The Hype of Flexible Working
All articles nowadays have to compulsorily contain a couple of keywords: Corona, COVID-19, Russia-Ukraine conflict, and India-China relations. Other than always being in news these keywords have one other thing in common; the events behind them have made a lasting impact on the modern workplace. Accept it or not, the ever-increasing global conflicts and economic crises have left the world economy in a Catch-22 situation. Countries have been forced to decide whether to lift all restrictions and allow the economic machinery to run unhindered while risking losing the population to the pandemic. Or dampen the economy like China and risk an uprising or worse an attack from another country. Problems are plenty and solutions are few.
Amidst these never-ending dilemmas, the post pandemic workplace is taking a new shape. Some companies have shifted to permanent work from home, others are giving 6-month sabbaticals every 5 years, and yet others are offering paid leaves between weeks to recharge and rejuvenate the employees. The flexible work timing model is here and it demands attention. Whether periodical work from home or allowing employees to work in morning or night based on their preference; the employers have been forced to make some tough decisions and so far, they seem to have no clue.
Flexible work timing may be over-hyped by mainstream media, but the burning question is whether employees should be allowed to work as they please or if the age-old working model of 9-5 job should be reinforced, now that many countries including India are opening up post-pandemic.
The 9-5 Model is Ancient
Coming early into work is not only old fashioned it doesn’t make any sense. A person who works best in the wee hours should be allowed to come-in during afternoon and work till 9 or 10 in the night, instead of sticking to this rudimentary model. Moreover due to the pandemic and many other global events, our work time has anyway spilled to late in the night. So if it has already happened, it only makes sense to let people continue working according to their comfort.
Flexibility in terms of completing work translates to completing nine hours work in a day that need not be in a single sitting. The employee at the end of the day needs to complete a set of deliverables for his job. Whether he completes them in the morning, evening, or in a hybrid way is his prerogative. It’s time to evolve the 9-5 model because it is not only outdated but also illogical.
End of the 8-hour workday
Ford introduced the 8-hour day in 1914 and the five-day week in 1926, in hopes of improving work conditions and workplace standards for the employees. It not only increased efficiency but also gave a chance to the employees to improve their work-life balance. The 9-5 model allowed working mothers to have a fighting chance and many more benefits to the working class who till then had survived on impractical and hazardous working conditions.
It is 2022 and we are again on a crossroad. The Corona pandemic has forced us to rethink our work strategy. That and the advent of the digital workplace has given us an option to evolve our current job model. Although work from home has allowed workplace to intrude at the home it has also allowed us to experience a different working model than our current one. Perhaps it’s time to switch to an intermittent 8-hour model where people can work for four hours then rest or take care of personal chores for a couple of hours before returning to their job in the evening.
Work Smarter Not Harder
The time of directionless working has gone. The employees no longer want to keep working towards an intangible goal of the organization that may or may not be reachable. Multinational organizations like Disney, Nike, and Google have started propagating a flat hierarchical structure so that employees can work in a cross-functional way. This way the employees can not only understand the organization’s high-level objective but also their role in achieving that milestone. But what does that have to do with workplace timing?
Flat structure organizations and employee ownership translate to set deliverables for the employees without any micro-management. The old job model included a boss telling his employees what the next task was when they finished the first one. But now that everyone understands what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, they can work at their own pace. Stringent work time forces the employees to spend eight or nine hours in the office even if they are sitting idle and yawning for four hours after completing all of their pending work.
Nowadays flexible work timing especially work from home allows the employees to finish their tasks with high efficiency in a shorter period and then focus on their personal work or gigs in their spare time. Though companies discourage personal gigs I reckon how could it hurt? If your employee is completing his day’s work and enhancing his skills in other areas at the same time, why are you worried? You should be celebrating.
The Post-Pandemic Workplace is Here
It is time to slowly but surely segue into a more flexible work timing regime where employees can work according to their preferences and personal as well as family constraints. Take holidays when you want instead of the compulsory Saturday and Sunday week off. If someone wants to work all week and take four days leave in the next week, well good for him. Yet another employee who wants to stay in on Christmas just so he can take leave for two days and WFH for three days during the new year let him do that because that’s what the time desires.
History stands witness to the fact that whoever has remained flexible to the changing times has persevered through the storms of time. And whoever has remained rigid and opposed the natural flow of change has found his place in the footnotes of history. Don’t believe me? Ask Xerox.