Are core working hours a thing of the past?
In the age of remote work, do asynchronous schedules make more sense than core business hours?
For decades, businesses have been built around the typical 9-5 model. Employees arrive at the office, work for a steady 8 hours, then head home in time for tea.
But the pandemic has changed all this. As flexible and remote working becomes a bigger part of the corporate experience, core working hours are no longer a given. Standardised working hours have given way to asynchronous schedules that allow employees the flexibility to work on their own time.
But is this a good thing for businesses and staff? Let’s take a look at the differences between asynchronous and synchronous work, and the pros and cons of each.
Yes — asynchronous hours work for everyone
Modern business culture is completely different to the pre-pandemic workplace. Millions of employees now work from home regularly — and they reward their employers by picking up emails on-the-fly, working beyond core office hours, and getting the job done in their own time.
Asynchronicity advocates argue that this kind of working improves efficiency and productivity. There are fewer unnecessary exchanges, no chatting by the water cooler — everything is streamlined to focus on growing your business. Plus, it means your clients may get faster responses — no more waiting until 9am for an answer to a simple question.
Businesses also have more recruitment flexibility. Asynchronous teams can consist of a global workforce — so you can hire the best person for the job, no matter where they live. Remote teams can work when it suits them, allowing you to take advantage of a huge potential talent pool.
Over the course of the pandemic, millions of businesses invested in technology that helped to keep their companies afloat during this difficult period. From Slack to Zoom to project management apps, this technological investment would be wasted by forcing a return to office-centred working hours. We have the technology, and we have been using it for more than 2 years — so there is nothing to gain by stopping now.
No — asynchronous working slows us down
Not everyone agrees that synchronous working should be scrapped. Many people thrive on collaboration and connection with their colleagues, which is a lot more difficult to achieve when you are all working at different times.
The synchronous working model allows employers and employees alike to set fair expectations. It is acceptable for emails sent after 5pm to be ignored until the next day; equally, employers can expect to see employees at their desk by 9am sharp. This gives staff and management clear sight of when people are working, and makes the workplace generally more equitable. It also means employees can switch off from work at the end of the day and focus on their family or home life.
Asynchronous hours still need to be tracked to make sure the country of work’s overtime laws are met and rest breaks are taken – this can be complex to manage for a team spread across multiple jurisdictions. Core working hours set a standard in this respect where breaches can easily be spotted.
Asynchronous working can also lead to other logistical problems around HR. Conducting performance reviews and other regular meetings is difficult when your team works on their own schedule, especially if multiple employees are required to attend. It can be challenging to turn on the sensitivity needed for tricky HR conversations when you are rarely in direct communication.
Setting core working hours also makes it easy for clients and other stakeholders to know when they can contact your staff. Certain workplaces — such as call centres and technical support services — usually advertise specific hours of availability so they can be there when people need them. Asynchronous working models simply don’t work in this context.
Should you set core working hours for your business?
There are many factors to consider when deciding on the right approach to working hours for your company.
Certain businesses — such as those that rely on guaranteed staff availability — may not be able to scrap the core working hours system just yet. However, many employees appreciate the flexibility and autonomy that asynchronous work gives them, increasing productivity and efficiency.
Many businesses are adopting a hybrid approach, which involves giving employees the flexibility to work from home, while expecting them to be available between shorter core hours (such as 11am-3pm).
If you are not sure how to approach this issue for your global teams, speak to our employment experts. Mauve can support with the local information needed to develop a fair working hours policy that suits your business and staff.