Should You Let Your Remote Employees Keep “Odd” Working Hours?


Today’s “remote working” can feel like a strange, somewhat out-of-body-and-mind, experience for the traditional worker and boss alike. Especially as a business owner or manager, if it’s not something you’re accustomed to — and have just been forced into it by the demands of COVID-19 — the temptation is often to expect your people to work just like they do in the office, even while doing it from home.

However, if you’re looking at remote work this way, you might be missing out on a great opportunity to get more out of your employees and teams than you ever imagined.

In recent years, those companies have embraced having some or all of their employees working from home, did it primarily to embrace flexibility and the benefits such flexibility provided to employee AND employer, alike.

And when we say, “flexibility” in this sense, we aren’t just talking about starting an hour earlier to stop working an hour earlier or take a doctor’s appointment. We aren’t even talking about starting a few hours later and working later to accommodate early morning grocery shopping or a gym visit. Some companies, such as Zapier — which is 100% remote — have found that they get the greatest productivity and results from their teams when they allow and embrace even the most “odd” working hours for their employees.

For Zapier, it’s all about results with their remote teams. Thus, they look at whether the job is getting done and how well—not about WHEN the work itself is happening. For them, this has been immensely eye-opening, liberating, and SUCCESSFUL—all at the same time.

Basically, what Zapier leadership has learned — and the biggest lesson those of us basically “forced” to embrace remote work can consider and possibly, adopt — is that flexibility can be one of the greatest benefits to productivity that has come about in the world of “work” in many years.

For one, it doesn’t force employees to try and work or focus when doing those things at specific times doesn’t match their natural inclination or productivity rhythm. In fact, there has been much recent research done in this area, demonstrating that forcing individuals to “work” when it’s not their peak focus period is such a waste of time that it’s almost pointless. Indeed in such cases, your business often loses out in many ways. Productivity will be diminished and errors can increase.

On the other hand, when employees DO have the flexibility to match work to their personal peak energy period and/or to “handle” what they need to handle and get the work done around or when those things are handled, they are MOST focused and produce higher quality work with greater vision and creativity, and with less mistakes.

As Deborah Tennen of Zapier explained in a recent article[1] published in Fast Company magazine online, “Remote work allows you to work when it fits your lifestyle and youre most productive. One way to figure out when its best for you to work is to find your chronotype and schedule your productivity around it.

Another highlight of the flexibility offered by working from home, says Tennen, is “batching for productivity.” She explains, “Batching is a common productivity strategy: Group like tasks together so your brain doesnt have to do too much context-switching. But you can also batch your work as a whole.

In a typical in-office environment, this can be difficult. Alternately, with remote work it’s not only possible, it can be embraced as a strategy for greater productivity.

While this all may still be uncomfortable for companies and businesses accustomed to more traditional styles of operation, the main point is that this can be a time where you can explore and re-evaluate what works for you, your company and employees, and WHY.

First, you just figure out what you can handle and then consider experimenting with a bit of “enhanced flexibility” to see what might at least be possible, as we continue operating in this “new normal.” You may even find that your company doesn’t just “make it through” this working from home period, but begins to thrive and even achieve new, greater, heights not despite it—but because of it.