Do Flexible Work Hours Improve Employee Productivity?

Lucy O'Connor
Lucy O'Connor|

The term “nine to five” has long been ingrained in how we think of the working week. But with millions of people around the world now working from home, many are waking up to the benefits of flexible working. 

Below, we explore the impact of flexible work hours on employee productivity, the benefits for employers, and the challenges they need to overcome to implement a successful flexible working policy

Defining flexitime

In a nutshell, flexible work hours allow employees to deviate from the traditional 9-5, Monday to Friday work schedule. 

Employees may still be required to work a set number of hours per day/week. But, with a flexible schedule, employees can customise their workdays to fit their specific needs. 

Flexible working hours look different at every company. Some businesses have “core hours” in which meetings and social events are organised and employees are expected to be available. Others prioritise asynchronous communication

And many businesses are adopting a 9/80 work schedule, where employees work 80 hours over nine days rather than the usual 10 days (assuming a five-day work week)—giving employees a day off every other week. 

The impact of flexible work hours on productivity 

Studies have shown significant improvements in productivity and morale when employees are given the option to work according to their own schedule. 

In fact, a survey by Airtasker found that flexible workers on average work 1.4 more days every month than traditional office workers. That’s 16.8 more days per year! 

A likely reason for this is that people are productive at different times throughout the day. So by scheduling their work around the hours they’re most productive, employees can execute tasks more effectively and produce higher quality work. 

Also, without the pressure to be in the office from 9-5, employees can better deal with their mental and physical health—reducing burnout. Research shows that companies with moderate to severe employee burnout experienced a decrease of 22% in work output. 

Furthermore, by giving employees more flexibility and time to deal with responsibilities in their personal lives, they’ll likely be more dedicated and productive in their professional lives. Plus employees can spend more time doing things they enjoy—whether it’s pursuing hobbies or spending more time with loved ones. And happiness actually boosts productivity. One study found that happiness made people roughly 12% more productive.  

Not everyone benefits from flexible work hours 

Nevertheless, it’s important to recognise that flexible hours don’t benefit everyone. Some people work more efficiently in an established 9-5 routine, in the office, and find that flexible working hours blur the boundaries between personal and work life. In fact, in our survey, 34% of respondents stated that lack of work-life balance was one of the worst things about WFH.

So, should employers offer flexible work hours?

By offering flexible work hours, businesses can:

  • Reduce absenteeism: with less stress and the ability to manage existing health conditions, flexible working leads to lower levels of absenteeism and, in most cases, increased productivity within working hours.
  • Attract and retain top-talent: flexible work hours are one of the most important perks for employees. A 2018 survey found that 80% of workers would choose a job that offers a flexible schedule over one that did not. In fact, 30% said that they value flexible work over additional holiday time. So having a flexible work policy can help to attract and retain top talent.
  • Improve diversity and inclusion: flexible roles appeal to those who might not be able to work a traditional nine-to-five, office-based job, whether that’s due to a disability or caring responsibilities. 
  • Increase job satisfaction, energy and creativity: when employees are trusted to work the hours that suit them best, their output will be more creative. Which, in turn, will improve morale and job satisfaction. 

Despite the many potential benefits of flexible work hours, if an organisation can’t handle flexibility, it can be counter-productive. Businesses need to be aware of the following challenges:

  • Availability and communication: when employees are working at different times, scheduling meetings and communicating can be more difficult. To avoid these problems, employers need to adjust their processes and attitudes to accommodate different employee’s working schedules. Prioritising asynchronous communication can help to improve communication, and gives employees more control over their work day. 
  • Working overtime: flexible working can blur boundaries between work and life, and result in employees working overtime, so it’s something to keep an eye on. 
  • Unsuitable for some employee roles: customer or client-facing roles may require employees to maintain a consistent schedule.

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