By Deanna Parkton
Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 17 percent of U.S. employees worked from home 5 days or more per week. That number increased to 44 percent during the pandemic. A silver lining for some professionals: companies that otherwise were not comfortable allowing remote work were forced into a remote culture. With management being able to see the benefits of remote work for their employees, more managers have become receptive to flexible models since the pandemic. Over 70% of managers said they are more open to flexible models for their teams than they were before the pandemic.
With the pandemic bringing about a forced trial period of flex work, many companies are implementing permanent flexible work arrangements for a variety of reasons:
- 73% of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their satisfaction at work
- 78% of employees said flexible work arrangements made them more productive
- A 2019 FlexJobs survey found that 30% of respondents left a job because of a lack of flexible work options, and 16% were on the hunt for a new job for the same reason.
- Nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.
With remote work becoming the norm, employees began exploring options related to when they got their work done. For some people, the pandemic brought additional responsibilities such as caring for children or other family members during the workday. This added pressure required many employees to get work done at random times of the day, possibly working on and off throughout the day rather than in a consecutive timeframe.
67% of survey respondents in the U.S. reported that they wanted flexibility in where and when they work.
Flex work schedules typically refer to an employee working outside of the typical 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. timeframe, fitting in their 40 hours at times that work for them. For example, this could mean that an employee works a few hours on Sunday to make up for an early departure on Monday to visit with a family member. It means that there is no strict schedule that is the same for all employees. Employees can instead choose time slots that fit their schedule throughout the day, as long as they are still doing the same amount of work of course.
Flex scheduling is a valued asset for employees, not only for job and life satisfaction but because of the autonomy available for them to work in ways that work for their life.
Possibilities of a flex schedule might look like:
- Starting early (or late) and finish early (or late)
- Taking extra time during a lunch break and make up the time later
- Working during the night
- Working some weekends and taking time off during the traditional work week
The popular career site The Muse predicts that flexible schedules will be the norm. With more Millennials in the workplace and in positions of influence, a focus on work-life (and work-family) balance will be key. Research has also shown that flexible work hours make employees more productive. A study by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom compared telecommuters and those working in the office at the same company. The study found that the remote employees “completed 13.5% more calls than the office workers, performed 10% more work overall, left the company at half the rate of people in the office, reported feeling more fulfilled at work, and saved the company $1,900 per employee.”
Approaching your manager about flex scheduling
- Use data
- Share articles or resources about flex scheduling
- If other reputable companies allow flex scheduling, share their practices
- Instill confidence
- Discuss a plan or a system that will work for both you and your manager. Define set hours or use tools like a weekly calendar that show your planned work hours per week. Discuss how communication will occur if your schedule is going to change per week.
- Over Communicate
- Show your manager that a difference in schedule does not mean a difference in communication. Discuss plans to stay in touch even if you both are not working at the same times. Use tools such as informal bi-weekly updates to share your productivity and progress.
As remote work continues to be the norm, flexible scheduling is sure to be part of the conversation. With research showing the benefit of employee autonomy to the company, more companies are sure to join the ranks of companies like Dell and American Express making flexible work arrangements part of their mission.
For more ideas on how you can manage your day-to-day work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face workplace challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.