September 18, 2020

Flexible working hours – How important is it?

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“Good governance is the art of putting wise thought into prudent action in a way that advances the well-being of those governed.”
― Diane Kalen-Sukra

Flexible working hours – Why is this important?

Months have gone by since the coronavirus pandemic hit us and changed our lives. People are still getting used to the new way of working remotely and adjusting the private versus professional aspect on a daily basis. A hot topic in business amidst this pandemic is the mental health of employees and how to battle the creeping depression or anxiety which inevitably affect everyone, not just as people but as workers as well. It has challenged companies to adapt to a new way of working while retaining the same level of productivity. This poses a somewhat difficult question: how do we raise productivity without drastically changing working hours or the MO of a job responsibility? Not an easy answer to give but we’re getting close with the rising popularity of reducing the number of work-days per week. Although not a mainstream move yet, there are some companies who successfully experimented with it and ended with very good results. Before we dive into it further, let’s break down what mental wellbeing for employees means.


New normal?

Breaking down Employee Wellbeing

What makes an employee happy? The first thing that comes to mind is the salary or being able to progress in career choices. One wouldn’t pay much attention to anything else after hearing that but here’s the catch – monetary compensation and career progression don’t affect employees mentally as much as we think they do. There are surveys conducted which show how much other benefits like fitness or healthy food are important, such as this one. Next to that, you have research which shows how much Employee Engagement is important and that a company has to make their employees want to come to work. This brings us back to Employer Branding as a whole but each of these topics usually do.

The results make one thing obvious – a company has to structure its culture and work organization according to employees’ preference as much as possible. If a company offers responsibility in line with the employees’ wants, there is a high chance of increasing their productivity as a side effect, not to mention other benefits like loyalty. We can chalk this up to a word “happy”. A happy employee will most likely influence everything else in their life to being positive and a company only has to gain from that outcome. Now, the most popular benefit a company can offer today is flexible working hours because many employees of all ages want the balance of private and professional on their own terms. This survey shows us how much the numbers leaning towards flexible working hours matter. It’s an essential part of any job offer for some age groups, like Millennials or Gen Z. It’s pretty much guaranteed that employees would be much happier with less working hours and more productivity in turn. Let’s dive into the psychological realm of workplace and how important that aspect is.


Productivity increase.

It’s very simple on the surface as to why flexibility in the workspace is important. People are not machines that you turn on and always expect the same result. I often mentioned burnout in other articles, which is very much a real thing. An employee simply gets overloaded emotionally and physically if the company isn’t paying much attention to their workload and relationship between employees, be it managerial or not. A popular but very flawed thinking was that many working hours guarantees expected productivity but the reality is much different than that. Imagine an employee working an 8-hour shift in a call center. It’s the type of a job in which you are drained in the first 4 hours with the next 4 being average or giving bare minimum. Enter organizational change and you give them 6-hour shifts. Two things can happen: either an employee will try to maintain the same level of productivity the last 2 hours or he will still be average. Either way, a company wins because those last 2 hours in the 8-hour shift are a potential hidden cost. How so? Giving bare minimum isn’t productive, someone else who is fresh could work those 2 hours and be much more productive and you give the first employee more time to recuperate for their next shift. There are more variables as to why this would be a better choice but breaking this down along with the surveys prove the point.

COVID19 as a blessing in disguise for business

I always try to find positive out of everything so when I think about this situation, it has given companies a chance to be as productive remotely and without too much oversight from the managers as possible. It opened a door which could be an answer to a more compatible work/life balance, offering an easier and more practical way to achieve better results, both companies and employees. Digital communication has now become more prevalent and companies will have to treat it as a true, equal substitute to the physical approach. Along with, reducing work hours will become the next natural occurrence as the quantity over quality in both working hours and ways of communication will subside.

Takeaway

Companies are undergoing many transformations, be it digital or organizational, and are adapting to the new ways of working. Despite being the time of danger and sorrow, business can treat this as a chance in which we’re challenged to be as productive as if nothing changed, adjusting to new needs of employees. As more and more companies are standardizing their remote work and flexible hours, it’s only a matter of time when this will become the new mainstream benefit with which companies will reap rewards.