Some jobs make scheduling easy. You work a nine-to-five. You answer phone calls. You take a lunch break. You respond to customer service emails. You go home. Other jobs are more likely to flip the schedule regularly. Many young workers at fast food restaurants or in retail positions don’t know when they’re working until the beginning of the week. They live by the whims of their employers.
And the rest of us? In more traditional workplaces, there may be some flexibility to the schedule, split up by team meetings, PTO, and project deadlines. But how rigid should the overall schedule be? Some offices allow employees to basically shape priorities, while others are highly regimented in their organization. Each approach yields different work environments.
The Benefits Of Flexibility
Overall, flexibility has been shown to improve employee motivation and satisfaction because it allows them to attain a greater level of work-life balance. This doesn’t mean you need to allow your employees to telecommute or work remotely, but it does mean that little things like allowing for different start times can really impact worker attitudes.
Flexibility matters, but you should still be hands-on when it comes to structuring that flexibility. For example, allowing for varied start times might mean saying, “You can come in between 8 AM and 10 AM but you need to work 8 hours” not suggesting that employees can come and go as they please. There’s a difference between flexibility and lazy management.
Managers should always be actively involved in scheduling, no matter how flexible your overall arrangements because it helps employees feel secure in their choices and allows leadership to appropriately resolve conflicts such as overlapping time off requests. If you haven’t been appropriately hands-on in recent weeks, it may be hard to determine who made the request first, who has completed necessary projects, and other key factors to adjudicate these conflicts.
Plan It Out
Offices that embrace flexible scheduling should offer support for the format that allows for collaboration. It’s too much to ask your administrator to manage piles of shifting scheduling requests. So what’s the solution?
One possibility is to offer options but ask employees to standardize their behavior overall. Prefer to come in at 10 AM? Great! Commit to doing that every day and make other start times rare exceptions.
Another option is to use a collaborative scheduling tool to handle your office schedule. As the designers of Humanity, an office schedule maker, point out, collaborative scheduling can reduce time spent scheduling by 80%. That’s time better spent doing meaningful work or checking in with employees.
Finally, be aware that for some employees, flexibility is difficult to handle. They may start missing deadlines or develop time management problems because they don’t know how to prioritize tasks. As a manager, you need to be alert to any warning signs that this is happening, as it can quickly spiral out of control.
Some employers think that this kind of intervention can undermine the trust created by flexible scheduling, but in fact, it tells employees in tenuous situations that they have a safety net and that you want them to succeed. Meet with employees who seem to struggle with insufficient structure and look for ways to build more order into their work lives. Just because most employees thrive on flexibility doesn’t mean all of them do.
Flexibility is all the rage, but it’s a strange divergence from the historical structure of the workplace. It’s okay to resist change, but it’s also important to acknowledge that you’re likely to see positive outcomes when you allow employees to set their own pace. We’re all wired a little differently, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work in harmony.