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Flexible Hours in Your Working Environment

This article was written by in Career and Work. 17 comments.

The option to work from home has been shown to benefit employees and employers. This type of flexibility in working arrangements, when appropriate based on the employee’s responsibilities, increased productivity and retention for the employer and job satisfaction for the employee. The same benefits apply to working arrangements that include flexible hours.

As Margaret Heffernan explains in INC Magazine, “Treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” This treatment includes trust; if you hire the right people, you can trust them to accomplish their tasks and goals on time and under budget without worrying about the time they walk into their cubicle and the time they leave.

ClockIt’s difficult to treat employees like adults, however. At one of my corporate jobs, I joined a team some time after the management hired an efficiency consultant. The consultant sat with each employee and monitored and logged every minute of each employee’s work day in order to determine opportunities for improvement in productivity. After the study, productivity might have increased, but it most likely didn’t last long. Employees resented the requirement of tracking every minute of their days.

Around the same time, one of the supervisors made a habit of walking the floor at nine o’clock in the morning to see who was at their desk on time every day. This type of micro-management benefited the supervisor, and perhaps it gave her a feeling of control, but the employees resented the approach, even if they were at their desks on time each morning. Even when arriving on time, the employees would need to be at their desks at the moment the supervisor walked by rather than in the rest room or the kitchen area.

Thankfully, this supervisor was no longer with the team by the time I accepted my position.

A policy that includes flexible hours gives employees ownership of their roles and allows them to make decisions about the best time to do their jobs. The right people can handle these decisions without taking advantage of the employer or the flexible policies.

A flexible working hours arrangement can take a variety of forms:

  • forty hours every week spread over four days instead of five
  • eighty hours every two weeks spread over nine days instead of ten
  • eight hours every day starting earlier or later than nine o’clock

This type of flexible working arrangement may increase productivity. Happy employees tend to be better employees, and they stick with the company longer. Long-term loyalty to a company has decreased over the years due to many changes in the relationship between employers and employees, but a policy involving flexible hours and other benefits can help reverse that trend.

Work/life balance isn’t always appropriate. I am always torn with this concept, because different goals require different treatment. When I worked for a small non-profit organization whose lofty goals were difficult to achieve on a tiny budget and a lack of resources, the expectation was to put our lives into our work. The only way to achieve greatness is to be completely dedicated to the mission, and that required making many personal sacrifices. Most jobs and careers do not work in this fashion, but in any career, this type of dedication can lead to success.

Work/life balance is a great approach for the cast majority of the American workforce that recognizes that life outside of work is important, but those whose personal mission is to become the best in the world at their job, life is just a distraction.

As a business owner without any employees, I took advantage of flexible hours. When I left my corporate job over a year ago, I experimented with creating a regular schedule for myself, but I determined — and this was something I had known since I was a teenager — that I just work better and more efficiently when I have the flexibility to work when I like.

Do you have flexible working hours at your job? Is it beneficial or detrimental to your group? If you work flexible hours, have you seen any personal benefits?

INC Magazine, American Psychological Association, Forbes

Published or updated February 9, 2012.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I work for myself – and could never go back to working for other people because of exactly what you wrote about. For instance: yesterday I took a 2 hour lunch break so that I could prepare supper for what was turning into a crazy evening schedule for my family. Because I *could* do this knowing that I had to work in the evening, my family was able to eat a decent meal in the 20-30 minutes they had available to do so between sports practice and school events. I often wonder how families where both parents are tied to their desks from 8-5 every day handle the after work demands of a family. I couldn’t do it. My flexible schedule allows me to work from home as soon as I get the call that my second grader is sick. I am responsible for my own paycheck so I get my work done. Sometimes that work is done at 10 p.m., but it still gets done!

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avatar 2 Anonymous

I wish this were the case with my job. i work as a customer service manager, so we don’t really have the luxury of working a flexible schedule. We have to be available from 8-5, and even during lunch. It’s awful making a schedule, but it’s just part of the job. Telecommuting is unfortunately not an option either.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I used to have more flexible hours, but teaching requires me to adhere to a schedule now. The good news is I only work 6 hours a day teaching. Although the work at times is harder than individual contributions in a company, I enjoy the interaction with the children.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

The great flood of 1993 forced the company I worked for to adopt flexible work hours simply because there were so many roads underwater everybody couldn’t get to work at the same time. After the waters receded they never went back and had happier employees because of it. Although frequent customer meetings didn’t allow the work-from-home option for many of us just being able to “flex” your daily routine (including a 2 hour lunch if you wanted it) proved to be a great success.

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avatar 5 shellye

I’ve had both flex time and telecommuting opportunities over the years and have loved both. Currently we have a flex-time work arrival schedule, which means that we can get to work any time between 7:30 and 8:00, but have to work our 7.5 hours, so we can leave accordingly between 4:00 and 4:30. Makes it nice to not have to worry about getting to work at an exact time.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I enjoy the work life balance but unfortunately my current job has one schedule and one lunch time. My hours are 9-6 and lunch 1-2. It sucks but I really enjoy what I do, however I know I would be much more productive with earlier hours. I am up at 5 every morning so by the time i get to work I have already been up for four hours. Plus the job I do can definitely be done at home.

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avatar 7 Donna Freedman

I work for myself (freelance writer) and the work/life balance is something I struggle with most weeks. The trouble with the work getting done at 10 p.m. is that sometimes you don’t feel as though you’ve had a real “day” or “evening,” i.e., that you worked off and on for most of the 16 awake hours vs. working a straight eight and then walking away from it and into your personal life.
That said, I enjoy the flexibility. This morning before I sat down to work I was able to start a batch of yogurt and get another couple of cooking projects going. When it’s time to take a break, I’ll do so by walking to a nearby market and getting a few groceries — exercise plus shopping at a quieter time of day vs. having to stand in line. And the work-when-I-can schedule has let me travel a *lot* in the past two years; while it’s stressful at times, I’m still getting the option of numerous trips per year vs. waiting for a two-week stretch whenever the supervisor will approve it.
On the whole, it’s been positive. But that work/life, when-to-walk-away thing is still a pickle for me.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

Working from home is GREAT! I love the flexibility, and not having to commute. BUT there are downsides as well. You can work whenever.. but it starts to feel like it’s always time to work! You HAVE to get out and about doing things to keep life interesting, otherwise you’re going to burn out fast.
The problem I’ve run into with working whenever is also that it’s hard to work till 4am and still be able to hand out with friends and family that are on 9-5 type schedules.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

I love flexibility like this. A big urgent project cropped up yesterday, and I worked on it (from home after hours) late into the night last night. I turned off my alarm for this morning so I could sleep in a bit, but when I woke up decided that I’d be more productive working from home, so that’s what I’m doing. I HAVE been more productive than I would have been at the office (less distractions from coworkers) AND I save an hour and a half of commuting out of my day. AND I’m on my couch.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

One of the reasons why I pursued my current career is that it offered a lot of flexibility in my day-to-day schedule. As a parent, I really value being able to attend my son’s school events, work from home if he’s ill, and above all, be in charge of my own time.

In a typical week, there’s only 5-20 hours that I really need to be in the office. For the rest of the time, I can work at the office, at home, or in a coffee shop. I’ll often do errands (such as getting my hair cut) or chores (like laundry) during the week for this reason. I know that I tend to be more productive when I’m in the office, though, so I often walk the 1.5 miles there and work during the day. But I love it that I have a choice in where, when, and how I work.

I’m an American who lives in Australia, and I’ve noticed that more of my friends here either work from home one to two days a week or negotiate less than full-time positions once they have children. They are highly skilled professionals, and I think it’s important that employers trust their employees. As long as they fulfill their responsibilities, meet their goals, and contribute to the company, why not allow them this kind of flexibility?

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avatar 11 Anonymous

We have flexible work hours to varying levels at my work depending on the kind of job. Some jobs can do 4 day x 10 hr weeks. Others don’t have that option. Most of the salary office jobs have more flexible start /stop times. Personally Im in an office salary job and I prefer to come in a little later and work through lunch at my desk mostly. It works better for me since I save some time by missing the morning traffic and I’m not much of a morning person anyway.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

We can work remotely if we have a good reason, sick child, doctors apt, webinars, etc. I think its great allows people to work when they can. Although it is nice to be able to walk to someones cube and ask a question really fast.

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avatar 13 wylerassociate

I do have flexible hours with my job & I love it. The best part is that I get to work from home quite a bit and it is great. I get a lot more work done when I am at home & since I’m a salaried employee I even work on some weekends to get things done.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

I’m confused by your third example of flexible hours. The “standard” work day starts at 8, flexible would be any time before that. If you wait to come in until 9, likely just to avoid rush-hour you are often labeled a slacker and people question that you are really staying until 6 when everyone else leaves at 5.

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avatar 15 Luke Landes

The corporate jobs I’ve had have been “nine-to-five.” Perhaps it depends on the company and the location. I know that getting to work by 9:00 am with an average commute — at the places I’ve worked — doesn’t avoid rush hour.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

Funnily enough, I *hate* with a passion the 9-5 grind of going into an office, yet when I work from home (which has been most of the past 15 years) I tend to keep pretty regular hours, and run a very tight schedule using ‘Pomodoro’ type time management techniques.

I think it’s having the option of taking time off or moving things around that makes me prefer home working.

Or maybe I just don’t like being told what to do. ;)

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avatar 17 emizar

I consider myself lucky to have some flexibility in my work schedule and I can perform 90% of my job from home. I generally go in to the office between 9:30 and 10am which both cuts my commute time down significantly and puts my schedule more in line with that of my spouse. To counter this, I often check messages before I leave home to see if there are any urgent items from contacts who have already begun their work day.
Although I could work more hours from home, I believe I work better from the office and keep pretty consistent hours there. It is nice to have telecommuting as an occasional option during snowy weather or on days that will be split by travel.

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