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Should businesses let workers choose their own hours?

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Businessman with little daughter working on laptop in cafe

Businesses are gradually moving away from the traditional 9-5 day in favour of flexible working. 

And while more firms are allowing employees to work from home - and many have no choice with the coronavirus outbreak - some companies are also allowing people to choose their own hours. 

One of these companies is PwC, which created a Flexible Talent Network to give people the opportunity to work for the firm without being tied into a full-time contract and standard working hours. 

People can choose a working pattern that works for them, such as shorter hours or only working for a few months a year. A contract is agreed in advance, including a number of days that suits their lifestyle - and they will be eligible for holiday pay, sick pay, pension and a bonus. 

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The firm announced the scheme after carrying out research among 2,000 people, which found nearly half - 46% - saying flexible working and a work-life balance is the most important factor when choosing a job. 

“People assume that to work at a big firm they need to follow traditional working patterns - we want to make it clear that this isn’t the case. In order to recruit the best people, we recognise that we need to offer greater flexibility, different working options and a route back in for those looking to restart their careers,” said Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC. 

“We already encourage everyday flexibility for our people in how and where they work, but our Flexible Talent Network takes flexible working to a new level - allowing people to choose exactly how they want to work throughout the year. People in the network will get to spend their year their way, whether it’s because of caring commitments, entrepreneurs supplementing their income, people who want to travel or simply not work all of the year.” 

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of allowing employees to choose their own hours? 

Rather than counting the hours spent sitting at a desk, allowing people to choose their own hours means the primary factor on which they are judged is their performance and output. It’s fine to adjust your hours to suit your lifestyle, as long as the work gets done.

Flexibility is ‘good for business’

“Offering flexibility in how people work throughout the year is not only good for workers, but also for business, the economy and ultimately society,” Hinton said. “We’re likely to see a rise in people transitioning in and out of work throughout their careers and those organisations who responsibly support their people to do this will ultimately gain a competitive advantage.” 

Research has shown that being allowed to work flexible hours can improve productivity, as people are able to work the way that suits them best. Choosing your own hours can also boost happiness and wellbeing too. Ultimately, employees are allowed to define their own work experience and set their own schedules. 

According to a survey by the Association of Accounting Technicians, 38% of flexible workers felt happier, 35% less stressed, and 36% had more time to spend with their families. Interestingly, 27% stated that they worked longer hours in the new flexi-routine than they did when “shackled to normal office hours”. On average, they revealed there to be a seven hour increase in productivity. 

Being able to choose your own working hours can also help people stay in work and continue their careers when having children, too. It may also create a more diverse workplace, with more women able to stay in work. 

There are challenges associated with letting staff choose their own hours, however. The level of flexibility depends on the type of business and what kind of roles employees have. However, with the majority of workers under quarantine because of coronavirus, many businesses have been forced to find new ways to let people work from home. 

It’s also important to remember that not everyone will want to choose their own hours, too. Some people prefer clear limits on when or where to work - and being asked to set their own schedule and manage their own time can feel overwhelming and stressful. Crucially, employers need to remember that everyone works differently - and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working. 

Careers Clinic