Many people in remote or hybrid jobs are enjoying the benefits of a non-linear workday. This means to work when its best for you while still getting your job done and meeting the expectations of your boss. For example, maybe your energy is early in the morning so you work from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., then you head to the gym for a workout and after, you grocery shop. Then, you attend a few meetings, do some more work, and round out your day by 4 p.m. Non-linear workdays enable you to work when is best for you, which can also lead to increased efficiency because “you’re getting work done when you’re most productive.”
It’s not a new concept, though. It’s also called being a part of a results-oriented work environment, or ROWE. It’s been around for a while and it’s predicated on managers focusing on the expected results of the work and not how those results are achieved.
I benefitted early in my career from a boss who embraced the concept. She set specific hours of when we had to be in the office (Wednesday and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.); otherwise, we could work when we wanted. She too benefitted from it and often left in the middle of the day to attend her kids’ school activities, go for a run, or visit her elderly parents. Ultimately, her message to us was this: “Be here on the designated days. Then, get your work done however and whenever you want.”
Whether it’s called a non-linear workday or a ROWE, managers focus on outcomes. That’s first and probably the most important aspect for these arrangement to work. Then, workers have flexibility, and they exercise that through autonomy. They have control over when they work. It’s no wonder efficiency increases given autonomy is one of the core components of what motivates us.
If you, too, would like to take advantage of a non-linear work day, it’s worth talking to your boss about. Given how the world or work has shifted in the past three years, many managers are at least open to the idea.
But, there are still some out there who aren’t. If you work for one of those managers, consider the following before you bring it up.
Recognise not all jobs are designed for non-linear work
Working when and how you want doesn’t meet the need of all jobs. Shift work, when you are scheduled to provide a service during a dedicated period of time (e.g., call centre associates, janitorial crews, doctors and nurses, teachers, etc.) often will not allow for non-linear work.
Customer-facing positions may not either. Concierge positions, retail, and jobs that require a lot of coordination between people (such as program coordinators or case managers) may not allow for a lot of flexibility.
The point here is that non-linear work schedules do not apply to all jobs. Before asking, be sure your job is a good fit for it.
Be good at your job
If your performance at work is spotty, meaning you miss deadlines, show-up late to meetings, don’t respond to email, and make a lot of mistakes, then your request for non-linear work may be denied. Instead, clean all of that up and demonstrate being able to meet expectations for at least three months.
Many bosses don’t like non-linear work for mediocre or poor performers. Be good at your job. This means to be dependable, trustworthy, and helpful. Once you’ve demonstrated this, then you can talk to your boss about the getting more flexibility in your workday.
Offer to test out the idea and focus on results
If your job lends itself to non-linear work and you’re already a solid performer, offer up the idea and start the conversation. Many of us are more likely to try something new if we know it’s not permanent — managers included. So, when talking to your boss about non-linear work, suggest it as an idea to try. Define a timeframe like a month or maybe three months. State you both can evaluate how it went after the test is done.
Then, focus on results. What are the benefits to your boss for enabling you to work when you want? Don’t focus on the benefits for you. This is about building the comfort in your boss to agree to this. Some managers feel a sense of losing control when their teams have flexibility, making them resistant to it.
Will you deliver your work faster? Will you be able to do more or offer up better ideas? Whatever the case, focus on the improved results you will achieve with this new work schedule.
Maintain open communication with your manager
Discussing expectations for communication before you go into non-linear work will you up for success. Talk to your boss about how the two of you will stay in touch. Would they like a regular updates on your progress toward deliverables?
The purpose of this approach is to increase your manager’s level of certainty that you will perform just as well, if not better, in this new arrangement. More importantly, your manager doesn’t want to feel taken advantage of so being transparent about your work will only increase the odds that they believe this is a good idea too.
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