Some people genuinely enjoy the structure of a 9 to 5 schedule. But it’s certainly not for everyone. And, as it turns out, there are tons of benefits of setting your own hours — though some managers are hesitant to offer employees that kind of flexibility.
Over the last few months, psychologist Ron Friedman, the founder of Ignite80 and author of “The Best Place to Work,” has been organising an online summit on peak work performance, featuring his discussions with 26 of the world’s top productivity experts, including Daniel Pink, Gretchen Rubin, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Tracy Brower.
During his conversation with Brower, a work environment sociologist, global VP at Mars Drinks, and author of “Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organisations,” they talked about the importance of a flexible work schedule.
Friedman said people often assume they will have a lot more flexibility as they climb the corporate ladder. “But in fact, it’s kind of funny because after a certain point, you reach the mid-level and that’s probably the peak of your flexibility. After a while it actually tends to go down again.”
As people ascend up the proverbial ladder, they need to learn how to achieve greater flexibility, he adds. “It’s important in many cases to have flexibility in the way that you work, in the sense that it will improve your performance to have those options of when and where to work,” he explains.
Brower agrees. She says flexibility ends up driving and improving performance — and when you’re trying to convince your boss to offer you flexibility, you should remind them of that.
Here are other arguments you could make while convincing your boss to let you set your own hours:
'Nothing is permanent.'
Before going into the specific reasons this is a great idea, ease your boss's mind by reminding them that this doesn't have to be a permanent change.
In her conversation with Friedman, Brower suggests you start by saying something like: 'Let's try this for three months and then check in and communicate and get feedback.'
'Just stay agile, learn what's working and what's not, and adjust and course correct as necessary. Those are the kinds of things that leaders will usually respond to when they hear a proposal,' she says.
'It's a win-win for both of us.'
Your ultimate goal in this conversation is to talk about how this arrangement will benefit the business.
'We frequently talk about, 'What's in it for me?' In this case, we also want to be clear about what's in it for the business,' Brower tells Friedman. 'How is the business going to benefit by you having more flexibility? That is usually about being able to work and focus when it works for you and how it works for you, so you can fit it into the crevices, cracks, and points in your life. That's a big one. Another one is the idea of connecting to the team and to the customer, making sure that the leader knows that the team is still going to be served, and making sure the customer will still be served.'
No matter what, always emphasise how your flexible schedule would be beneficial to the company, too.
'I'll want to work harder.'
'When companies allow and encourage flexibility -- and encourage alternative working -- they're sending a message to people about the extent to which they trust them to make really good choices and decisions,' she tells Friedman. 'Our human condition is really about reciprocity. We can look at that in instinctual levels of humanity.'
When people give to us, we can be motivated to give back, Brower explains. So, for instance, when organisations provide flexibility, it tends to foster this idea of reciprocity. 'People want to work hard, and they want to do their best work. They especially want to work hard when they have these options and choices.'
'I'll be able to work at times when I'm most productive and energised.'
Placing employees in control of their schedules encourages them to work during hours when they are most effective, 'instead of requiring them to sit comatose in front of a computer because it's not yet 5 p.m.,' says Friedman. 'Most adults function best in the first few hours after waking. Others are sharper in the afternoon.'
Brower agrees. 'When we can focus on work in the times that work best for us so we can do a better job, we have better outcomes and perform better as individuals and organisations. It really works out for the individuals, the organisation, and the team,' she explains to Friedman.
'I'll be more focused.'
'Productivity aside, flexible working offers another crucial benefit: It allows employees to resolve critical personal matters when needed, so that they can bring sharper focus and clarity to their work,' Friedman explains. 'No wonder workplace flexibility has been linked with a host of positive well-being outcomes, including higher job satisfaction, lower stress, and reduced work-family conflict.'
'I'll be better connected.'
People who work from home or on 'off hours' tend to worry about missing important moments, and therefore make an effort to stay better connected to their colleagues and clients.
'Technology, when we manage it instead of it managing us, can be a great enabler of integration,' says Brower in her conversation with Friedman
. 'I can go to my daughter's violin recital and be able to see what's happening at work, if that's a choice I've made. I'm able to anticipate work that I might need to turn back on or handle the next day or shoot a quick email to take care of some things, but I can stay focused in the moment.'
'I'll have a better relationship with you, boss!'
When we're offered flexibility, we tend to be happier and perform better. 'The research that I did for the book suggested that there was a lot more openness from leaders when they were working with someone performing really well,' Brower tells Friedman.
Also: When your boss offers you the ability to set your own schedule, it likely means there's a great deal of trust between the two of you. As an employee, that realisation may drive you to respect your manager even more.
'I'll be more committed to the company.'
Studies have repeatedly found that providing employees with more control over their schedule -- to the extent that flexibility is possible -- motivates them to not only work harder and produce higher-quality work, but also develop greater loyalty for their company, Friedman tells Business Insider.
'When organisations provide employees with a clear set of goals and entrust them to manage their time responsibly, making it acceptable for a worker to take an hour during the day to attend a yoga class, visit an elderly parent, or welcome his or her child off the afternoon school bus, they generate commitment that ends up saving them money in the long term,' he adds.
'I'll have a more balanced life ... which will make me happier ... which will make me a better employee.'
One of the biggest benefits of a flexible schedule is that it helps employees achieve better work-life balance -- something so many of us strive for. And, according to a 2014 report from The Council of Economic Advisers, workers who have more flexibility and better balance are happier, healthier, and more likely to remain at a company that grants such flexibility.
Business Insider's Richard Feloni reports that data shows that happy employees are better employees.
'Workers who enjoy their jobs achieve their goals 31% more often and are 36% more motivated than those who aren't satisfied, according to a 2012 poll done by the Wall Street Journal and the iOpener Institute for People and Performance,' he writes.