In short: we included flexible work in our new Great Discontent survey of US workers. Flexible work, however, is more complex than it sounds – it consists of two distinct areas of flexibility including location and time. They are two very different things.
For instance, some jobs can be performed remotely but require fixed timelines, such as a customer support role during business hours or a position requiring synchronous collaboration with others such as in software engineering.
Other jobs can’t be performed remotely but can be carried out at any time, such as stocking positions which tend to be more deadline-intensive (do this by X day) rather than timeline-intensive (you’re working from X to Y hours), or a restaurant with multiple shifts that can be distributed to employees.
Flexible schedules can also mean one employee arriving at work at 10:30 a.m. and leaving at 6:30 p.m., with another starting at 5:30 in the morning in order to wrap things up shortly after lunch – again, all so long as the work gets done. Knowledge workers are especially familiar with this kind of schedule.
So the difference warrants separate questions for each. We’ve already shared insights on the value of remote work in the US workforce. And now we have findings for you on flexible work schedules in the eyes of our audience.
Are they doing it?
In contrast to the numbers of those working remotely, the majority of respondents (57.9%) are indeed working on flexible schedules.
While working remotely can blur the lines between home and work – and naturally make way for a more flexible schedule as a result – the fact that flexible schedules are more common indicates more of a paradigm shift beyond COVID-19 for flexible work hours than for remote work.
Can they do it?
Similarly to our questions on remote work, we wanted to understand what respondents thought about the real-life feasibility of flexible schedules in their own job. The results were striking, with 32.1% picking 5 (“completely”), and 19.4% picking 1 (“not at all”).
Combine the numbers and you have 57.1% picking 4 or 5 to say yes, their work can reasonably be performed on a flexible schedule, compared with 31.5% picking 1 or 2.
The message is clear: flexible schedules are more doable than remote work in the minds of our respondents (with just 37.8% picking 4 or 5 for remote). Maybe that means there’s some value in on-location work after all – more on that in the next chapter.
“Unfortunately, I work for a niche market in healthcare so my ability to up and move is difficult unless a job opportunity happens to arise. Being a medical provider also limits the flexibility of my work schedule.”
How important is it?
Again, flexible schedules showed a much stronger trend than remote work in terms of how important it is for respondents. More than a third (34.3%) picked 5 (“completely”), and nearly another quarter of respondents (23.9%) rated 4 out of 5.
Combined, that makes 58.2% clearly stating that the ability to work flexible schedules is important to some degree.
“I think it’s great to be able to work flexibly from home.”
And what makes it important?
It’s clear that flexible working schedules are doable, and they’re important to people. But why? We asked that too.
The most popular benefit is that “it’s easier to balance personal and professional priorities”, with 55.8% of respondents choosing that as one of their top three. “I find it less stressful” (44.4%) and “I’m more productive at specific times” (39.4%) are also popular benefits of flexible work schedules.
55.8% of US workers say the ease of integrating personal and professional priorities is a major benefit of having a flexible work schedule.
Common sources of stress for a fixed schedule could include needing to be at work on time, the guilt of leaving work early to pick up kids, and even feeling like they have to be productive at specific times during the day.
Regarding productivity, that ties into the third-most popular item on the list, which is “more productive at specific times in the day”. We are all different – some of us like to start work early in the day, others thrive in the mid-afternoon, others still like to burn the midnight oil because that’s when they’re most productive.
Whatever it may be, it’s clear that incorporating flexible working hours into your business is crucial to your future success. Learn more about how to do so here, and feel free to use our flexible work hours company policy template!