Are you running a remote team? Do your employees work from home? Or are you a firm believer in the 9-to-5 office day?
No matter what arrangement you use: If you are running a business, team productivity is of major concern. And with all the talk about the future of work and the death of office culture you must have asked yourself,
Can alternative work arrangements really make my team more productive? Or is it a myth?
The Problem with Flexible Hours
I have heard them all, the worries and fears surrounding alternative work arrangements. Flexible hours lead to chaos, what with all the scheduling and days off. Remote workers might be “working” in front of the TV or, even worse, while cleaning the house and taking care of the kids. Not to mention the trust-based work arrangement: does anyone put in all the hours if they don’t have to?
Let’s do some myth-busting to find out.
Myth 1: The longer your workday, the more productive you are. True or false?
Falser than false. Linking productivity to the number of hours worked might be one of the biggest myths of our times. Study after study shows that productivity does not increase if we work more. In fact, the opposite is true: The more we work, the longer it takes us to tackle a task. We get tired, distracted and erratic. Tired workers make more mistakes, get sick more often and are less motivated. Not what you want from your team, is it?
Myth 2: Productivity is achieved during at least 6-8 hours a day. True or false?
False. Did you know that the average worker is productive for no more than 3 hours a day? Yes, you read right: Out of the 8+ hours you’re spending at work, you are actually working three. Less than half. This increases slightly if workers are allowed to work the way they need – without distractions, with control over their schedule and within a suitable work environment. But still: In terms of actual productivity, the 8-hour workday remains a myth.
Myth 3: Remote workers lie about the number of hours they put in. True or false?
At first glance, this might be true: There are many reports of telecommuting abuse; so many that Marisa Meyer decided to stop all remote arrangements at Yahoo in 2013. Under these circumstances, even the Gallup Report stating that remote workers actually log more hours than on-site employees might be suspicious. I mean, they could still be logging those hours from the sofa, right? Think again. The same Gallup Report states that engagement and motivation are higher for remote workers than their on-site colleagues – and engaged, motivated employees is what you want for your team. And even if they were logging into some time tracking system while actually taking a nap: Didn’t we just learn that productivity is not linked to the number of hours we put in? As in so many areas of life, work is all about quality, not quantity. And quality is what you’re really paying your employees for, right?
Myth 4: Alternative work arrangements are bad for employers and good for employees. True or false?
This is a common misconception. Actually, both parties profit from flexible work arrangements – but it can also put both parties at a serious disadvantage. It is undeniably handy have your employees at your fingertips from 9 to 5 (or longer). On the other hand, remote workers miss the kind of social contact the office life provides: the water cooler talk, the gossip at lunchtime and that general feeling of working together shoulder by shoulder.
The home office can be lonely, and it is hard to create that team-feeling if you never talk to each other eye to eye. But there are ways to conquer that: Organizing regular meet-ups and establishing a chat culture are two examples. As for the availability of your staff, well, today’s possibilities of remote communication are nearly endless. Skype or chat, use smart project management tools – and trust your staff to work at their own pace. You will be rewarded.
Myth 5: With trust-based working hours, I don’t need a time tracker. True or false?
True: If you trust your employees with their time, you don’t need to track their hours. But you should: You need to keep track of your employees’ time – for their own good, and the good of your company. Not only because it is the law in some European countries, but mostly because it is in your business’ best interest. Trust-based work time arrangements generally lead to more engagement and longer workdays. And, as we have seen, longer workdays are bad for body, mind – and productivity. So please, keep track of those hours. Today’s time tracking systems even allow for things like team time tracking and live performance views.
Alternative Work Arrangements Actually Work!
It’s true. Those alternative work arrangements might be what you need to boost your team’s productivity. But use them with care: Communication is key to create a happy, productive team. With flexible schedules and remote arrangements, it is more important than ever to know what everyone is up to. Tools like smart time tracking and integrated project management will help you with that.
Start creating the perfect arrangement for you, your team and your business today – and you will enjoy the results for years to come.
Remote work, flexi-time or the good old 9-to-5 office day: Which arrangement works best for you? Let me know!