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 that 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 non-linear workday – the ability to stager working hours to fit employee preferences, as opposed to working for the same, fixed eight-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 non-linear work might mean breaking up a work-day into concentrated blocks of time, focusing on work when they’re 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,” he explains.

The Bottom Line

So, should employers be embracing employee interest in non-linear 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 this employee’s job?  How difficult would it be to adequately supervise this person on a non-linear 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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