As everyone is forced into lockdowns and work-from-home setups, companies are foregoing the traditional 9 am to 5 pm shifts and allowing their workforce to create their schedules based on their lifestyle and habits.
The reason? Flexible working hours cause less stress amid the anxiety-inducing COVID-19 pandemic. And experts are agreeing with this.
“We’re all wired differently,” says Alexa von Tobel, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Inspired Capital. “Some people are morning people, some are night people. Some need quiet, some need energy. Now there is more of an opt-in, choose-your-own-work-style, rather than everyone having to sit in a bright office.”
The workforce is also chiming in. According to a recent survey by Slack’s Future Forum, 95% of workers want schedule flexibility as this could help them adhere to a better sleep schedule, work when they are most productive, and feel like they have control over their own time while working in their homes.
9 to 5 is dead
Cloud computing company Salesforce takes the lead over this change. In a blog post released in 2021, the firm pronounced the typical nine-to-five workday as “dead.”
In place of this, they have instituted flexible schedules in which their employees are not required to come into the office every day, and do not necessarily have set eight-hour work schedules.
Results were seen immediately. Salesforce’s EVP of employee success operation Steve Pickle disclosed that ever since they have implemented this rule, the company observes an increase in both productivity and employee approval.
“For us, the nine-to-five was on life support before the pandemic,” says Pickle. “The pandemic took it off life support and put it right into the grave. It’s still dead, and we’re in a far better place.”
Corporate culture realignment
One of the greatest disadvantages of flexitime is the tendency for employees to work more than 40 hours per week. Many office workers can finish their tasks in less than eight hours. Because of this reality, employers may give more work while people are at their leisure.
“Traditional organizations value facetime,” says University of Texas Professor Dawna Ballard. “Everything is political in life…Culturally, out-of-sight, out-of-mind still tends to be pervasive.”
For flexible schedules to work, Ballard believes that companies should change not only their scheduling policies but also their corporate culture.
Pickle acknowledges that employees working more than 40 hours a week is a concern for the company. To address this, he shared that they have tried “async weeks” that are completely meeting-free, as well as instituting wellness Fridays and other offerings.
“We don’t want flexibility to become a trap,” he says.
Flexitime can be beneficial to the right people. It can also be dangerous to some. To make this model work effectively long-term, employees still need to set schedules and create hard boundaries with their work.
After all, the reason why companies and employees are pushing for flexible working hours is not to create a more stressful environment, but to ease the pressure while the world is still dealing with a pandemic.