Learning & Development

Non-Linear Workdays

One of the biggest buzzwords in work culture in the COVID era has been “flexibility.” Workers demand it, and employers are under constant pressure to provide it. Most readers are surely familiar with the classic COVID-era pillar of flexibility—remote work—even if they haven’t personally been able to enjoy the arrangement.

A New Way of Working

But flexibility doesn’t only mean remote work. Many employees want to be able to spend some time in the office and some time at home under a variety of possible “hybrid” arrangements. Even so, some employees would like more. Some are pushing for a so-called nonlinear workday, or the ability to stagger working hours to fit employee preferences, as opposed to working for the same, fixed 8-hour period each day.

“Knowledge workers have largely been expected to work in eight-hour blocks, the proverbial nine-to-five,” writes Meredith Turits in an article for BBC Worklife. “Of course, with the rise of remote- and hybrid-structures, not every worker is doing this at an office – yet they’re still largely working consecutive hours, no matter where their desk is. However, in response to pandemic-era complications, such as childcare shortages, and general desire for expanded flexibility, some companies have evolved to allow for non-linear workdays. This is the idea that workers can choose their hours to better accommodate their lifestyles. Non-linear workers still generally have the majority of their hours cross over with their colleagues and bosses, yet tend to shape close-focus work as they wish.”

Turits says nonlinear work might mean breaking up a workday into concentrated blocks of time, focusing on work when employees are most productive. “Think a morning person getting a jump on the day when their brain is sharpest, then ending their workday earlier; or a parent taking the time to attend their child’s after-school activity in exchange for taking on some evening hours,” she explains.

The Bottom Line

So, should employers be embracing employee interest in nonlinear work? While this arrangement may boost employee satisfaction and even productivity in some workers, employers should consider a few important questions first: How much collaboration with other employees is needed in these workers’ jobs? How difficult would it be to adequately supervise these workers on a nonlinear schedule? The benefits of such arrangements should outweigh, or at least offset, any potential negative impacts.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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