EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re writing a series of posts exploring recent trends that are challenging workplace norms and causing companies to rethink long-standing policies. Read our posts on the 4-day workweek and remote work.
There are varying opinions on who most influenced the standard 9-to-5 workday schedule. Whether it was Henry Ford or not, it doesn’t change the fact that the concept is outdated. The better approach, companies are discovering, is the flex schedule.
A flex schedule allows employees to work hours that do not align with the typical workplace start and stop times. This allows companies to accommodate workers with unusual personal circumstances or just maximize productivity by enabling people to work when they deliver the most value.
Harvard Business Review makes a compelling case that our individual circadian rhythms do not necessarily align with normal work schedules.
“Although managers expect their employees to be at their best at all hours of the workday, it’s an unrealistic expectation,” Christopher M. Barnes writes, per the article. “Employees may want to be their best at all hours, but their natural circadian rhythms will not always align with this desire.”
This belief is shared by Gary Keller, founder and chairman of the board for Keller Williams Realty and co-author of “The ONE Thing.” He believes that the lowest productivity times of the day are in the afternoon. The highest production occurs, he says, in the morning. He starts his day before dawn, and then he shuts it down by mid-afternoon.
This schedule may not be feasible for most people and companies, but the point is that we need to rethink our approach to typical work hours. Many companies offer flex scheduling to help employees avoid traffic and reduce commute times. This makes a lot of sense and probably improves employee retention. Imagine how much that reduces stress and anxiety.
At recruitAbility, one way we encourage people to maximize their top-producing hours is by planning out their days. From 9-11 a.m., we ask everyone to not respond to emails and just focus on outbound outreach. For admin tasks and email correspondence, we tell people to schedule out blocks of time to account for that. Need a break in the middle of the day? Go for it. We don’t babysit employees’ schedules.
Since beginning this in the last few weeks, we’ve noticed a difference. Having a plan of attack for each day and aligning your high-value tasks with your high-functioning hours is a better approach than just showing up and seeing what’s on your plate.
When people do their best work is often a function of their lifestyle outside of work. I’ve noticed that many software developers are also gamers, which lends itself to late nights. With that in mind, does it make sense for companies to require developers to start work at or before 9 a.m.? Shifting developers’ schedules so they can work late mornings to evenings could be a smart move.
Some tasks at work require intense concentration that employees simply cannot get during normal work hours, where distractions range from urgent emails and impromptu conversations to Slack messages, phone calls, and meetings. That said, giving employees the option to work at night can pay dividends. What would take two hours to complete in an afternoon may only take half the time at night with zero interruptions.
The key to flex scheduling is communication – both internally and externally. Employees should be transparent with their schedules so that their collaboration with colleagues doesn’t drop-off and so that clients do not have unmet expectations.
Ultimately, I believe companies should care less about when work is being done and more about if outcomes are being met. With that mindset, flex scheduling can become the most practical approach to work.
Are you introducing any new and innovative workplace policies? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll highlight any cool ideas in a subsequent blog post.