HR Management & Compliance

Windowed Work Catching on Among U.S. Employers


For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, windowed work refers to the practice of breaking down the workday into separate windows of time for different activities. The practice has gained popularity during the pandemic, largely to meet parental and work obligations throughout the day. For example, a working parent might work for 2 hours while the person’s partner looks after his or her child, then swap places. 

Indeed, the pandemic has required many employers to allow more flexibility for their workers to get things done during a hectic time.

New research from global staffing firm Robert Half suggests it’s a positive trend. Nearly 4 in 5 professionals surveyed (79%) said their job allows for windowed work, or the ability to break up their day into distinct chunks of business and personal time. Of those respondents, 73% reported the arrangement leads to greater productivity.

“Whether it’s windowed work or alternative hours, people are happier and more productive if they have control over when—and where—they do their jobs,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “Providing employees with flexibility will be just as important when organizations prepare to reopen and transition back to the office as it has been since the start of the pandemic.”

Summary Findings

The research broke down precisely who had the option tofollow a flexible schedule:

  • A greater percentage of respondents with children (78%) than those without (66%) said windowed work allows them to be more productive.
  • Nearly an equal number of men (75%) and women (71%) said they get more done when integrating personal and professional activities throughout the day.
  • More employees aged 55 and older (39%) noted they prefer a traditional schedule than those aged 41 to 54 (32%) and 25 to 40 (22%).

McDonald added, “While the upsides of flexible schedules are clear, professionals must make a concerted effort to succeed. Communication is key to ensuring everyone is aligned on priorities, projects stay on track, and colleagues feel equally motivated and accountable to achieve business goals.”

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips for employers to help employees make the most of windowed work.

  1. Scheduling teams for optimal coverage. Managers need to counter the need for flexibility with the need to have coverage during all working hours. That can simply be a matter of smart scheduling.
  2. Help workers find their best work hours, and accommodate that time for them to work. If you can help your workers identify those chunks of time when they work the best (think morning people versus afternoon people), you can get better efficiency out of a flexible schedule by allowing people to work when they work best.
  3. Set wide windows. Bouncing between tasks can be inefficient. Help employees find those blocks of time that fit the task. If one of their duties takes 1.5 hours, try to get them to find a block of time that fits that need so they don’t have to skip back and forth between tasks. Then find ways to prevent such windowed time from being absorbed by other tasks.
  4. Encourage calendar sharing. By encouraging employees to let their colleagues know when they are available to meet and collaborate or not, scheduling changes can be easier to manage. This is especially true if employees who need changes can view other employees’ calendars and come prepared with a plan when they need to talk to their supervisors.

The online survey was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm from May 14 to May 19, 2020. It includes responses from more than 1,000 workers 18 years of age or older and normally employed in office environments in the United States.