Working from home? Forget universal working hours. Work on your own time.
Due to the work climate brought upon by COVID-19, employees are mostly working from home. In most cases, these employees worked on-site full time before the pandemic hit.
Were you affected by this sudden change? I was too! I want to let you in on what I believe can help ease your work from home experience: It’s time for you to work based on a schedule that works for you and not based on one defined for everybody else. Sounds interesting? Then let’s hit it!
Actually, before we hit it…
Just want to briefly share what urged me to write this piece. From 2016 to 2019, I worked for a company where most employees works remotely. In 2019, I moved to a company where I worked on-site (full time) at a client’s office. When the COVID-19 restrictions where put in place, we have been required to fully work from home.
Personally, I didn’t need the adjustment period when we were required to fully work from home in 2020 as this is something that I have experienced in a previous employment. Additionally, my current employer and client have been more than understanding during this time.
I was lucky before and I still am. Not everyone is. I have observed first-hand the effect of this sudden transition on my peers, family and friends. Some were forced to go out of their comfort zones. Even though it’s a bit late, I still want to be able to help others by sharing how having a more flexible working schedule, in my opinion, can be beneficial.
With that said, it’s time to really hit it!
Find your time
When you were on-site, you had a working schedule. You go in at a specific time. Leave after a predefined number of hours. By the time you leave, your mind is off work and you get to do your personal obligations then. Everyone follows this schedule.
Now that you’re working from home, this daily schedule might not really work for you and it’s most likely affected by other factors. Everyone’s at home. School is at home. Work is at home. Movie dates are now at home. Actually, everything’s at home!
Let’s look at some scenarios where having a more flexible schedule can help you navigate each day in this environment.
You have to help with your child’s morning classes? Then start working after that.
Can’t take calls during a certain time? Inform your team and work out a better schedule for such meetings that works best for everyone.
Urgently need to do an errand and avoid the crowd? Go out during off-peak hours and then just end work later than usual.
Honestly, I can add more items to this list and I will still not cover all of the possibilities. Even the strategies mentioned above might not work for other people facing the same situation.
There’s no silver bullet. Everyone’s working from home — one of the most personal spaces there is. Logically, the solution that will work best is the most personal one. This brings a very interesting point. How can a system defined for a specific type of environment work for everyone when they’re no longer in that environment?
Keep in mind that the only one who can identify the most optimal time you can work given a certain day is YOU. Compromises can be made for certain group activities like meetings or presentations but always make sure that you find that “big ticket” time. This is the time you plan to be most productive. It may not be constant for each working day, but there should always be that block of time in every day.
Some of you may argue that this system can cause you to have working days where you have shorter working hours. But that’s what’s magical with this approach— it’s forgiving. Maybe yesterday you had a shorter-than-usual working hours but you can always make up for it today or whenever you can. This can lead to the debate on whether we should track working hours or milestones. That’s for a different piece. Moving on!
Don’t forget to deliver
The idea is to let you work on your own time. But, you’re still expected to deliver in the same (or better) quality. So this “holy grail” of a schedule should not just work for you, but it should make you work.
For some companies, this is a bit of a paradigm shift. So it is important to remember that if the management sees that giving you a bit of flexibility can still get them the same results; then, there’s no reason for it to be stopped or slowed down. It’s a two-way road. You do good in your own time, then you can keep your own time. So always remember, you can have all the flexibility you need but do not forget to deliver.
I understand that there are bigger factors that can make this approach not possible. Contractual obligations like those strictly defining the working hours is one example of this. Again, I based this on my personal experience as well as on my observations of people that are in industries/companies which allows for this approach to be taken.
I am very lucky with my past and current employment. Not everyone is. I do hope that given the situation the world is facing, more industries and companies can embrace more flexibility regarding this matter.
We suddenly had to change the “where” in work. It’s about time we take a different perspective on the “how”.