The eight-hour workday was invented by Henry Ford way back at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, it was an attractive alternative to workers who were accustomed to 12-hour workdays, and the nationwide adoption of the 8-hour day created the status quo of a 40-hour workweek.
These days, companies like Basecamp, Colgate-Palmolive, and Google have developed flexible work schedules for their employees. Many people praise the flexible workweek for its help in balancing family and work, but it’s also increasing productivity.
1.) Productivity Bump
Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, told Inc magazine that, “There’s nothing magical about 40 hours.” His company operates on a 32-hour workweek, and in fact, he thinks that “having fewer hours to complete a task sharpens employee focus.”
Better-rested, happier employees can also be a result of a more flexible workweek. And the productivity benefits of a healthy, happy mind are consistent across the board. Delta Emerson, president of tax firm Ryan’s global shared services, told Inc that her company measures employee work in results, not time.
Ryan Carson, CEO and founder of Treehouse, expressed to Inc that “The idea that employees are like machines — if they put eight hours in you’ll get x dollars out — is absurd.”
2.) Personal Performance
Most companies with flexible work hours realize that their employees function better when they’re not worrying about conforming to rigid hours. Ryan Carson put it best: “No one wants to choose between getting to work on time and snuggling at school drop-off.”
Colgate-Palmolive has seen a higher employee retention rate due to their flexible work hours and telecommunication options. Without having to worry about working from 9 to 5, employees have more freedom to cultivate a healthy personal life, reducing their stress levels.
With flexible work hours, employees can reduce the number of interruptions and distractions during their workday. This will heighten their productivity — when they’re working, they’ll think about work, because they have enough time to deal with everything else.
3.) Attract Millennials
According to Inc magazine, 29% of college students think being able to work remotely is a right, not a privilege. 66% of millennials say that having a boss who doesn’t support flexible schedules has factored into their decision to leave a job.
As Millennials enter the workforce, they’re slowly working to change the status quo. Like it or not, an entire generation is looking to do things differently, 40-hour workweek included. The technology that we have today allows people to work remotely — and because they can, many young people expect to be allowed to.
[Here’s an interview with Simon Sinek on this topic]
4.) Teamwork and Creativity
Flexible work schedules can significantly widen the talent pool that you’re hiring from. Aside from Millennials, you can potentially work with people who don’t live nearby to your company, stay at home parents, or people who have retired from the workforce.
That’s not to mention — flexible schedules are a great benefit if you’re competing for a hire. Healthier, happier minds churn out more creative ideas and thinking. Broken free of the rigid 40-hour workweek, your employees will be more engaged in the work they are doing.
The Risk Behind the Reward
If you’re considering a flexible work schedule for your employees, it’s important to be aware of the potential downsides. With a compressed work week — cramming 40 hours into 4 days instead of 5 — your employees run the risk of burnout.
And for fledgling companies, flexible hours can be dangerous for productivity. If your company’s work week doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s, you may, as Katie Fang of SchooLinks says, “[fail] so badly.”
Also – certain types of companies – perhaps manufacturing – have to have a more structured work schedule to reliably produce their products. (After all, not everyone is in a “creative” role – although almost anyone can be taught to be innovative at problem solving – but that’s a different topic.)
Another danger of the flexible workweek is that your employees never really slow down. Experts call the phenomenon “grazing,” explaining that people get into a habit of checking emails and doing little bits of work even during their time off. “If you keep picking at work, worrying about it,” Prof Gail Kinman told The Guardian, “your systems never really go down to baseline so you don’t recover properly.”
A flexible workweek offers many potential benefits to your company and your employees. It’s a great tactic for balancing work and home life, and also for increasing the productivity of your team. It will help attract Millennials — as well as creative workers and thinkers. But before you implement a flexible work schedule — you have to consider the risks.
- Does your company operate on a rigid 9 to 5 schedule?
- Do your employees seem engaged and energized about their work?
- Have you ever tried allowing flexible work hours? How did it go?