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Published: 3 month

A new trend in working hours: work when you're at your best

Owl or lark? - everyone has heard the question and can put themselves in one of the two camps. So it's not a far-fetched idea that the best way to get the most out of workers is to allow them to do their jobs when they feel like it, when their biological hours and circumstances allow them to perform at their best. This phenomenon could be called "casual work", but bbc.com has published an article about it under the heading "chronoworking".

Bagoly vagy pacsirta a dolgozó? - új trend a munka világában-

Eloise Skinner works until midnight most days. The writer, fitness instructor and therapist opens her computer at around 11:00am to check her email, takes shifts in the afternoon or early evening at her London gym where she teaches exercise classes, and then sits down after 7:30pm to work on in-depth projects. By then the world goes quiet, he says, and he feels he can concentrate best. The 32-year-old self-proclaimed night owl knows it sounds "a bit extreme, but it's just that around 8, 9 or 10 at night I can really, really concentrate," says Skinner. \"That's when I'm most productive.\"

Since covid, which ushered in the most creative forms of flexible working, workers increasingly expect employers to let each individual adjust his or her working hours to his or her own unique energy level for maximum productivity. The approach is called "chronoworking", according to bbc.com.

Originally invented by journalist Ellen C Scott, chronoworking allows workers to abandon \"standard" working hours and instead choose a schedule that suits their personal \"chronotype.

Cronotype is the definition of the time of day preference when an individual prefers to do certain activities. This doesn't just apply to sleep and wakefulness: chronotype can also affect when one should schedule exercise, meals, sleep - and why not include work?

According to American clinical psychologist and sleep therapist Michael Breus, there are four chronotypes. According to his research, 55% of people find their peak productivity in the middle of the day (between 10am and 2pm); 15% start early in the morning; 15% work late at night; and 10% have a relatively unpredictable circadian rhythm, so their work can vary from day to day.

Despite these differences, however, the traditional 9 to 5, eight-hour workday - invented by American unions in the 1800s - is still the most common norm in the world of work. As a result, many people are forced to work in time slots when they are less productive, rather than working hours that vary from individual to individual to ensure maximum productivity. In a survey of nearly 1,500 US workers in January, 94% of respondents said this was the case, and 77% said that mandatory working hours had a negative impact on their work performance. To cope, nearly half of respondents take naps during the workday; 42% consume caffeine to maintain energy levels; and 43% use stress management techniques such as mindfulness.

Chroneworking is not new, but it has received more attention since the pandemic, as telecommuting and hybrid working have become more common, says Dirk Buyens, professor of HR management at Vlerick Business School in Brussels. \"We don't all spend an hour commuting in the morning anymore, so we can better monitor when we are most productive and how to get the most out of our work.\"

Workers, especially younger workers, like the idea of adjusting their schedules to their most productive hours - but companies can also benefit from cronies, adds Buyens. Allowing employees to work when they feel most productive can boost performance and well-being, which can have a positive impact on employee retention.

It's not just that many companies don't have a flexible enough culture to do this, but also that it simply won't work in areas such as customer-focused or those that require close teamwork, or businesses that are tied to the opening hours of the stock market.

All 17 employees of London-based job platform Flexa work casual hours. Some start as early as 07:30, while others only check in at 11:00 and work later into the evening. "It's nonsense that we all have to work at the same time. We can get much more out of people if we work to different chronotypes," they admit.

Of course, as much as chronoworking provides workers with independence and the possibility of non-linear working days, team members still need at least some "shared hours" for meetings and joint projects, according to Buyens. They also need to be aware of the individual working hours of each person. Managers can find it difficult both to monitor staff performance and to ensure that they are always available and supportive leaders, he adds.

However, for some companies that have adopted the cronometric approach, there are ways to work around these problems. Flexa, for example, requires all its employees to be online between 11am and 3pm during core hours. This allows the team to complete shared tasks in a "flash". Other companies use software to record and share meetings with team members who are not connected, helping to bridge the gap between out-of-sync work.


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