Two people sitting in front of laptops.

How can we stop flexible hours becoming longer hours?

The pandemic shifted our ways of working. Many employees are now working remotely full time or “hybrid” working, where part of their time is spent remote and part in the office. At the beginning of remote working a lot of employers were worried that it would cause a fall in productivity and efficiency. However, it seems that was not the case. If fact, it appears to be the opposite with remote working increasing productivity by up to 77%.
Working patterns have also changed. As it’s now a lot easier to access work, many employees have started working longer hours, sometimes working through till the small hours of the morning. Working longer hours can have a negative impact on well-being and actually reduce productivity.

So how can we create an environment where employees can work flexibly but don’t feel the need to work longer hours?
Some companies such as BMW and Volkswagen have limited after hours employee emails and some investment banks have introduced a cap on working hours. However, what these companies have seen is employees will simply find a way around it, either using MS Teams to communicate or just not documenting their hours.
What needs to change is organisational culture. There can be so much pressure to work late because maybe your colleagues are or there’s a fear of being judged. Working longer than needed can become a strong social norm within an organisation

The Behavioural Insights Team have been exploring some ways to tackle this, here are a few of them:
Model reasonable working hours. Leaders and Managers should try to model and encourage reasonable working hours and make it clear that even if they are working flexibly to suit their arrangements, they are not expecting a response outside of office hours.
Put an emphasis on Out of Office messages. Making sure all employees have an out of office message that automatically replies outside of working hours will ensure that they don’t get the notifications during free time, making them less likely to start working after finishing for the day.
Start rewarding results rather than time spent. Setting monthly goals and performance measures other than hours worked will support employees to get good work done in a shorter amount of time.
Support flexible working or flexi-time. Allowing remote working makes it easier for employees to choose what working hours fit best for them and better manage their home lives with their work life. Employers should encourage flexible working hours but make sure workload is reasonable so that flexible hours do not become longer hours.

As many councils explore the ways they want to work in the future, striking the balance between encouraging flexibility whilst ensuring staff are not overworking will be critical.
If you have any suggestions on how to do this please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.