extended coverage beyond business hours. The company can remain ‘open’ and accessible to their clients 24/7 if they have people working the graveyard or early morning shifts. Companies just need to ensure that they can manage client expectations consistently.
Studies show that millennials are less work-obsessed and aim to find balance between career and personal life. Not implementing strict hours offers maximum flexibility for other commitments. Lizzie Penny, co-founder of the multi-industry consulting group The Hoxby Collective, believes that empathy is the reason behind workplace flexibility. Penny explains that empathy means looking at the employee as someone with a life outside of work.
There is no short answer to whether your company should employ regular business hours or flextime. In truth, it all depends on how the employees align with the goal of the company. Lizzie Penny said something that resonates with many of us: “I can’t speak for others, but when everything in my life is well balanced, I am able truly to enjoy what I do, uninhibited by guilt or any other barrier that may get in the way.” To make remote work effective, find a system that is both amenable to employees and is in the best interest of the company.
Jessica Punn is a freelance graphic designer and videographer. After quitting her 9-5 job, she sought out projects that enabled her to work remotely for the last few years. Jessica is a classic lark who aims to finish her work before lunchtime so she can dedicate the rest of her day to her other hobbies.
Photo by Djim Loic