The illustrious workday. There have been songs written about it, policies created to define it and many jokes on the topic (banker’s hours sound familiar?). I have plenty of experience in an industry (public accounting) that craves the structure of the traditional 9 – 5 workday. Which has brought me to this simple question. Why? I realize that is a loaded question and one that has likely been debated in nearly every company in the world. Based on the lack of flexibility in most organizations, it seems the topic still needs debate.
What is Provides
The traditional workday provides a great amount of structure, predictability and consistency to the day. In many industries, such as manufacturing or health care, the hands-on requirements necessitate structure and predictability.
What it doesn’t Provide
The traditional 9-5 doesn’t provide any amount of flexibility, consideration of work that occurs outside the time frame or consideration of actual work taking place.
Redefining the Workday
In many companies employees are working all hours to complete projects. Some are up at 4:00 AM to maximize creativity. Others burn the midnight oil when they fall into their “flow”. It is safe to say that a significant amount of work occurs outside the traditional workday. Here are four steps to begin redefining your workday:
- Determine if you expect employees to be available outside the workday.
- Evaluate what technology you have available in your organization – VPN, remote desktops, mobile workstations, etc.
- Assess how often employees are working offsite – at clients, at conferences, etc.
- Analyze productivity of your employees, not hours worked but actual work performed, and compare to hours recorded
Odds are you now realize that employees are working outside the traditional hours, have technology to allow it and are surprisingly productive in hotel rooms or at client locations. If that’s the case, you’re company is already allowing flexible working schedules. It is simply disguised as conferences and client work.
Why leaders want people to be present for the sake of being present baffles me. We trust our employees to get their work done when out of the office for business. It is time we trust them to get their work done if they need to be out of the office for something else. Here are three ideas for moving toward a more flexible workday:
- Designate Tuesday – Thursday to be flexible working days. This eliminates the perceived risk of a long weekend.
- Encourage remote workers to be available online. Remote workers are still working, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Allow departments or teams to be responsible for communication regarding remote scheduling. Communication and teamwork is critical to successful implementation.
With advances in technology and the “always-on” business world, the traditional 8 – 5 workday is disappearing. Taking small steps now to assess your company’s readiness and taking small steps to begin implementing a more flexible schedule will help ease the transition.
Has your company implemented a flexible schedule? If so, what approach did you take? I look forward to hearing from you.