Questions to Consider When Adjusting Work Schedules

A Shifting Workplace

COVID-19 has drastically changed the workplace in ways that have the opportunity to permanently change the future of many organizations. Leaders have been working to create successful remote working policies, work environments that benefit overall heath, and guidelines for safety protocols such a social distancing.

One of the biggest changes to come from the pandemic is flexible employee work schedules. Nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, delivery truck drivers, and many others with irregular schedules have been put in the spotlight. While non-standard work schedules and the “gig economy” were on the rise pre-coronavirus, their popularity has been fast tracked to the point where a traditional 9-5 schedule is no longer the gold standard.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Mark C. Bolino, Thomas K. Kelemen and Samuel H. Matthews analyzed153 studies and academic papers to determine how exactly non-traditional work schedules impact employee engagement, behavior, overall health, as well as their personal and family lives. If your organization is rethinking their employee work schedules, here are four questions the authors recommend you ask before moving forward!

Questions to Ask when Rethinking Work Schedules

  1. How do my organization’s employee work schedules impact employee effectiveness and wellbeing?

Through their research, the authors of the article found that different types of schedules affected employees in different ways. Most notably, working night shifts often lead to higher rates of absenteeism and lower productivity, while flextime schedules lead to reduced absenteeism and lower turnover rates. It was also found that rotating shifts and night shifts disrupted employees’ lives and the irregular and unpredictable schedules lead to health issues down the line. However, flextime schedules that put employees in charge of their work habits lead to overall improved wellbeing and job satisfaction.

  1. Is there a way to align our work schedules with the needs, desires and personalities of our employees?

Every employee is different and finding a schedule that works best for each person is an important factor to consider in the post-pandemic workplace. While research generally points to night shifts being harmful and flextime schedules being beneficial, it all depends on the employee and their circadian rhythms or family situation. If you are considering implementing non-traditional work schedules, it is a good idea to talk with or survey individual employees to determine what type of schedule best fits their personality, needs, and life circumstances.

  1. What are the implications of creating customized schedules or giving employees more control over their schedules?

Your goal as an employer should be to create schedules that are idiosyncratic and customized to meet the needs and desires of individual employees. Keep in mind, though, that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. During the pandemic, many employees rapidly transitioned to remote work and have most likely been completed assignments during a time worked best for them. If you are considering giving employees permanent control of their work schedules, consider broadening the concept of job crafting to include when employees want to work.

  1. Can we effectively balance the needs and desires of both the organization and employees?

Our economy has grown into a 24/7/365 schedule which leads some to believe that employees need to be available around the clock, including overnight and on holidays, to meet the demands of organizations. However, these types of schedules often create a tremendous amount of stress and hardship. What this pandemic has revealed is what type of organizations we should truly consider “essential.” While organizations need to be able to perform their core functions, the key is finding a balance between business needs and scheduling that benefits both the organization and its employees.

For more information, check out this Harvard Business Review article!

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