First, the pandemic changed where we do work. Then, it changed how we do work. Now, workforce changes from the past few years are changing when we do work.
Working from home has opened up a new world to employees – one where they can get their work done and still find the time and energy to do other things throughout the day. Coupled with an increased focus on flexibility and work-life balance, employees are learning that their once-typical 9 to 5 may not be the most effective way to work anymore.
The shift toward a nonlinear workday
With the way the world is changing, it’s no wonder that the idea of a “nonlinear workday” – the idea that employees can split up their workday into blocks throughout the day instead of doing the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – is on the rise.
“Having studied and experimented with productivity, I am confident we don’t do our best work in 9 to 5 schedules,” says Danny Gutknecht, co-founder and CEO of Pathways.
A 9 to 5 schedule – especially for those who work from home – can be difficult, to say the least. By allowing flexibility to get work done when it’s best for employees can be an effective way to boost productivity and motivation. Plus, a nonlinear workday can help many different types of employees, such as:
- Working parents or caregivers
- Those who are neurodivergent, and
- Employees who have daytime obligations due to medical issues, childcare, etc.
However, it can still be an added perk even for employees who don’t necessarily require flexibility in their workday. In fact, a recent survey from Future Forum found that more respondents want flexibility in when they work (94%) than where they work (80%).
The survey also found most corporate employees had “little to no ability” to adjust their work hours from the position’s preset hours, showing a disconnect from what employers require and what employees crave.
“Everyone in the company must be committed to being really clear in their communication, they have to thrive in collaborative settings and their work has to have meaning. If any of those break down, those employees struggle,” says Gutknecht. “While it’s difficult to establish this level of openness and communication behavior as an organization, our productivity is better than our competitors. Plus, our employees are connected and have a deep sense of well-being.”
Benefits of ditching the 9 to 5 for a nonlinear workday
The benefits of a nonlinear workday are largely the same as the benefits of flexible scheduling. Employees who are allowed to do their work on their own time have better productivity, higher quality work and feel more meaning at work, according to Gutknecht.
“For example, some of our workers who have families like to wake early and knock out focused tasks while taking a break in the afternoon to pick up kids from school or go to the gym, then have dinner before plugging in after the kids have gone to bed to do more thoughtful and creative work,” says Gutknecht. “As a result, people are more mindful of their time and meetings have a purpose.”
A 9 to 5 may also not be the most effective when it comes to productivity and focus, Gutknecht suggests. “When we focus, we have about 90 minutes to 2 hours before we need a break; if you add that each person has different circadian and ultradian rhythms, it’s clear that different people will be at their best at different times during the workday.”
Although a nonlinear workday can’t work for all businesses, even implementing some forms of flexible work can help employees with motivation, productivity and meaning at work.