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Is it time for the 9-5 to go? Flexible Work Arrangements and Their Effects

May 6, 2024

In the early 1900s, Henry Ford implemented the 9 to 5 work day in his company. This quickly became the norm, and still is, decades later. Although, as the world of work appears to be moving more remote, and without the need to be physically present in the office, many are questioning whether the 9 to 5 working day has become outdated. 

 Understanding Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements is a general term used to describe a number of different approaches employers take to facilitate a more flexible work life. These include:

  • Remote Work: Employees work from locations outside of the company office. These could include their homes, co-working spaces, or even coffee shops.
  • Flexible Hours: Giving employees the freedom to set their own work schedules within a given parameter. This could be a set number of work hours per week, although the employee is free to choose when.
  • Compressed Workweeks: Shortening the usual five-day workweek into fewer days, usually done with longer work days at 10 hours.
  • Job Sharing: This is the act of splitting a full-time position between two or more employees who share the workload. This allows for more flexibility for the employees and a greater work-life balance.

Advantages of Flexible Work Arrangements

  • Improved Work-Life Balance: One of the main benefits of a flexible work arrangement is the improved work-life balance. Having the freedom to choose when you complete your hours, allows for people with commitments, whether this be family, personal, or other, to complete these duties whilst still having a positive work-life.
  • Increased Productivity: Aside from improving employee wellbeing, the effects of flexible work on an employee’s productivity are also a common reason for its implementation. There have been various studies claiming to prove that flexible work arrangements improve work productivity, with 73% of managers agreeing with this claim. Some people work better at night than in the morning. Some people prefer a quiet room as opposed to a busy office. Some prefer to cut out their commute, whilst others enjoy a cycle into work. Having the flexibility to choose a work schedule gives employees their optimal environment for work. Therefore, it’s no wonder that so many report improved productivity.
  • Enhanced Employee Retention: Something employers are always looking to improve is their employee retention. Afterall, hiring can be a long and costly process. Offering a flexible work arrangement can be a great way to attract and retain talent. Employees value a workplace that cares about their work-life balance and recognise that people may have commitments in their personal lives, and have preferences in the way they work.

 

Challenges and Considerations

So, flexible work arrangements appear to benefit everyone right? Employees have more freedom, and employers have more productive workers. However, this may not be the case all the time.

  • Issues in Communication and Collaboration: Having the same level of communication and collaboration that is seen when people are in the same physical place at the same time is very difficult to match if people have separate schedules and work in different locations. Employers must take care to implement a number of systems to bridge this gap. This can include company chats for work and non-work topics on software like MS Teams, or Slack. They should also aim to use collaborative software that helps everyone stay on the same page with apps like Monday.com.
  • Workload Distribution: Having an equal distribution of work can be challenging when a flexible work arrangement is used. Managers should make sure clear expectations and deadlines are set, alongside monitoring performance metrics. This helps to make sure employees are working productively and that work is distributed evenly among the workforce.
  • Are Employees Really Working?: Whilst some thrive in work when left to their own devices, and freedom to schedule. Some, on the other hand, can struggle with this amount of freedom. It’s not unheard of for people to complete other tasks, or spend less time working than they are paid for when fully remote. However, this is more of an issue with the employee than the work model. Having a team that can be trusted to work productively when not being monitored reflects the company's hiring process and ability to motivate and engage employees.
  • The Blurred Line of Work and Leisure: With more and more people working from their home, the separation of work and leisure become blurry. People used to leave their office to head home, and were completely disconnected from work. Then came smartphones, and people would regularly check their work emails in the evening or at the weekend. Now, people are working in their home, making it very hard to disconnect when they’re off the clock. A quote from Ricardo Semler during his TED talk resonates with this idea; “We’ve all learned how to go on Sunday night to email and work from home. But very few of us have learned how to go to the movies on Monday afternoon.”

 

Case Studies: Success Stories of Flexible Work Arrangements

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of a flexible work arrangement, let’s take a look at what happens when they’re put into action:

  • Buffer: The social media management platform, Buffer, operates as a fully remote company. They have employees located worldwide, with their flexible work policy reportedly increasing employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, and improving productivity levels.
  • Microsoft: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft transitioned to a remote-first workplace model, where employees worked from home indefinitely. Microsoft reported increased employee engagement and collaboration, despite the challenges brought from remote work.
  • Disney: Disney had initially introduced a hybrid work model to employees. However, a memo from its CEO stated that Disney was reversing this choice, ordering employees to be in office at least four days a week. The decision for this change was based on the claim that Disney is a creative company, and that creativity cannot thrive without collaboration when being physically together.

 

Conclusion: Embracing Flexible Work for a Brighter Future

Overall, it’s clear that a flexible work arrangement has the potential to benefit both the employee and employer. This is a result of an improvement to areas such as work-life balance, personal commitments, personal work-styles and increased productivity. Although, the implementation of this system requires effective planning and communication from managers. Furthermore, this model may not suit every business, as shown by Disney, so it’s important to take the time to determine whether implementing flexible work arrangements will benefit everyone overall.

Is it time for the 9-5 to go? Flexible Work Arrangements and Their Effects

May 6, 2024

In the early 1900s, Henry Ford implemented the 9 to 5 work day in his company. This quickly became the norm, and still is, decades later. Although, as the world of work appears to be moving more remote, and without the need to be physically present in the office, many are questioning whether the 9 to 5 working day has become outdated. 

 Understanding Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements is a general term used to describe a number of different approaches employers take to facilitate a more flexible work life. These include:

  • Remote Work: Employees work from locations outside of the company office. These could include their homes, co-working spaces, or even coffee shops.
  • Flexible Hours: Giving employees the freedom to set their own work schedules within a given parameter. This could be a set number of work hours per week, although the employee is free to choose when.
  • Compressed Workweeks: Shortening the usual five-day workweek into fewer days, usually done with longer work days at 10 hours.
  • Job Sharing: This is the act of splitting a full-time position between two or more employees who share the workload. This allows for more flexibility for the employees and a greater work-life balance.

Advantages of Flexible Work Arrangements

  • Improved Work-Life Balance: One of the main benefits of a flexible work arrangement is the improved work-life balance. Having the freedom to choose when you complete your hours, allows for people with commitments, whether this be family, personal, or other, to complete these duties whilst still having a positive work-life.
  • Increased Productivity: Aside from improving employee wellbeing, the effects of flexible work on an employee’s productivity are also a common reason for its implementation. There have been various studies claiming to prove that flexible work arrangements improve work productivity, with 73% of managers agreeing with this claim. Some people work better at night than in the morning. Some people prefer a quiet room as opposed to a busy office. Some prefer to cut out their commute, whilst others enjoy a cycle into work. Having the flexibility to choose a work schedule gives employees their optimal environment for work. Therefore, it’s no wonder that so many report improved productivity.
  • Enhanced Employee Retention: Something employers are always looking to improve is their employee retention. Afterall, hiring can be a long and costly process. Offering a flexible work arrangement can be a great way to attract and retain talent. Employees value a workplace that cares about their work-life balance and recognise that people may have commitments in their personal lives, and have preferences in the way they work.

 

Challenges and Considerations

So, flexible work arrangements appear to benefit everyone right? Employees have more freedom, and employers have more productive workers. However, this may not be the case all the time.

  • Issues in Communication and Collaboration: Having the same level of communication and collaboration that is seen when people are in the same physical place at the same time is very difficult to match if people have separate schedules and work in different locations. Employers must take care to implement a number of systems to bridge this gap. This can include company chats for work and non-work topics on software like MS Teams, or Slack. They should also aim to use collaborative software that helps everyone stay on the same page with apps like Monday.com.
  • Workload Distribution: Having an equal distribution of work can be challenging when a flexible work arrangement is used. Managers should make sure clear expectations and deadlines are set, alongside monitoring performance metrics. This helps to make sure employees are working productively and that work is distributed evenly among the workforce.
  • Are Employees Really Working?: Whilst some thrive in work when left to their own devices, and freedom to schedule. Some, on the other hand, can struggle with this amount of freedom. It’s not unheard of for people to complete other tasks, or spend less time working than they are paid for when fully remote. However, this is more of an issue with the employee than the work model. Having a team that can be trusted to work productively when not being monitored reflects the company's hiring process and ability to motivate and engage employees.
  • The Blurred Line of Work and Leisure: With more and more people working from their home, the separation of work and leisure become blurry. People used to leave their office to head home, and were completely disconnected from work. Then came smartphones, and people would regularly check their work emails in the evening or at the weekend. Now, people are working in their home, making it very hard to disconnect when they’re off the clock. A quote from Ricardo Semler during his TED talk resonates with this idea; “We’ve all learned how to go on Sunday night to email and work from home. But very few of us have learned how to go to the movies on Monday afternoon.”

 

Case Studies: Success Stories of Flexible Work Arrangements

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of a flexible work arrangement, let’s take a look at what happens when they’re put into action:

  • Buffer: The social media management platform, Buffer, operates as a fully remote company. They have employees located worldwide, with their flexible work policy reportedly increasing employee satisfaction, reducing turnover, and improving productivity levels.
  • Microsoft: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft transitioned to a remote-first workplace model, where employees worked from home indefinitely. Microsoft reported increased employee engagement and collaboration, despite the challenges brought from remote work.
  • Disney: Disney had initially introduced a hybrid work model to employees. However, a memo from its CEO stated that Disney was reversing this choice, ordering employees to be in office at least four days a week. The decision for this change was based on the claim that Disney is a creative company, and that creativity cannot thrive without collaboration when being physically together.

 

Conclusion: Embracing Flexible Work for a Brighter Future

Overall, it’s clear that a flexible work arrangement has the potential to benefit both the employee and employer. This is a result of an improvement to areas such as work-life balance, personal commitments, personal work-styles and increased productivity. Although, the implementation of this system requires effective planning and communication from managers. Furthermore, this model may not suit every business, as shown by Disney, so it’s important to take the time to determine whether implementing flexible work arrangements will benefit everyone overall.

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