6 Lessons Learned While Working a Flexible Schedule

6 Lessons Learned While Working a Flexible Schedule

The fluid workspace is a growing trend as more and more companies offer employees the perk of having flexible work hours. Research from Global Workplace Analytics shows that, by 2016, 4 out of 5 workers will have flexible work arrangements. Thanks to the technology advances and the rising trend of remote working, the workplace is about to suffer some serious adaptations. Your office might not exist in the next few years but you’re bound to become more productive.

According to a 2012 report by the Future of Work Institute, “The need for flexible working is growing. The changing context of work is creating new challenges and opportunities that companies can only meet with the sort of agility that flexible working arrangements provide. In order to convince companies to embrace or extend flexibility, the benefits must be clear. This report makes a strong case for flexibility by identifying 12 tangible benefits of flexible working. Six of these benefits address the changing business context (increased employee productivity, effective virtual teams, business continuity, reduced business travel, and agile infrastructure). The remaining six address the changing employee context (increased engagement, greater retention, more senior women, the attraction and retention of senior executives, flexible retirement, and generational working styles). In responding to the changing context of work, companies that endorse flexible working can remain competitive by leveraging emerging opportunities.”

As life unwinds, work-life balance and time control are getting more and more of a luxury and people get sucked in by their work, get stuck in a routine for years until they retire and adjust to a different routine. Before you know it, you’ve followed that routine your whole life and wish you had made better decisions. This is why more employers are opting in for flexible work hours, as they have figured out by now that happy employees are more productive.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn after working flexible hours for a while:

1. Your Most Productive Time of Day

When you work on a side project or use your vacation time to work on a project, you learn about your productivity. In just a few days, you’ll figure out if you’re more productive in the early morning or late at night. You’ll learn if you really need that nap in the evening or you’re more eager to do creative work after not being in an office for eight hours. You’ll see patterns in your work days and learn from them. After about a week, you’ll have your own schedule, tailor made just for you, not constructed over a century ago to please employers and adapted to outdated technology.

The Future of Work report also noted that, “Flexible workers are measurably more productive than traditional ones, and are able to leverage new technologies to collaborate and communicate. Flexibility encourages the formation of high-performing virtual teams that can confront an increasingly sophisticated workload independent of physical location.”

2. Appreciating Your Time and Taking Better Care of Yourself

According to research by University of Minnesota sociology professor Phyllis Moen, employees who were allowed to plan their own work time were more likely to exercise, sleep better and feel better in general. Workers who were on a flexible schedule were also more likely to take time off when sick and therefore achieved greater productivity levels when back on track. Once you learn how to manage your work time, you’ll be more likely to take better care of your own well-being, be healthier and therefore more engaged with your work.  

3. How Much Time Tasks Actually Take

We really don’t know anything about where our time goes before we start tracking, and subsequently, managing. But also, when you’re on a flexible schedule, if you focus on getting things done, you’ll meet your work personality even better which will result in better project estimates and planning in the future. People tend to stretch their work just to fulfill this crazy request to be somewhere for eight hours. Once you have the option to make your own decisions about time invested in work, it all seems to look much clearer and procrastination is less likely to occur. Track your time for a week to find out what “keeping-busy” activities take most of your time but bring very few results.

Moreover, the Future of Work report suggested that, “Flexibility enables employees to operate in an environment that best suits their personal working styles and allows companies to respond to fluctuations in workload.

4. Results Trump Effort

Most companies that offer flexible work hours will also have a results-oriented culture. And the moment you start focusing on results as opposed to effort, it’s inevitable you’ll be more productive. You’ll learn to differentiate between important and routine tasks. I’ve seen organizations and companies, small and large that valued effort over results and all tasks assigned for a certain period were effort-focused. This is why so little gets done in effort-based environment.

Set smart tasks for yourself. Try wording like, “get 50 journalists to attend my press conference” rather than “organize a press conference”. It’ll hack your brain into achieving more in less time.

Another report in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior suggested: “Though some companies are cautious that a loss of direct control over employee work patterns could result in a lapse in commitment or discipline, this sentiment was not reflected by the EWF, with most reporting that flexibility produced more energised, more motivated, and more productive employees.”

5. The Beauty of Prioritizing

After you ditch the 9-5 routine and start appreciating results, you’ll learn where to invest your time in order to achieve more. If you don’t have to check your email every hour, then why do you? Thanks to the busy trap, you feel guilty for sitting in an office and not working and maybe due to rules, you can’t just take a break so you take part in these thoughtless, mundane tasks such as email, scheduling unnecessary meetings to pass the time, endless calls and brain picking sessions just to feel busy and invest effort in tasks that will bring no or little results.

Setting priority goals for yourself helps to avoid the busy trap and keep you feeling productive and purposeful.

6. Control of Your Time

Once you’ve learned to value results over effort–to make use of your most productive time to focus on important tasks and prioritize to get rid of mundane to-do lists with no goal in mind– you’ve finally came very close to becoming a master of your time. If you reflect your work behavior to your life behavior and learn to be equally good at managing leisure (i.e. not procrastinating, not wasting time on bad habits) you’ll feel freer and more productive than ever.
Flexible work is about experimenting and learning about your productivity. Once you get to know your productive personality better, you’ll be more likely to make better decisions and follow a routine customized for your needs. Whether it’s working very early and having the rest of the day for yourself or scheduling productive work for late at night when you feel most eager to take on tasks, you’ll master your work productivity and learn what routine is best for you.

dunja lazicDunja Lazic is passionate about productivity, remote work, and start-ups. She spends her time reading, writing, and learning something new every day. Dunja is a media manager in charge of making Toggl a household name.

By Dunja Lazic | Categories: Work Remotely

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