Is Flexibility the Key to Productivity in the Workplace?

February 4, 2016

NINE to five – it’s the definition of a workday. Monday to Friday, five full days each week, with two weeks of vacation and ten holidays. That’s how people in the corporate world are supposed to work. But does anyone work nine to five anymore? It’s debatable whether this mythical workday is possible, let alone relevant, in today’s connected world.

While most of us do work five days a week, our days often start with a half hour to an hour commute in the heart of rush hour. Once we’ve made it to the office, the day can feel like it’s packed with meetings and conversations, with little time to actually get work done. And then after another trip back through traffic, it’s not uncommon to check work email or try to make progress on projects in the quiet of our home offices late into the night.

Meanwhile, there are other responsibilities that crop up during the day that bring home life to work. Doctors and dentists want to make appointments during their workdays, so people find themselves ducking out in the middle of the day to run errands that can’t be done on the weekends. Kids get sick and have to be picked up from school. And school itself ends between 2 and 3, creating a tug of war between work and home.

The workday has stretched and blended into a 24-hour work life soup, and there’s only one solution.


In order for factories to be productive, they created shifts of 8 hour blocks so that people were working the machinery 24 hours a day. And these factory practices spilled over into the administrative world. But our information economy doesn’t lend itself well to that structure. Fixed schedules are out. So what does it mean to create real flexibility?

Flexible Hours – We’ve created our own worst enemy. Traffic jams exist because so many people are operating on the same exact schedule. The first place to create flexibility is in simply allowing people to come in earlier or later and leave earlier or later. But, to do this effectively, we have to break the stigma that people who leave at 2 aren’t really working. We have to truly buy into a flexible timeframe.

Flexible Location – Why drive in to work at all? Technology allows us to use video conferencing, online collaboration tools, and many other resources that allow people to be productive from anywhere. Why not require everyone to work outside the office two days every week? Instead of waiting for people to ask, build remote work schedules into everyone’s job description.

Flexible Roles – Every day, we create new ideas and use technology that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Today’s workers are incredibly flexible and adaptable. So why do we hire people into a single role? If we hire smart, adaptable people and then create opportunities to move around in different roles, it allows everyone to learn about different parts of the business. That reduces the impact of turnover and creates empathy between workers who regularly do one another’s jobs.

Flexible Compensation – Studies show people prefer flexibility to money. Some people want to drive hard and work long hours – it motivates them. Others want to be home every day to meet the school bus. Creating compensation plans and incentive programs that are personalized is a great way to get out of the one-size-fits-all mentality.

Creating an environment where talented people can do their best work starts with understanding the needs of each person on the team. We have the tools to personalize work and to create a flexible environment that allows every individual to thrive. Rigid schedules are out. Flexibility is here.

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About The Author

Katy Tynan is an expert in the future of work. She is the author of How Did I Not See This Coming: The New Manager’s Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster (ATD Press, 2017) and Survive Your Promotion (Personal Focus Press, 2010). Tynan is the founder and chief talent strategist at Liteskip Consulting Group.

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