Thursday, November 6, 2008

Flexibility = Productivity?

When I was working full-time for a professional association, my day went something like this:
  • Arrive at work at approximately 7:30 a.m. (official work hours began at 8:30 a.m.)
  • Work through the morning
  • Take a 10-minute break around 10 a.m. (This 10-minute policy was strictly enforced and employees were expected to punch in and out. Employees were counted as tardy if punching back in after more than 11 minutes.)
  • Go to lunch sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., return from lunch by 2 p.m. (Same punching in and out and tardy policy was enforced. We weren't allowed to eat or take our lunch break at our desk, so we had to either leave or just work straight through without eating.)
  • Take a 10-minute break around 3 p.m. (Same as morning break)
  • Leave the office between 4:30 and 5 p.m. (official work hours ended at 4:30 p.m.)
  • Often take work home and/or put in time on weekends (For weekend work and work at home, employees did not punch in and out)

This was the way my schedule, as well as that of many other employees, worked. Some arrived even earlier and stayed even later. Now, let's examine this a little. First of all, is that fact that, even though I was salaried, I had to punch in and out. To me, this makes no sense at all, but it was a rule instituted out of "fairness" to hourly employees. However, since my focus is on flexibility of hours here, that's all I'll say on that matter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that during the months of May - September, we worked slightly more hours on Monday - Thursday and left the office at noon on Fridays. During the winter months, the above was my schedule.

Here's the effect this schedule had on me. During normal business hours, I had a lot of interruptions. This certainly decreased my productivity. During times outside normal business hours, I tended to be a lot more productive, but I resented the amount of time I worked for which I was not compensated. The job was a 35-hour a week job, but never seemed to fit into 35 hours. We were not "required" to work overtime, but the workload necessitated it. Since I was working during daylight hours and on weekends, it left little time for me to participate in the outdoor activities I enjoy so much and I became more and more disgruntled.

Since I've started freelancing, I've found that most days my schedule goes something like this:

  • Wake up around 6 a.m. and start updating both my blogs (I consider this to be part of the workday, because it is writing and gets my words and name out there.)
  • Take my husband to work between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m. (Don't ask)
  • Work on writing projects or marketing myself to get projects between 7:30 and 10 a.m.
  • Take my dogs to the dog park until about 11:30 a.m.
  • Eat lunch (read while eating, catch up on blogs, etc.)
  • Work on writing projects or marketing myself to get projects until 2:30 p.m. or so
  • Training ride on my bike until 4 p.m.
  • Work on projects or marketing until about 5:15 p.m.
  • Go pick up my husband from work
  • Eat dinner
  • Work on projects for an hour to two hours in the evening

This ends up being about 7.5 or 8.5 hours of work a day, although the schedule varies a little if I have appointments or other things come up. The key is that the time is flexible—it can be changed or rearranged if necessary. At the end of the day, I still have a few hours left to spend with my husband, I don't resent the time I spend working in the evening, I'm more productive during the hours I am working, and I'm healthier and happier because I get to train and exercise my puppies during daylight hours.

Now I'll admit this lifestyle isn't for everyone. Traditional business hours work just fine for some people, and some jobs clearly necessitate these hours.

I did a quick Google search this morning and wasn't able to find any statistics showing that employees with flexible work schedules are more productive, but I did find a lot of anecdotal evidence. Although I'm just starting out, it certainly seems to be true in my case.

1 comment:

Mary said...

This sounds very much like my former traditional workforce position. My days aren't always as productive as I'd like as a freelancer, but I have to take into account that I have an 8 month old at home and two school-aged kids. But I feel confident that things will come together because I AM motivated and have the desire to be productive.