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I Switched from 9 to 5 Job to Flexible Working Hours. Here’s What It’s Really Like

Flexible hours
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Sitting in the office from 9 to 5 made me sick.

In the mornings, I worked quite efficiently but after 2 p.m. it was all downhill. My attention would start to scatter. I would open my Facebook Newsfeed and news websites, feeling guilty about not doing my best at work. At 4 p.m. my brain would officially become dead, so I would stare at the monitor counting down the minutes until the workday ends. Is it something you can also relate to?

We discussed the issue with my boss and agreed on giving flexible schedule a try. No fixed hours. No need to sit in the office. Well, as long as all the deadlines are met and the objectives are achieved, of course.

How did it make me feel? Well, happy for sure. But also puzzled. I’ve never worked no-fixed hours in my life – the schedule has usually been strict. I always viewed my superiors as zen-masters with a stick keen to micromanage my performance. But here comes a totally different story.

Let me give you a short explainer. I’m a part of Chanty team developing a simple AI-powered team chat with unlimited message history and a task manager that is a breeze to use. We are striving to make a great collaboration app that suits your business needs. Join our community of early adopters!

Here’s a photo of our team taken in July 2018. Me (Alex) is the third from right. The lovely girls are our marketing team. The other two guys are our CEO Nick and front-end developer Max. Pleased to meet you!

Chanty teamChanty team

I work as a copywriter and usually do reviews of team chat apps and business trends. So when I actually switched to no-fixed hours, I thought why not to share my experience on Chanty blog?

So here I am – wrapping up my first week of following the open-leave schedule. The diary is supplemented by a brief review of how flexible time arrangements in the business world. Hope you’ll find it useful. Have a read!

The secret diary of a writer (who started working no-fixed working hours):

Day 1.

It’s morning and I am thrilled! No need to get up early to come to work at 10. I sleep late and wake up an hour later than usual. How about a 1-hour yoga practice? (I generally do 30 minutes). My relatives ask me to do some chores. Clean the dishes? Screw in a bulb? Sure! Walk an 8-year-old nephew to school? (His parents are always so busy). No problem! When I’m done, I glance at my watch. No way… It’s 2 p.m already! It’s high time to get down to work… Writing at home feels unusual, though I’m spending the day alone. But at 7 p.m I have a date with my mate I wouldn’t want to miss it. So I actually underworked about 4 hours today. I’ll have to catch up with tasks tomorrow.

Day 2.

Mindful of yesterday’s home routine, I decided to work from office today. But I allowed myself to arrive an hour late than usual. At 3 p.m I feel tired. I’m trying to stand up and go home and have some rest, but can’t do it. I feel awkward and uneasy and not sure why yet. I’m looking around:  everybody’s working hard, not being aware of my flexible arrangements. “Goodbye” in the big open-space office would sound like a bolt from the blue. So I’m keeping the low profile, and tell my colleague in the nearest cubicle that I have to leave. ‘OK,’ she just says. I go home and later work a bit more, but I guess not enough to catch up with tasks.

Day 3.

I’m staying at home today. I’m dead set to start working at 9 a.m. No urgent functions! No family chores, please. A nephew walks to school alone. He’s a grown-up man, for crying out loud! I’m working vigorously for the first hours. But then I start wondering about vacations and browsing tourist offers. I keep telling myself: ‘Alex, pull your finger out!’, ‘Come on, man, get a move on!’. By making small steps, I manage to take myself in hand and work really hard. I stop at 10 p.m. only. I’ve done quite a lot, but it’s been a hard day, for sure.

Day 4.

Feeling tired from yesterday’s writing marathon, I’m staying to work at home. However, there is a bummer. As I’m out of the office I can’t keep up with the usual workflow. So the article topic I really wanted to take is given to another writer (they agreed on it chatting in the office). Cripes! Moreover, the whole office is having a pizza party today. (And I had some porridge for breakfast and nothing else yet. Argh!) My colleagues also decorated a Christmas tree today. I kinda miss the office fun and mingling with guys.

Chanty Christmas treeChanty Christmas tree

Day 5.

I go to the office, but in the afternoon I work from home. Having met this week’s deadlines, I’ve started some new tasks. I feel a bit baffled – the groove of a nine-to-five job is destroyed. But overall, the last day of the week is quiet and easy. Looking forward to the weekend.

After week 1.

Basically, I feel better than usual. But did my productivity improve? To be frank, it’s been nearly the same this week. But I might need to work on concentration and develop some time management skills. I might also download a great time-tracking app – just for myself.

Here’s my experience on working no-fixed hours summarized in the table:

No-fixed working hours: how they might work for you?

Challenges

Advantages

  1. You may feel confused and disoriented at the beginning  (especially if you’ve never worked flexible hours before). Your daily routine will be scattered. You can sleep late, but you might need to work late as well instead, which may seem a bummer. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, you know.
  2. Self-management issues (if there are any) arise. If you have concentration problems, you’ll most certainly face them working out of office. And if you feel tired and dream of vacation (like me) the first thing you’d want is to have some rest instead of working. But I guess flexible hours isn’t an escape if you are exhausted and running on empty.
  3. You can miss some perks of working in the office. E.g. tasks you are interested in may be given to your colleague who appeared to be in office at the right time. Chances are you’d also miss some fun and won’t be able to socialize with your team. The only way to stay in touch with your colleagues when working remotely would be using a smart team chat tool, so you can message or call your teammates, assign tasks and collaborate with them on docs and files.
  1. Improve life-work balance. Get time for whatever is necessary or even vital for you. Making a decent breakfast? Driving kids to school? Spending some quality time with them on the way back/? Sleeping late? Yoga? The sky is the limit.
  2. Choose when to have rest and recharge. Since you can restore your energy and power almost anytime, chances are you’ll become much more productive. (This is especially true if you have a creative profession and know how to manage yourself).

 

That rounds up my experience, for now. But there’s certainly more to come, so stay tuned!

Now, here’s a brief review on flexible worktime regulations as a worldwide practice.

Working time regulations in 2018: global experience.

“Flexible Work Hours Grow More Popular”. I meant to start with this trivial sentence. But then I found the NYT of 1988 article with the exactly the same title. So it’s been a trend at least for a quarter century!

Flexible WorkSeptember 25, 1988, Page 12. The New York Times Archives.
Image source

If you are interested in how ‘flexible hours’ policies evolved since the ’90s, check out this US labor study by National Bureau of Economic Research. It turns out nearly all new jobs appeared in the last decade (from 2005 to 2015, to be specific) have flexible work arrangements. So how do I put it right? Are ‘working time regulations’ popular now? I guess the phrase “going through the roof” describes this trend best. Have a look at these titles in major business outlets.

Titles in business outlets Titles in newspapers outlets TitlesForbes and NYT article titles

I would even say that after exploring this topic I’m surprised nine-to-five jobs are still quite widespread.

Do top businesses offer them? Absolutely. Google has been one of the first companies to understand the need for employees to have a flexible schedule. Apple is more than fine with flexible work arrangements. Last year the company was hiring 100 work-from-home professionals with full benefits. At Microsoft, many employees choose when to start their day. Toyota, one of the richest companies in the world, was expanding the number of workers eligible for flexible hours in 2017.

The advantages of flexible work arrangements for businesses are obvious. They are a powerful lure in recruiting and motivating top talent, as flex time ranks high on the list of benefits employees want. Moreover, the open-leave schedule contributes to a greener workplace, as companies save on electricity, water, office rent, etc.

But there are also some downsides. For example, it is believed that company culture is stronger when people work nine-to-five. Also, flexible hours can make client handovers complicated. However, in many cases when management is against soft time regulations, it can be more about a matter of habit. An example would be the case described in Forbes’ article about a team leader who didn’t allow his employee switching to flex hours despite her showing great work results.

Actually, there are so many working time regulations that it’s hard to believe there isn’t an option management and employees can agree on. Staggered hours, reduced schedules, remote work options and even mini-sabbaticals are all – the present and future of work.

If you are a big boss, here’s a killer argument in favor of switching to softer worktime regulations in your company. Flexible hours dramatically affect happiness, as studies suggest, while there’s no doubt contented workers perform better and are more loyal to their employers.

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Conclusion

I’ve just started working no-fixed hours. The shift made me feel better and somewhat puzzled by challenges it brings up. But I guess it would be too early to make any far-reaching conclusions based on my one-week exploration. The world experience, however, points to the fact that flexible work time regulations are becoming increasingly popular. They pay off for both – companies and employees. It’s all about finding a suitable open-leave schedule option that can work for both sides.

Here’s one last thing: if you switched to flexible hours and work remotely a lot, be sure to use a proper communication tool to stay in touch with your team. The collaboration apps are literally digital workspaces that help connect employees and bring them together wherever they work from. Talk to your team using public, private chats and direct messaging. Have audio calls or video chats with your colleagues, share files and use your favourite integrations to organize your workflow. We’ve designed a smart, intuitive and easy to use Chanty team chat to assist you in being more productive. Using it is like having 3 extra hours in a day! Give it a try.

Stay on top of things following the workflow in public and private channels and via direct messages. Have an audio call or video chat with your colleague within a push of a button.

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Aleksey Chepalov

Aleksey Chepalov is a part of the marketing team at Chanty - a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work.
Aleksey is keen on such topics as marketing, SaaS challenges and personal growth.

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