The Advantages and Disadvantages of Having Flexible Working Hours
For an employee, the benefits are simple and work flexibility is the holy grail. After all, who wouldn’t want the option to do their work where and when it suited them? When it comes to employers, however, the answer isn’t so clear cut. While you want to keep your workers happy where possible, you also worry about losing out on productivity, about losing track of what people are actually doing, and about the disintegration of team dynamics. Ultimately, the answer to this nagging question isn’t as simple as a one size fits all solution; the unique situational requirements of your business will dictate whether flexible hours could work for you. When working out your answer, it can help to weigh each pro and con individually.
What Are Flexible Working Hours?
Flexibility in the workplace means adapting your work periods to better fit into the rest of your life. It means that your workers will still do their week worth of work – just not necessarily during the hours of 9 to 5. Want to go to your child’s athletics day at school? Flexible hours mean you can do just that, then make up the lost work time that evening, or by working Sunday instead. Ultimately, the work needs to be done, but does it matter what time of day that happens? Obviously, flexible working hours aren’t suitable for every workplace or industry. A tradesperson, such as a plumber for example, won’t make many friends by showing up to a customer’s home in the middle of the night on a weekend. But for office-based work, the kind of work where you don’t need to be certain places at certain times to get the job done, flexible hours can work wonders. As long as all employee timesheets are filled out correctly, you can still keep track of how many hours your staff have worked and what they worked on.
No solution is perfect. Your team and business won’t benefit from pretending that there are zero downsides to operating under flexible working conditions. After all, different personalities thrive under different conditions. While some workers might operate more efficiently under flexible conditions, some people need the structure of set working hours to reach peak working efficiency. It’s important to examine and understand a few key potential disadvantages to having flexible working hours.
Can Lead to Less Productivity
Less oversight, a less concrete working structure, a very likely more ‘solo’ working experience. It doesn’t take a genius to see that these things have the potential to reduce workers productivity. A large part of the reason many businesses operate in a team environment is the accountability provided by being a part of a team. It is fairly common for workers to lose their motivation and drive when they find themselves without the oversight that would normally provide a bit of ‘oomph’ to their efforts. Breaking the flow and feeling of a normal workday can certainly impact worker productivity.
There are, of course, methods of trying to mitigate this effect on your workers. Using the features of the best time tracking app available in your industry can let your team keep a clear measurement of their productivity. Having readily available data on what work has been done and how long it took gives workers something to strive towards achieving.
Can Lead to More Procrastination
Procrastination can be an issue even on our best days and is something that everybody deals with at some stage of their working week. There’s nothing new about worrying over procrastination in the office as an employer. But the issue can be exacerbated if you are operating under flexible working conditions. Giving workers the ability to put off the hours they work; to say ‘I’ll start work the afternoon’ when they get up in the morning, can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to procrastination. Your workers might suddenly find themselves halfway through the week before realising they’ve barely made a dent in their workload. Procrastination then leads to stress, as people create tighter deadlines for themselves by leaving their work too late. What was a perfectly achievable set of goals at the start of the week quickly becomes an impossible mountain to climb. It can be the gateway to a host of other issues for your team, and mitigating the potential for procrastination in a flexible workplace is a priority for any manager. Once again, the right time tracking app could be helpful in reducing the potential for this issue to arise.
Flexible Working Often Means Working from Home
While giving your employees the option of working from home has benefits of its’ own, there are also a number of issues it raises. Working from home can be tough for employees. It isn’t always easy to get into the right mental space to be able to work efficiently outside of the office. Home, after all, holds many distractions, whether it be the needs of children or the temptation of home comforts such as television. It’s important to consider the working needs of your staff before implementing a flexible work policy – you might find some staff need the calm atmosphere of the office to be able to offer their best to the team.
Flexible Working Arrangements may not Always Equal High Paying Jobs
It’s a common misconception; the idea that a person who has a flexible working situation must be earning the big bucks. Yet while there are certainly high paying jobs with flexible hours, the two don’t necessarily always go hand in hand. Flexible working conditions will come down to the needs of the office as much as the needs of the worker. Offering a flexible work situation can be a valid strategy for improving workplace productivity rather than a benefit given to valuable workers. Each situation is unique – it’s important for your team to realise that a change in the requirements for their working hours doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in the value of that work.
It can be Harder for Managers to Keep Track of what Their Employees are Doing
It was mentioned earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again. Flexible working hours won’t make everyone’s life easier; for managers it can be a frustration. It is so much harder to keep a good track of what your team is up to when they are all working different hours or at different places. For a manager, flexible working hours can mean adjusting your working hours to be better aligned with your team, rather than you actually choosing the times that best suit your life. It may be better for your sanity to offer a degree of flexibility in your office’s work hours, rather than letting everyone choose their hours with total freedom.
Let it not be said that a flexible working arrangement is all bad! Far from it, in fact. While acknowledging the pitfalls is important, it is equally useful to fully understand the benefits that this could provide to your team. The benefits for your employees’ stress and morale levels could very well outweigh any potential negatives.
Can Allow Parents to Look After Their Children While Working
One of the realities of modern life is that often both parents within a family are full-time workers. It therefore becomes a huge benefit for working parents to be able to look after their children while still working full time. Jobs with flexible hours for moms and dads will be far more attractive to new families. Being able to adjust working hours to suit parental responsibilities will reduce stress for parents and allow them to work to their fullest potential.
Allows Students to Have a Better Work-Study Balance
Students can make up an important part of the day to day work environment. Juggling the responsibilities of work with study requirements is tough even at the best of times, so potential employees will be looking for jobs with flexible hours for college students. Being able to offer these kinds of positions will set you apart from other businesses and allow you to attract the brightest prospects to your workplace. Providing a working experience which eases rather than creates stress in your student employees will increase the potential of transitioning the best prospects into full time roles after their study is completed.
Can Increase Productivity
Yes, that’s right – this is the direct opposite of what we said earlier. We do mean it though. The reality of life is that different people react in different ways to work freedom. What allows one worker to procrastinate and reduce their work effort can allow another the kind of space and freedom they need to really express themselves and get stuck in. Part of being a capable employer is recognising which of your workers will thrive under flexible conditions and which will stagnate. This will allow you to provide each member of your team with the working environment which best suits their needs to be productive. Establish an open dialogue with your team – what do they think will help them perform at their best?
Reduced Office Expenses
As we said earlier, flexible hours often mean work getting done outside the office, whether that be at home or on the go. This can translate directly into reducing expenses for your business. After all, what’s the point in paying for that spacious downtown office when barely anyone from the team is ever there? You may find you don’t need to lease office space at all; or at least you will be able to opt for less expensive office options.
It Can Help with the Recruitment of New Employees and Keeping Existing Ones
It isn’t just parents and students who will look for flexible working conditions. Working from home and working flexible hours are enticing propositions for any prospective employee. Even for those who would prefer a structured office environment, having the option of more workplace freedom will still be preferable to the alternative. Furthermore, workers who might otherwise be forced to quit because of their inability to work strict hours (such as new parents) might be kept on the team with the ability to adjust their working routine, even for a limited time. As with any successful business, communication is key – let your staff know that discussing flexible options when needed is always on the table. Maybe you will find a solution to suit both worker and business, maybe you won’t. Regardless, your staff will appreciate their needs being taken into account and considered.