The 9-to-5 workday is a relic of the 20th century. It served its purpose and is less and less relevant in today's interconnected, globalized, digital world. The old workday with its fixed working hours is giving way to the modern workday with its flexible working hours.
The companies that want to stay ahead are already switching to this new model, but it's not as simple as flipping a switch. Nearly all companies have been on fixed working hours for well over a century and need to seriously consider the implications of flexible hours.
Flexible working hours are not only more modern, but more humane too. It means that you can go running on Monday morning, cook early dinner for your girlfriend, take your kids to soccer practice on Wednesday afternoon, etc.
In this article, I will describe what companies need in order to make flexible hours work. If you want to work for a company that has flexible hours, these are the things to look out for.
The fundamental thing to make flexible hours work is trust. If a company offers flexible hours, there's a good chance they're okay with fully remote work too. This means that you won't see your colleagues work and won't know when they'll be working either.
That shouldn't matter. When someone works is irrelevant if their work is delivered in time and as expected. This might sound obvious to the people frequenting this blog, but for many companies it's very hard giving this level of trust and autonomy to their workers. Yet it's the most important thing to make flexible working hours a success.
The level of trust ties into the non-judgmental culture that flexible hours need. It's wrong to offer flexible hours when you have a culture where people are judged for not working. Instead, create a culture where you encourage people to live their best life and chase what they find interesting, so they can take full advantage of flexible hours.
Asynchronous communication is another important element. You don't know when people are working, so you cannot expect them to reply right away, whether that's to an email, a Slack message, a voicemail, or even a call. As a company, you could have some internal agreement that people have to reply within a certain number of hours, but anything below 24 hours will feel limiting.
It's better to just trust that people will get back to you. Additionally, you want to make sure you can always keep moving forward and are never out of work simply because someone hasn't replied to you. Be unblockable; find work to do in the meantime.
Of course, this requires self-discipline. When you're given the freedom of flexible hours, you need to set your own schedule. Some people struggle with this and are less productive as a result. Companies need to interview and hire people who are disciplined enough to thrive on flexible hours.
In addition, companies should be really careful with meetings. There's nothing more frustrating than a supposedly flexible workday that's stacked with meetings. Companies cannot expect their employees to feel as if they have flexible hours when there's a meeting at 9 AM, 2 PM, and 7 PM.
While meetings are a valuable way to communicate, companies tend to schedule meetings for things that can be done via chat, Google Docs, or even a recorded video. Meetings should be a last resort to make sure employees feel as if they really own their working hours and can work without interruptions.
All this being said, flexible hours aren't the Valhalla. There will be days that will still be tough work-wise , where you'll need to be on call or where you'll need to work the whole day with very few breaks. Flexible working hours should be the norm, but you also shouldn't expect to be fully flexible all the time.
Flexible working hours are a key element of the modern workday. But companies need to have the following key elements in place before flexible hours will work:
- Trust your employees
- Don't judge how people spend their time
- Communicate asynchronously
- Hire self-disciplined workers
- Schedule meetings as a last resort
- Realize that some days won't be as flexible
There are many joys to flexible hours. It allows people to spend more time with their families, learn new hobbies, exercise more, and generally lead better lives. What do you think about flexible hours?