Updated: Nov 29, 2021
In recent years, flexible working has transformed the world of work, becoming a new normal for many. Accelerated by the pandemic, and facilitated through technology, flexible working has evolved from once being primarily used by parents to facilitate working and parental responsibilities, to a phenomenon adopted by most organisations available to most employees (Greenhalgh, 2019).
The flexible work schedule embraces flexibility in working hours, location and patterns, such as remote work, and non-conventional hours, and the approach differs between businesses. This article will outline some pros and cons of a flexible work schedule.
Flexibility to meet personal needs
Predominantly, the ability to fulfil a job whilst meeting personal needs is a huge advantage for employees. Flexible schedules make it possible for individuals to fit additional responsibilities around their work, such as childcare/care needs, and personal commitments such as an exercise class or health appointment.
This is achieved through cutting commute times by working remotely, choosing to work outside of the conventional 9-5, or a combination of the two.
This can have huge benefits for the employee, by playing a part in reducing the pressures that maintaining a healthy work/life balance pose, allowing individuals to cope with personal and professional commitments throughout the day.
Workers also have the opportunity to use flexible work to their advantage, and the impact could have life-changing effects for many, such as opening the doors for more dual-income households (Heathfield, 2021), if parents can combine their flexible work schedules to fit childcare needs, whilst maintaining full time employment and salaries, and reducing childcare costs.
Working around energy cycles
Furthermore, flexible working schedules allow individuals to work around their energy cycles; early risers can complete the bulk of their work in the morning, and night owls can work into the evening when energy levels are high. By choosing to work when feeling their most productive and motivated, employees are able to produce their best work, benefitting both the employer and employee.
Additionally, through gaining control over their schedules, and choosing the hours that best fit their routines, employees feel empowered, which has been proven to boost entrepreneurial spirit, subsequently increasing productivity, job satisfaction and retention (Heathfield, 2021), again benefiting both parties greatly.
Blurred lines and isolation
A high level of discipline and autonomy is needed from employees who choose to work from home (Janza, 2020), to ensure workload is managed. It can become far easier to lose a work/life balance with remote work, as the line between work life and home life is blurred, working outside of conventional hours, and inside their own home. This can mean that those who lack discipline, or procrastinate, can struggle to resist distraction and the lack of authority, thus being unable to separate work from home, working very late into the evening/ long hours to complete a task, or answering emails at all hours of the day.
In order to overcome this and protect the well-being of employees, businesses should implement strict work from home policies, outlining appropriate work hours and environments (Greenhalgh, 2019), and consider the introduction of core hours.
Additionally, a reduction in physical interaction with colleagues can lead to isolation, which can include concerning symptoms such as increased stress levels and poor decision making. Employee isolation is worrying regarding both the well-being of the employee, and also the success of the company, particularly in those holding a crucial responsibility and power (Modi, 2019).
Change in organisational culture
Another issue that can arise with the implementation of flexible work schedules, whether its remote/hybrid work or staggered start/finish times, is the change in the culture of the organisation.
Research on LinkedIn shows that 50% of employers are concerned flexible work will impact the culture, fearing a negative impact on company performance (Greedy, 2020). Relationships and bonds within teams are affected, as employees may fail to connect on a level deeper than their work through rarely interacting physically. This will not only damage motivation and job satisfaction but can damage the effectiveness of teamwork and collaboration efforts, harming the quality of work.
This is particularly important as company culture has huge impacts on productivity, recruitment, employee retention, and engagement (Heinz, 2019).
The world of work has changed, and flexible working has become a permanent part of our working culture, thanks to the pandemic. The effectiveness and potential success of the practice is certain, however there are risks that come with flexibility. Businesses must adapt to foster a flexible culture (Greenhalgh, 2019), ensuring policies are in place protecting the well-being of employees, and keeping check on potential problems caused by this phenomenon.
Greenhalgh, 2019. The Future of Flexible Working. Available at: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/legal/the-future-of-flexible-working#gref
Greedy, 2020. Flexible working causing company culture concerns. HR Magazine. Available at: https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/other/flexible-working-causing-company-culture-concerns
Heathfield, 2021. The Pros and Cons of a Flexible Work Schedule. Available at: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-flexible-work-schedules-1917964
Heinz, 2019. Why is Organizational Culture Important? Available at: https://builtin.com/company-culture/why-is-organizational-culture-important
Janza, 2020. What is flexitime (flexible work) and what are its advantages and disadvantages? Available at: https://www.spica.com/blog/flexitime-advantages-disadvantages
Modi, 2019. The Untold Side Of Remote Working: Isolation And Lack Of Career Progression Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ankurmodi/2021/09/27/the-untold-side-of-remote-working-isolation-and-lack-of-career-progression/?sh=7b1af0373d4e
Student at the University of Bath – International Management and Spanish BSc