In for the Win
It seems everyone is excited about flextime these days. Both employees and employers can cite a list of potential benefits. Data shows that being able to choose their own working hours allows employees to work more seamlessly across time zones. They can create longer periods of uninterrupted workflow and schedule work into the most productive portion of their day (Schooley, 2022).
“While there are numerous advantages for employers and employees, such as increased productivity and creating a better work-life balance, there are some pitfalls,” says Windley. Isolation of employees is one factor that is often discussed, whether working from home or being the only one in the office.
“A very real problem is accounting for hours worked.” Windley is referring to the unintended consequences that result in unpaid overtime and work spilling over into personal time.
“I find myself always working at least a half-hour longer each evening than if I were in the office,” says one executive at a PR firm in New York. “And it’s easy to get drawn into texts and calls even when I have supposedly stopped for the day.”
Not only longer hours per day, but hours spent on holidays and weekends, when the office would normally be closed, creep in all too often (Thomas, 2020).
“It’s almost like you feel hyper-responsible about serving the clients’ needs when working on your own. If I can’t see the other members of my team, I just assume they are still at work, too, and I don’t want to get left behind.” This is what HRB refers to as “always on” (Thomas).
The expectations we inadvertently create by working this way make clients more demanding. They get used to receiving a response within minutes, not after the weekend. This spills over to all team members; fear of offending a client can make employees work even longer and harder.
How can it change?
According to Windley, one way to facilitate change and increase the quality of life and work for remote or flextime employees is to set up actual times when the office is closed. Even if an employee wants to finish up a few details, the pressure of expectations from an employer or client is lifted. This means no calls, computer time, meetings, or expected deadlines.
Encouraging employees to set up good habits when working flexible hours or remotely can also make it clear that you–as their employer–are looking out for them. By helping them develop strategies to avoid “always on,” you can reduce overall office stress, and one of the best ways to do that is by being an example (McAdow, 2020).
Although it seems everyone is excited about flextime and remote work these days, calling it a win-win, it can become a lose-lose for both employers and employees. With a little planning and some restructuring, you can guarantee the win.