LeaderShift Project ArticlesFemale worker looking tired in front of a computer screen late at night

It is now the norm for many workers to work flexible hours. There’s a good reason for that.

A flexible work schedule can boost the performance of employees and enhance organizations’ profitability. Flex time enhances productivity, job satisfaction, and reduces employee stress levels. Not only that, but it also improves employee quality of life and reduces absenteeism and overtime costs.

That’s not so bad, right?

The good and the not-so-good

Flexible work practices are indeed getting a lot of positive buzz, but they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.

In fact, 1 in 3 workers reported that “flexible work hours” had resulted in them actually working MORE hours. (SOURCE: www.Microsoft.com)

Sure, a flexible work schedule means employees are no longer expected to work 9 to 5… but the unclear expectation has made them feel like they are “on call” at all hours.

When flexible work arrangements first became the norm, they were seen as a way to help workers balance their work and home lives. But now that more people are doing it, many are feeling drained.

Now they don’t just check their email first thing in the morning; they are working all afternoon, spending some time with their family, and then working until 9 or 10 at night.

The situation can change each week or even each day.

While flexible workers may not have a set schedule, they still want to know when they need to be available. They feel a certain pressure to be available at all times because the company feels “on.”

It seems like it would be easy enough for employers to let them know this information, but many companies neglect to do so and make their employees feel like they may be contacted at any time during the day.

If you’re a leader who is seeing this, let’s also have a conversation about what to do about it.

Hold yourself accountable

Here are a few tips on how to only work during scheduled hours:

1️⃣ Don’t send work emails after 6pm.

It took me a long time to break this habit. If you’re working really hard, it’s easy to have tunnel vision and get caught up in the task at hand. You can easily forget about time passing, or get distracted by other things that come up during the day. Before you know it, you’ve worked longer than planned.

As a preventative measure, schedule your emails for the next day using the “delay send” feature.

The following guide walks you through the steps for using “delay send” in Gmail: https://support.google.com/a/users/answer/9395629?hl=en

And here’s a guide for Outlook users: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/delay-or-schedule-sending-email-messages-026af69f-c287-490a-a72f-6c65793744ba

If you’re addicted to your email, read my post on breaking the obsessive inbox-checking habit.

2️⃣ Stop working at all hours yourself!

If you’re anything like me, you tend to work long hours. You’re always on, always available, and always willing to help out your clients.

But if you’re not careful, your work life can get in the way of the rest of your life. Work-from-home and hybrid employees are especially vulnerable to this.

These changes start at the top, and leaders need rest, too. In order to do your best, you must rest in order to remain focused and energetic throughout the day.

3️⃣ Last resort

If you’re serious about stopping work after a particular hour, you can go to the extreme of shutting off email servers, so people have no choice but to recharge!

However, this should really be the last resort since it can lead to distrust and resentment. It’s better to set up clear expectations beforehand, and then enforce them consistently. 

If you’re not sure how to do this, get help from a coach. They can help you set up clear expectations and then hold you accountable for following through with them.

A final note

Flexibility is a great perk, but it’s still important to work within a schedule. Otherwise, you may miss out on valuable time with your family and friends, or even overwork yourself.

Not only is it better for your health and well-being, but it also helps to avoid burnout and allows you to get more done!

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