You don’t have to sacrifice the benefits of face-to-face work to allow your employees to work more flexible hours, writes Laura Vanderkam, author of multiple time management and productivity books. Vanderkam shares the scheduling strategy some organizations have used to create more flexibility in an article for Fast Company.
Many employees are interested in more flexible work arrangements, but managers worry about the tradeoffs of that flexibility. Some organizations, like Yahoo, have found that working face-to-face results in more innovation, but working remotely is often more productive, Vanderkam reports. Others might have concerns that flexible work arrangements will result in lost productivity or lower team engagement.
To get the best of both worlds, Vanderkam recommends a solution: “core hours” when everyone commits to being in the office. Outside of these hours, employees can work remotely and on their own time.
Vanderkam recommends the following three steps to establish core hours on your team.
Step 1: Figure out the best hours for your team. To accommodate everyone, Vanderkam recommends establishing core hours in the middle of the day (roughly between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.). This way, early birds can get work done beforehand, night owls can finish work afterwards, and everyone can avoid rush-hour traffic.
Step 2: Avoid designating too many core hours or core days. Vanderkam notes that it can be tempting to carve out too many core hours. She instead suggests setting about two core days per week, maximum. FSB Associates President Fauzia Burke says this arrangement allows her employees “to be available for brainstorming and collaborating,” while still having time to work quickly and independently outside of the office.
The less time employees are in the office, the less they will succumb to the distractions inherently present in an office setting. According to a FlexJobs survey, more than half of the 1,500 respondents (54%) said they would prefer to work at home if they had important tasks to complete. A couple of core days per week gives employees a chance to bounce ideas off of one another and innovate, while also keeping distractions at a minimum.
Step 3: Ensure you’re getting the most out of your new schedule. As Vanderkam points out, core hours are not meant to be a way for employees with flexible schedules to prove to you they’re still doing their jobs. Instead, core hours are there for meaningful collaboration. Vanderkam recommends scheduling brainstorming and feedback sessions—or even a team lunch—during core hours. Aside from the innovation that comes from collaboration, core hours allow employees to socialize and build deeper levels of trust with one another (Vanderkam, Fast Company, 8/18).