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.
It’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?
Published or updated February 9, 2012.