In 2021, businesses are at a critical juncture. Accelerated by the easy accessibility and improvements within technology, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and changes in the needs and wants of the current and future workforce, companies are now faced with critical decisions that will shape their future.
In particular, the debate over the nature of the working day continues. For many industries, the traditional fixed schedule, the 9-5, the Monday to Friday hustle, is all they have ever known. And has been a fundamental part of providing security and familiarity for many.
But businesses are also facing increasing support towards a flexible working schedule for employees. So do they stick with what they trust, the clarity and order which fixed schedules offer, or embrace an approach that emphasizes the need to bring a balance to people's lives but relies on bestowing a significant amount of trust upon their teams?
This is not an easy choice. But, this article will try to provide you and your business with the facts. We will explore the benefits and disadvantages of both approaches. To inform your decision making about whether your business should follow fixed working hours or offer your employees a flexible schedule.
A daily routine…
Your alarm goes. You wake up. Wash. Dress. Eat. You leave your home and walk to your vehicle of choice: Bus, Train, Car, Bicycle or even your own two legs. Your commute to work. You arrive at work. You walk to your floor, desk, or find a hot desk wherever you can find one. You have small talk with your colleagues. How was their evening? What did they do? Did you watch….. You email, work and have intermittent toilet and coffee breaks. It's 12. Lunchtime. Maybe some fresh air and a chance to stretch your legs and body. Back to your desk. Work. Oh, is that the time? 5 o'clock. Right, home. You commute back. The evening passes. Sleep. You repeat this process the other four days of the week.
Fixed working hours. Mr and Mrs Traditional. Some may say it is monotonous, but providing job security and benefits is hard to argue against.
For both companies and employees, you know what you are going to get with a fixed schedule. There is continuity from one day to the next. It acts as a stabilizer and organizer, which lives need.
With fixed working hours, there are fixed constraints and fixed priorities. Everyone is on the same page; you don't have your workforce dotted around the place, isolated silos working at odd hours. These are the hours you work. You do not need to work beyond this allocated clocking off point. However, you can prioritize what you can do within this window of time. Your workforce can try and get as much done as possible and then leave it for the next day, or receive overtime and show you the keen bean they are. But not too much overtime; remember your free time is also essential.
Moreover, with fixed working hours, you have set weekends. So you know when you can relax, organize a time to chill and see friends and family.
With fixed working hours, everyone is in:
You do not have to rearrange meetings based on time zones or availability. It is easier for businesses to schedule appointments and catch-ups, give instructions and collaborate on tasks when everyone is present on any given day. Furthermore, for an employer, it is easier to keep an eye on employees. To make sure that everyone is working, doing their jobs and understanding the mood of the teams and individuals.
A great workplace is made by the connections between employees, teams and managers. Everyone following similar hours and a schedule can help to create an excellent working environment. As well as enhance relationships between employees based on trust and support.
In addition, having all employees present can result in increased inter-office communication. Employees get to know others better; they can chat with those around them and those from different departments. For example, during lunchtimes, at the water dispenser or on their journeys within the lift.
These sorts of experiences make for better workplace culture. Everyone knows one another and knows that they are all a part of something. This can improve personal investment among employees towards the business and their roles. They are all working together with purpose and have a sense of unity. Hopefully, leading to increased business performance as a consequence.
In addition, it also helps if any employees are having issues. Being part of an open and friendly environment, working in an office together, can lead to employees being more open about problems. And also help to detect changes that may be out of character for individuals.
Being around one another helps to build good working and personal relationships. If someone is struggling, they know they can speak with people who care about their wellbeing, which is far easier to do when everyone is working to the same fixed schedule.
So much of one's life is being spent in the office or commuting to and from it. For your employees, it can sometimes leave little time for life beyond work. This can result in little opportunity for employees to participate in hobbies or things they may enjoy after work. The weekends, rather than recharging and laughter, are just a means to catch up on the tasks you couldn't complete during the week. Nothing like vacuuming and laundry on a Saturday!
A fixed schedule at work alongside a time-consuming commute can take over all aspects of an employee's life and dramatically impact an employee's mental and physical health. The constant repetitiveness of days can contribute to lower job satisfaction or boredom among an increasingly unhappy workforce. Unhappy or unhealthy employees are hardly conducive to delivering excellent work performance. Thus, impacting output within a business.
Having too much time on one's hands can lead to procrastination among your employees. The Internet is a big place to get lost.
Employees can spend hours on a job, safe in knowing that they can take their time and fill out their working day with slow progress on a task. No need for urgency. When in fact, the employee could complete the job in a far shorter period. This lack of efficiency and valuing the time one has can impact future tasks down the line as they are pushed back further. And poses this question. Surely, there are more interesting ways to spend your day?
Being wedded to an approach can have its limitations, especially when offering a fixed working schedule. As new generations enter the job market, they come with new desires for what they want their employer or workspace to look like. They may not want what previous generations were happy with. Thus, it could impact a businesses' ability to appeal to candidates looking to find their first steps on the employment ladder.
These candidates may desire more freedom and less restriction to their working day, the ability to work flexibly, spending time both at home or in the office. If, as a business, you are committed to a method, like fixed working hours, it may result in you missing out on candidates who seek alternative ways to work. Who, with their new perspectives and ideas, could have brought tremendous value to your organization.
Power to the employees!
A relatively new phenomenon, a flexible schedule emphasizes the workers. A flexible schedule offers them the opportunity to meet their own needs and work according to their program.
When following a flexible schedule, the workforce isn't constrained to a fixed location every day of the week. They can do it from home, a café or even a beach if they are so inclined! As long as they can maintain a stable Internet source, the only thing that they have to think about is ensuring that the work gets completed.
The trust afforded to employees to work beyond their bosses' sightline can boost employee morale and commitment. In addition, they recognize their employer's faith that they will complete their tasks correctly and on time away from the office. As a result, the workforce will not wish to let them down and repay the trust shown.
And the benefits of this also extends to the business. With employees working elsewhere, it can lead to significant savings on your overheads. Electricity, office space, energy bills. All will start tumbling, with employees no longer needing to be in the office every day.
Employees no longer have to base their entire existence around work. No more time spent commuting every day, no more fixed schedule, no more set holiday days. Instead, the workforce can achieve control of their lives. They can balance the need to meet their working requirements with those away from their job, household, family or personal. They can try the new hobby that they always wished they could start, spend more time with friends and family, or travel the world.
An employee who feels that their universe is more centered and within their control is happier. The work is a part of the day rather than the whole day. With less time spent trying to juggle all your responsibilities on top of a full day's work, employees can instead work when they can and want and establish precise times which suits them. The power of work is within the employee's hands.
Moreover, helping employees achieve this type of life balance can help to improve an organization's reputation. Potential candidates will begin to hear about how your business supports your workforce to achieve balance within their lives. This can increase interest in your roles, as more candidates look to find such a company.
Employees with a flexible schedule can work at the hours that suit them. The hours chosen often tend to be the most fruitful. This is because they can fully concentrate on the task at hand and achieve peak productivity. The employee sets out to complete their work effectively and efficiently. Their energy levels are optimized and managed, so instead of coming to a task late in the day when their brain is tired, they can approach a job with a fresh pair of eyes, ready to work.
And once they have finished their tasks, they can go and enjoy their day. There is no need to sit and wait around for another job that may not come, boredom increasing by the minute. A flexible schedule rewards efficient workers and amplifies urgency, which in turn promotes productivity.
Being at home or away from the office inevitably increases the range and possibility of distractions for employees. When distractions increase, focus can drop dramatically.
To all extents and purposes, working within a flexible schedule, the employee is the boss. They set the hours and maintain focus and self-motivation to know 'now is the time to work'. But, not everyone can be so disciplined with no one around; what stops them sitting and watching YouTube all day, with their emails somewhere in the background.
The influx of distractions can create serious issues, significantly when it impacts the employee's output. Will they be able to complete tasks when required, effectively manage their time or respect deadlines, or will an essential piece of work face continued delay.
Without supervision, some employees may struggle to retain focus and feel that they can relax. As a result, it may see other employees have to take on more work because of this drop in focus, placing an unhealthy strain on their shoulders, rather than an equal balancing of the work.
With employees remote and detached from one another, it can be challenging to bring together and forge a culture among many distant components. No longer fixed within one location, a flexible schedule can have social implications. It can impact engagement between teams and employees, preventing the opportunity to get to know and build relationships with fellow team members or even help integrate new employees.
These relationships are the rock upon which businesses are built. And a workplace culture and the evidence of a strong emphasis on team-building are vital for attracting new interest. Candidates want to feel that they are joining somewhere that they think they can be a part of and grow. A place to work and have fun, to enjoy each other's company and be able to socialize inside and outside of work.
But with the workforce following a flexible schedule, all doing their own thing, it can be hard to build that sense of unity. Moreover, that loss of connection between departments, teams or employees can affect the performance of workers. No longer feeling united, they may feel isolated and lose the hunger to provide their best work.
You may be able to work from anywhere, but that doesn't mean the hours will be consistent. A flexible schedule may result in working strange hours or weekends, as you will never know when you are needed. In addition, your boss may feel they can contact you at any time, knowing the employee is not fixed within a 9-5 weekday routine.
Work becomes an ever-present feature in your life. With no fixed hours, there is no division between home and work. This blurring can make it hard for you to find the time to relax and do the things you set out to do when seeking to work from a flexible schedule.
The million-dollar question.
Ultimately, it is your decision. When choosing how to organize your working day, you must think about what works best for you and your business needs. It is dependent on how your teams work and the industry you belong to. For example, can you deliver work away from a fixed location, or does it require a constant presence to supervise processes?
Only you will know what approach suits your business. But with these benefits and disadvantages clearly outlined, you will be able to make an informed decision about the best course of action.