Why Flexible Work Works
A lot of the workforce has started to feel some form of malaise as the pandemic stretches on. Most of us have either felt this ourselves or know someone for whom daily work feels more like they’re going through the motions. In his popular New York Times article, organizational psychologist Adam Grant calls this “languishing.”
That word struck a chord with us at Castle HR. While the worst of the pandemic may be – thankfully – over, we see how severe the employee burnout has become. Especially so in small organizations that have spent the last two years just fighting to stay afloat. Employees across the country are exhausted from ongoing environmental stresses and health worries, continuously changing workplace protocols, and learning -often on the fly – how to do their work in entirely new ways.
And with winter (and therefore fewer daylight hours) coming up, seasonal affective disorder (or “SAD”) is bound to compound these feelings for a lot of us. This kind of employee fatigue – that is, feelings rooted in persistent external factors – is not going to be solved with a quick fix like a holiday bonus or a week of office closure before the new year.
While the ‘Great Resignation’ is more visible in the US, reports everywhere from the pandemic have shown that it is very real in Canada too. A large number of employees did not plan to return to their old positions once work re-opened, many of whom citing burn out as the main reason.
Business owners we’ve spoken to are feeling many of the same things, and have the added stressors of trying to replace talented team members that are leaving. We know how painful turnover is for your business, both from a cost perspective and the time investment required to find the right talent as replacement.
For the sake of both owners and employees, we wanted to share one of the strategies our team uses to help preserve our mental health, or “beat the blahs”: Flex Days.
Flex Days Around The World
Flex days aren’t new; other companies have used various versions before us. Famously, Google had a widespread ‘80-20’ policy, which meant that 20% of the time (or one day a week) Google employees could work on whatever passion projects they liked. The company, especially in its earlier years, found that the policy boosted employee engagement and creativity, and even utilized some of the ideas generated by employees in their free time.
In Japan, Microsoft recently implemented a four day work-week, similar to some European models. It allowed employees to collect their full paycheque while only working 80% of the time. The company found that not only were they saving money in electricity, saving on printing costs, and that meetings overall were running shorter and more efficiently.
Many larger North American companies rejected the idea of a four-day work week, fearing that it would lead to a disengaged and less productive workforce. But if Google and Microsoft were doing it, we figured there had to be something to it.
How Castle Does Flexible Work Days
In order to support our clients’ work weeks, we didn’t think we could go right into a 4-day week. Maybe we’ll get there, but that’s another conversation! What we landed on is 4 regular business days, and one “flex” day.
On our flex days, no one books client meetings. We’re still reachable in case of emergencies, but the flex day is the time to get a head start on all the planning and organizing we did on Monday. It also gives us time to reliably schedule professional development, knowing it won’t get bumped when something inevitably comes up.
We decided early on that it would be Tuesdays. Mondays are full of energy and teams love coming together to plan the week. Fridays are a busy day for us, making sure everything is wrapped up and delivered to clients.
We know that our team members have lives outside of work, and Tuesday is sometimes also a day to get stuff done that doesn’t work as part of a weekend: like appointments, or just being there after school to pick up your kids or attend their gymnastics class. Our CEO, Tom, likes to golf on Tuesdays.
Flex days also mean working on our own hours. Some of our team members pack more into the mornings so they can spend the afternoon with family. Or they prefer to sleep in and work late, knowing they won’t have any early calls.
Our HR Lead, Robyn, said it best: “Working a flexible schedule means I don’t have to choose between having a career I love and being there for my kids in the moments that are important. I am more productive when I work hours that make sense to my family, and I am not distracted by wondering what I am missing. It’s not about working less; it’s about making the time that I am working count more.”
Why flex days have worked for us
We’ve kept Tuesdays as flexible work days because we love how well it’s worked. We know that may not be a fit for every business, but the take-aways can be applied to most workplaces: design your work around life, not the other way around.
If you see some signs of employee burnout, we would love to chat further and see how we can help prevent it early on. Flex days – as one possible solution – offer the peace of mind that for one work day each week, they can be off-camera and work at their own pace.
And having some freedom to schedule work around family might be the gesture from leadership that re-energizes and re-engages someone who might consider leaving.
Flex days may or may not work for you, but our consultants are known for coming up with creative solutions to solve problems like this. Schedule time with us using the calendar below, and let’s explore together.
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