Incorporating a Flexible Work Week Without Losing Productivity

It can be something of a balancing act to do your best to both keep employees happy and keep them productive at the same time. Fortunately, there’s a surprising approach that many companies are finding effective these days to accomplish both ends. This is the flexible workweek.

The Flexible Work Week Overview

At the end of the day, what matters is whether the work that you need to get done gets done on time. The exact method used to get it done doesn’t matter in the end, at least when it comes to your bottom line, which should be your main concern. The traditional approach has been that doing a 5 workweek, 9 to 5 daily routine where everyone is in the same place is the only way to maintain productivity and group cohesion.

A Case Study

Lately, however, different arrangements, such as the 4-day work week, have been popping up. An example of this specific approach would be the Perpetual Guardian company from New Zealand. They did a 6-week trial run where they paid employees the exact same amount but only required them to come in four days a week instead of five.

This trial occurred two years ago, and the results were that the employees got more done in four days than they had in five. It increased sales and profits, and employees became happier. Andrew Barnes, the CEO of Perpetual Guardian, said that there were other positive side effects as well, such as narrowing the gender gap since women had more time to take care of their families. The workers at the company knew that if performance didn’t stay at a high level, that they could lose their extra day, and this had an effect on how they performed.

The Efficacy of Flexibility

The idea is that if you give employees more freedom in how they work, they can naturally increase their proficiency. The four-day workweek is only one example of how flexibility can increase employee happiness, retention, and productivity. Many small business owners see the usefulness of allowing work from home employees to work at their leisure, for example. In a modern world where someone is working at nearly all times, schedule flexibility is a lot more warranted than it was in the past.

Flexible Work Week Benefits

Despite whatever misgivings people may have moving away from the traditional setup in terms of productivity, the benefits are often clear. They are so clear, in fact, that 67% of small businesses already offer some kind of flexible work arrangement.  Here are some examples of why so many businesses prefer the arrangement.

  • Increased Employee Satisfaction-Happy employees are often productive employees. They are also employees that will stick around and that you won’t have to hunt around to replace continually. One study indicated that 73% of the people polled said that flexible work schedules made them feel more satisfied at work. Only 4 percent of people in the study said that it didn’t at all.
  • Higher Productivity-The study also indicated that 78% thought the arrangement made them more productive. This is a no-lose scenario since it benefits both employees and their employers. Everyone wins.
  • Mental Health Benefits-The CEO of Perpetual Guardian said that he switched to a 4-day work week as a test partly because he was worried about how the 5-day grind was negatively impacting the mental health of his employees. Increased stress with less time off tends to do that.
  • Better Employee Retention-The same study indicated that already, over a third of the respondents said they would be likely to leave the employer they had currently because there was no flexible schedule there. In other words, this is a growing trend and there’s a worry of being outcompeted for companies that don’t offer it as an option.

Making It Work

Obviously, there’s going to be concerns with losing productivity if you don’t go with the traditional model, but many studies have already come out showing that productivity isn’t affected negatively. However, it’s obviously important to execute the schedules in a way that will ensure this outcome. Some things you can do to ensure this include-

  • Track Everything-If you are worried about productivity after making the change, just make sure you use effective tools for keeping a bead on how productive your employees are, how much is getting done, how often they are hitting deadlines, and so on. If there is a problem here, you may be able to address it without necessarily abandoning the flexible model.
  • Emphasize the Need for Productivity-It also helps to communicate to employees that the flexible work schedule is dependent on productivity. This is exactly what they did at Perpetual Guardian, and it appears to have been effective. Employees will often highly value their flexibility and will make sure that productivity doesn’t flag as a once.
  • Outsource for Organization-It can help to use outsourced solutions for things like accounting HR, and payroll in order to keep track of what everyone is doing and who needs to be paid, based on whatever system you are using. This will ensure that the flexible system is working, especially if you are running a business that has employees who work at home.

Summing Up and Getting Started

Increasing productivity is the name of the game these days, and the key is to figure out how to get there. As it turns out, working more during fewer days can be one of the keys to getting this done, as much of a surprise it might be to those used to the old model.  The truth is that times change, however, and video conferencing software as well as other programs that facilitate teamwork across time and space make working at home with flexible schedules more viable than ever before.

For more information about flexible work schedules and how to make them work, as well as ways of facilitating payrolls and other small business matters, please make sure that you don’t hesitate to go ahead and contact us today.

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