There’s a reason the 9-5 job has lasted so long: It’s a standardized way to structure work, it keeps most workers in the same place at the same time, and it is easy to implement. Slowly but surely, that’s changing. Digital technologies have made it possible to conduct work without having everyone in the same place at the same time. Here is how to make flexible work schedules work for you.
Employers have seen that flexible work arrangements benefit everyone. What many of them haven’t learned? How to manage their non-traditional workers.
Making Flex Work Work
Flexible work environments make managers’ lives harder. When there’s a project or issue to talk through, they can’t simply stop by remote workers’ desks. If team members are working from different time zones, managers may need to take calls at odd hours. At the very least, they need to keep tabs on changing schedules and team capacity.
What can managers do to make flexible work, well, work? A few steps can simplify things:
1. Establish a common work window.
Collaboration in the workplace is vital, but if employees have different schedules, bringing people together can be difficult. That is why a common window schedule is one of the best ways to manage flexible scheduling.
Regardless of your employees’ schedules, implement core hours — between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., for example — during the week when everyone is expected to be available. The time can be used to conduct meetings, delegate tasks, or bond as a team.
Implementing a common work window also gives employees a “schedule center,” which they can structure their routines around. Workers need to take responsibility for efficiently managing their schedules.
2. Get to know your workers as people.
As a business leader, it’s your responsibility to know the people on your team. Knowing who you work with allows you to be mindful of their tendencies and build more than just trust.
When you know your workers well, you can also delegate tasks more efficiently. You’ll accumulate knowledge about your team, which makes it easier to get the right mix of personalities together for a given project or team. And then you can resist the urge to micromanage them, knowing that you have already put the hard work in.
Getting to know remote workers is tougher than in-person ones. Here’s how to do it:
- Prioritize facetime. You might not be able to be physically together, but technology can be a bridge. Eat lunch together once a week via videoconference. Make room in the budget to fly them in at least once a quarter for a meeting.
- Be generous. Building trust requires you to go out on a limb. Give people the benefit of the doubt. If they want noise-canceling headphones, could you surprise them with a pair?
- Ask questions. People spend 60-80% of their conversation time talking about themselves. Not only does encouraging that endear them to you, but it helps you understand who they truly are.
Workers who respect their leaders will keep going when the work is hard, and they’ll speak up when there’s more they could be doing. Think of getting to know them as an investment.
3. Make the most of team meetings.
On one thing, workers and leaders agree: meetings tend to be a waste of time. Not only do they take away from work time, but they often devolve into drama.
When workers are operating on flex time, getting the whole team together requires schedule sacrifices. Make the most of meetings by:
- Always send out an agenda beforehand. Every member should arrive knowing what will and won’t be discussed.
- Being direct. Don’t let the conversation wander to irrelevant topics.
- Providing clarity. Give your team members actionable items that they can take away.
Most importantly, ask yourself before calling a meeting whether the information can be shared in another way. Choose the simplest, least time-consuming option. Know when to make meetings optional versus mandatory. Taking these steps shows your employees that you respect their time and their productivity.
4. Use a work operating system.
A work operating system is a cloud-based platform that allows remote teams to create custom workflow apps. Work OSs streamline communication and make tracking work easier.
How do work OSs benefit individual contributors? They help workers to not only visualize their role in the company but also to connect their work to the bigger picture of the organization’s goals. They promote transparency and facilitate automation, which can minimize human errors in repetitive tasks.
It sounds chaotic, but remember that just because workers have flexible schedules does not mean that your company cannot be in sync. If you strategize well, you can take control of a seemingly chaotic team environment.
The traditional work schedule is not yet obsolete, but it is waning. Rather than resist the inevitable, adapt now: It’s the only way to get ahead.