The increasing demand for flexible work arrangements doesn’t only mean location flexibility, it also means that the conventional 9-5 workday is a thing of the past. Of course, this includes working hours becoming more flexible. But it can also mean some companies are shortening or even removing entire workdays from employees’ schedules. How does this work? And what are the differences, unique advantages and challenges of different flexible working hour arrangements? In this article, we run you through the different options you have when it comes to time flexibility. We specifically focus on so-called flexitime (or flextime) and the condensed work week.
It’s no surprise that the 9-5 routine can be very limiting for employees. Some are naturally ‘morning people’ whilst others prefer working late in the day or even at night. Additionally to a personal preference, some employees may require more time flexibility to align life’s responsibilities with their work. These may include ongoing doctor appointments, childcare, care for the elderly, or long commutes, just to name a few.
The reality is that for most jobs the traditional 9-5, Monday to Friday, just doesn’t cut it anymore. The exception being a trade role or client-facing which requires certain hours of the day and days of the week. So there’s no real need to be at the office every weekday during those set hours. It also comes with great inefficiencies. Just think about congested roads and full public transport to realise the unnecessary difficulties of everyone travelling to offices at the same time.
Since the global working from home, “experiment” more and more companies have now seen that not only remote work but also time flexibility drastically improve the lives of their employees.
Different Types of Time Flexibility: Start with Flexitime
Flexitime, otherwise known as flextime, has gained popularity in recent years. The increase in interest to maintain a healthy work-life balance makes this an appealing option for many. It enables workers to choose their own start and finish times and work a core number of hours per day or per week depending on the policy. This is especially great for parents and carers who are now able to work full-time around their home schedule. Flexitime can also include remote work. Apart from the core hours needed in the office, the rest of the time doesn’t have to be spent in the office necessarily. Flexitime and remote work can go hand in hand to offer even more flexibility for employees by not being constrained by time or location.
The Benefits of Flexitime
- Flexitime reduces absences: By allowing employees to work around their lives instead of living round work, it enables them to better integrate life’s responsibilities into busy and ambitious working schedules. In a full-time no-flexible office job people may call in sick due to a doctor’s appointment or other responsibilities. However, flexitime enables employees to finish off their business and then come into work before or after. In addition, this helps build inclusivity in the workplace especially for carers or those with disabilities.
- Working flexible hours increases productivity: Did you know that in-office productivity and engagement increases with flexitime, according to 60% of flexitime employees? One of the key reasons for this is being able to work when you’re most productive. That can mean some people are early starters whereas others prefer staying later instead. Everyone is different and accommodating those differences proves beneficial.
- Companies see a boost of retention and loyalty of flexitime workers: Lack of flexibility is a huge factor for most people when choosing a workplace. In a recent survey by Flexjobs 81% of respondents said they would be more loyal to their employer with some form of flexitime. Additionally, 27% even said they’d be willing to take a paycut of 10-20% to be allowed some form of remote work. These are statistics that really need to be taken into consideration to not lose top talent.
Does a Condensed or Compressed Work Weeks mean more flexibility?
A condensed or compressed workweek reduces the typical 5-day work week into less. This could mean 4 day work week. While for some, this comes with an overall reduction in working hours, for others this can mean you have longer working days. While compressing 40 hours of work into 4-days reduces flexibility in some regards, it offers it in others. This depends on the schedule you implement for workers. Whether they can decide which day of the week they take as their out of office “flex-day”, or there is one fixed off-day in their 4-day work week.
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The Benefits of a Condensed Work Week
- Increased productivity: By allowing employees to spend a whole or half day off during the week, productivity and focus at work can increase. This is due to being able to finish off larger home tasks all at once, meaning that stress is not brought into the workplace. For those working longer hours on fewer days it could also mean more focus time. This is due to working outside of regular office hours, which tend to come with fewer interruptions.
- A reduced carbon footprint: Fewer days in the office also means less time commuting into the office. This then reduces costs, saves time and improves mental health. A study by Remote Year shows that people with longer commutes are 33% more likely to have depression. The same study also says those people are 12% more likely to have work related stress issues.
- Reduced absences: When employees are having to book days off for doctors appointments or school meetings, etc, it can interrupt their workflow. By providing an extra weekday which they can use to focus on non-related work tasks it can reduce workplace absences.
3 Key Tips for Successful Time Flexibility in your workforce
Time flexibility has many benefits if set up correctly yet still has its own set of challenges. Setting up a clear policy for time flexible work can differ from employee to employee and team to team. Make sure to take into consideration both the needs of the employees and those of the company to find the right structure for success.
1. Get to know your team
One of the main reasons for implementing time flexibility is building a better work-life balance for your team. To do this it’s important to understand the needs of those around you. Is time flexibility a need for parents so they can work earlier and spend time with their kids after work? In some countries like France, elementary-aged kids don’t have school on Wednesdays. Is it possible to implement a four day work week for them? For employees across time zones, this is a great chance to fill the gap. Some teams need more crossover time so working later or earlier could be the standard rather than a one-off. Being clear on the needs of the company from both a business and employee perspective will give you a clear direction to get started.
You won’t know unless you ask, so start there. To do this more efficiently and build a database to see the overall picture consider a survey. Tools like Typeform and Google Forms can help you collect all the information necessary to build a flexitime policy. Asking about preferences is one thing, the other is understanding your state of distributed collaboration and what could be possible for your business. Consider a “remote-ready audit” by external experts such as acework, just get in touch with us here.
Then when it comes to implementing a strategy, understand how progress will be measured. You could kick this off with a daily check-in at the start of the working day and a sign off message at the end. Doing this asynchronously provides a lot of benefits, as it doesn’t interrupt the working day of others who may have started or finished earlier.
2. Watch where the time goes
Meetings can definitely be time-consuming. Especially if there’s one after another on what would’ve otherwise have been a productive day. It’s not surprising to read one article after another on how to overcome unnecessary meetings or how to make them better. Do you really use the full meeting time effectively or is it full of filler talk? A great general rule to follow is to cut all meeting times in half. What would’ve been 30 mins is now 15 mins and there’s no small talk. Save that for the break room, or virtual break room if you work remotely.
With remote teammates, it’s easy to form a habit of a quick catch up in every meeting. This isn’t efficient and it’s important to set a specific time just for that. Ensuring all meetings are just for the set topic can increase efficiency and improve time management for flexitime employees, even more so if they’re remote. Additionally, if your team has flexitime employees it’s important to schedule meetings when everyone is available for maximum productivity and practicality of time.
Communication is also a huge factor to implement effective time management. It’s easier to get into a deep workflow with fewer interruptions, but it can come at the cost of being less knowledgeable about the tasks of colleagues that may otherwise be close to you in an office. Communication is key, whether that’s by Slack or other virtual communication tools. It’s important to keep managers and any relevant team members in the loop about your progress and vice versa. Therefore, focusing on asynchronous ways of keeping each other up to date becomes even more important. Leaving an update for the next day is not smart when flexible hours are in place. One colleague may work better at night and the other in the morning. By not giving them access to relevant information when needed, you may block someone else’s work.
3. Focus on output
Whilst performance may be one of the main causes of concern for flexible work, studies show otherwise. In this business case by CIPD flexible work increases individual performance, according to both employees and managers. For employees, it’s 89% more motivating than any financial bonuses. On the other hand, for managers flexible work has resulted in either a positive or neutral influence on employee productivity. This is good news!
To ensure focus on output you can set metrics enabling employees to see a clear structure to meet their target. Then when it comes to measuring performance and output the results are self-evident. This is helpful in all aspects of work. Even more so when not all employees are in the office at all times. It means that they can judge their progress at any given time. From here managers can give actionable feedback that’s clear and based on the performance metrics and results rather than micromanaged chair time. Yes, this increases employee output but also increases employee satisfaction and engagement building an overall more motivated workplace and team.
You can find some additional tips on how to work with a partially remote team here. If you’re managing or going to manage a hybrid team, this is how you can get started. Also, watch out for these pitfalls when managing a partially remote team.
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Our advisory creates actionable strategies for companies based on their culture, processes, and business needs. Schedule a free strategy session to start building your high-performing distributed team. If you’re looking to hire top vetted remote or flexible talent, register your company and start hiring here.