Shifts towards personal values and priorities are rocking the future of work. We’ve mentioned the importance of introducing the happiness factor to the office before; as employees strive for a more meaningful connection with their work, they’re also looking for the work-life flexibility that will allow them to lead fulfilling personal lives. How can organizations respond accordingly, while also keeping company goals and objectives a priority?
New policies on work hours and vacation time can allow employees to take control of their time in ways that best match their personal rhythms, so that work can cater to them and not the other way around.
Bending the rules on time
The right amount of work-life flexibility hinges on time, and having enough of it to dedicate to each. Companies, like Cisco, Pocket, and Prezi, have already started adopting policies that allow employees to bend the rules on traditional office hours and vacations:
Companies can allow employees to break away from the traditional 9-5 by letting them shift around their hours, or getting rid of the whole clocking-in concept completely – who needs a 40 hour workweek, anyway? And the benefits are clear: employees can make way for personal projects and errands, and follow their own energy rhythms. In turn, they feel less stressed, are more focused and productive, and tend to be better at time management.
Similar in spirit to flexible work hours (and sharing most of its benefits) is unlimited vacation time. It works exactly the way it sounds: employees can take as much time off as they want throughout the year, no questions asked. They can take the time to properly rest and return to work fully refreshed.
Each policy has experienced its own growing pains over the years. When clear guidelines aren’t established, employees can risk feeling disconnected from their teams, or unable to draw lines between work and a personal life – when you’re working during traditionally “off” hours, it’s easy to feel like you’re always on the clock. Sometimes they’re even afraid to take adequate time off. An unlimited vacation policy can also seem irrelevant in countries where workers are entitled to a minimum of days off (with companies getting penalized for any time untaken).
How to make it work
But there are plenty of ways to enforce these policies and get them running smoothly. Making an effort to clearly define roles, establish specific goals, utilize project management and communication tools effectively, and set core hours can go a long way, as well as complementing these policies with other work-life flexibility-based systems:
Paid, paid vacation
Back in 2012, Full Contact’s Bart Lorang found that employees weren’t always taking advantage of the vacation time they were given – either because of workaholism, or feeling pressured by superiors and colleagues to keep working. As an incentive, they began giving employees $7 500 each, every year, to pay for their holiday trips. They just have to follow a few simple rules (or they don’t get the money): actually go on vacation, fully disconnect, and avoid working while they’re away. The policy’s positive results and boost in team morale keeps it full swing today – employees feel appreciated, calmer, and less anxious.
Minimum vacation policies
Meanwhile, when the execs over at Buffer realized their teams didn’t know how to approach their unlimited vacation policy (particularly in regards to how much time they could take), they set a strict but simple guideline: a mandatory minimum of three weeks off (or 15 workdays) per year. It’s too soon to measure its impact on the company just yet – the practice was only introduced in September of 2016 as an experiment – but it’s further evidence of shifting priorities in the work-world.
There’s still room for development when it comes to approaching work-life flexibility, and the ForeWork initiative’s first crowdstorm (or brainstorm at internet scale, involving over 80 000 creative professionals), Looking ForeWork, has seen its fair share of innovation. For example, with his idea Shadow Cabinet, Polish designer Szymonwit proposes a system where employees sharing the same role shadow each other’s tasks for one week, and then switch off between each other for three weeks each. While work is intensive during the “on” periods, workers consistently get ample time off at fixed intervals.
Time is of essence to today’s workforce, and policies focused on work-life flexibility, that allow employees to balance their time between work and life more easily, are leading the way to a better future of work.
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