The pandemic forever changed how we think about work. After years of work-from-home policies and limited in-person meetups, it has become increasingly clear that there’s more than one way to be productive at work.
One trend that has proven you can be just as productive (if not more so) is adopting and managing a flexible work schedule through proper flex time management. Switching to a flexible work schedule has been shown to boost productivity and improve employee retention.
In this piece, we'll cover everything you need to know about operating on a flex time schedule and how to use it to maximize productivity through flexible working hours instead of following the traditional 9-to-5.
What Is Flex Time?
Flex time is a flexible work schedule where employees choose their work hours to better accommodate their professional and personal lives. You don’t have a fixed start or end time, but you’re still expected to work a set number of hours per day.
For example, a flex time schedule could be as simple as starting and ending your day earlier by working from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. It could also follow a less traditional approach like splitting your day into two blocks by working from 7-11 a.m. and picking back up again from 3-7 p.m. The purpose of flex time is to give you the freedom to work when it best suits your schedule.
There are also no differences between working a traditional or flex time schedule regarding overtime hours. No matter what hours you choose to work, if you work more than what’s required for the given workweek (usually over 40 hours per week), you may be eligible for overtime pay.
What Flex Time Options Are There?
Starting your workday earlier or finishing up later in the evening isn’t your only option with a flex time schedule. In fact, there are quite a few different options for operating on a flex time schedule:
- Job sharing: This is a flex time arrangement where you share “shift work” with other flex time employees, each working part-time to cover the entire workday. However, for this method to work well, all employees must have similar skill sets and communicate effectively to ensure no loss in productivity.
- Flexible workdays: Not only does flex time give you the option to adjust what hours you work during the day, but it also gives you control over what days you work. A common option is for employees to ditch the traditional five-day workweek by taking an extra day off to work four 10-hour days.
- Remote work: While remote work may not change what hours during the day you work, it still offers employees workplace flexibility by eliminating time spent commuting to and from the office. Working from home can also help employees be more productive by eliminating the constant disruptions that are common in an office environment.
- Hybrid work schedules: A hybrid work schedule lets you balance your time between the office and working remotely. Hybrid work schedules offer the conveniences of remote work with the benefits of collaborating with coworkers in an office environment. Having the flexibility to work from home or in an office helps boost productivity and improve work-life balance by letting you choose how to work depending on the day and what you need to accomplish.
Does Moving to a Flexible Work Schedule Make Sense?
How we work has evolved — From the tools we use to the types of jobs that now exist. Nothing stays constant forever. So why should work follow the same rigid structure because that’s how things have been done before? Instead, a flexible work schedule can often make employees more productive and provide significant relief for those with other obligations outside work, like childcare.
But just because you can have more control over when you work, does it make sense for you? Some people enjoy having structure and routine to their day, while others prefer the more social environment of being in a full office. Regardless of your preferences, you should also weigh the pros and cons.
What Are the Advantages of Flex Time?
Here are a few reasons why being flexible with your working time may make sense for you:
- More freedom and flexibility: Working flexible hours or working from home is an excellent tool for boosting productivity. Whether an early riser or night owl, a flexible work schedule lets you choose the hours you’re most productive and best suit your personal needs.
- Avoid work commutes: Not having to commute to and from the office is often cited as one of the most significant benefits of remote work. While most people would probably agree that commuting is a necessary evil of being a part of the workforce, they still underestimate the stress and financial burden that commuting creates. Even if you can’t avoid your office commute altogether, a flex time schedule that lets you choose your start and end time can help you avoid the stress of rush hour.
- Better work-life balance: Flexible work hours give you more time to attend to your personal lives while still getting work done. Instead of scheduling all appointments, chores, and other obligations outside standard working hours or over the weekend, you can easily work them into your workday. Flex time gives you the power to manage your professional and personal lives as you best see fit.
What Are the Challenges of Flex Time?
Whether it’s mismanaging your time or struggling to stay connected with coworkers, you can face many challenges without proper flex time management:
- Difficult to leave work at work: One of the biggest challenges of a flexible work schedule is knowing when it's time to stop. A benefit of working a traditional 9-to-5 is knowing that your workday is over at a set time each day. But this can be more complicated when working from home or when working untraditional hours where there’s no clear cue that work is done for the day.
- Communication challenges: Everyone has different approaches to communicating their ideas, responsibilities, and frustrations at the office. Removing a set schedule where everyone is expected to be in the office can make it difficult for employees to collaborate on a project and effectively bounce ideas off one another. It also encourages some employees to hide behind their desks since they won’t be as closely monitored by their peers. Working remotely adds another layer of challenges by further limiting how employees can communicate with each other.
- Scheduling meetings can be a headache: When everyone in your company chooses what hours they work, it can be difficult to agree on when to schedule meetings and other team events. Unnecessary conflicts can arise when employees can’t agree on simple arrangements like scheduling meetings due to variances in work schedules.
- Can be isolating: Although many would agree that working in a less-distracting environment is better, we are still social creatures at heart. Sustained periods of working alone can lead to social isolation and adverse health effects like sleeplessness. Studies have also shown that loneliness can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and even suicide.
Tips for Managing Your Flex Time Schedule
Although adopting a flex time schedule has many benefits, it can be difficult to manage without the proper understanding and tools to make the switch. Here are some useful tips for properly managing your time to ensure a smooth transition:
- Establish core hours: If you’re collaborating on a project with a team or need to maintain regular contact with your customers, a good flex time management practice is to establish core working hours where you’re always available. Setting core work hours where all employees are expected to work also makes communicating and scheduling meetings easier. For example, you still have the flexibility to choose your start and end time but are required to work from 12-3 p.m. for scheduling meetings with clients.
- Keep better track of your time: Setting your own work schedule is great for flexibility, but it can be difficult for setting boundaries for yourself. Having a tool that can track how you spend your time and measure productivity can help you stay focused and serve as a reminder for when it’s time to shut down for the day. Using smart time-tracking software like Rize can improve your flex time management skills so you can build better work habits.
- Define your workplace environment: No matter where or how you choose to work, it’s critical to establish a well-defined workspace to help you stay focused and organized. You want a dedicated place that's comfortable and where you can store all of your work-related supplies within arm's reach. If possible, you also want to work in a quiet location where you won’t be easily interrupted and have all notifications silenced.
- Stay in contact with your team: Whether you prefer email, phone calls, video conferencing, or face-to-face meetings, you need to establish clear communication practices between yourself and your coworkers. Knowing when and how your team members can be reached allows for a more productive and social work environment and can help with the dangers of social isolation.
Improve Your Flex Time Management With Rize
Switching to a flex time schedule can be a great way to maximize productivity and wellbeing. But just like changing careers, there are real challenges with adapting to a new environment and work schedule. Thankfully, tools like Rize are designed to improve your flex time management via its smart time tracker.
Rize works by automatically tracking and categorizing your work activity in real time so you can understand how you spend your time. It also analyzes your work activity and will even notify you when it’s time to take a break to prevent burnout.
Rize’s automatic time capturing makes proper flex time management easy so that you can achieve more in less time. Give Rize a try free for two weeks to see how it can help you better manage your schedule — no matter how or when you choose to work.