Introducing flexible working hours

Why we decided to let go of core working hours in favor of a completely flexible schedule

Maria Gebhardt
Dec 21, 2020 · 3 min read

When the pandemic started back in March, we decided to close the office for a couple of months. We reduced our core working hours, which for years have been from 10 am to 6 pm, to a short 11 am to 3 pm and basically everyone was working completely remote. The office reopened in August, having adapted the mandatory Covid-19 regulations, but almost all of our colleagues kept working in home office.

Paired with the isolation Covid-19 has forced us into, undoubtedly work-life-balance got harder to manage. Probably you can relate: You don’t go out for lunch anymore, you don’t meet friends. On some days, you don’t even stop working, because you think something like: “Oh I’ll just have a quick lunch in front of the laptop” or “Hey, it’s just 30 min to dinner anyways, I’ll keep working on this”.

Back in Summer you could spend the evenings outside, catch some sun. But now with the days so short, you start working when it’s barely light outside and stop working when the sun already went back down the other side of the earth. You end up spending the whole day at home. And having no opportunity to catch the sun, especially when it’s out so rarely, makes it all the more depressing.

If you’ve got kids, dogs or other responsibilities you retain more structure, but you still might feel trapped by having to squeeze all your brain energy and creative capacity in some pre-defined hours of the day.

Finding a solution

That made us think a lot about what we could do to improve everyone’s wellbeing and help promoting work-life-balance. In general, stress occurs when a person has no control over when, where and how he or she does the work.

So finally, after 8 months of living with this global pandemic, back in November we decided to drop our core working hours and are now having completely flexible working hours. We furthermore dedicated a time around noon where no meeting should be scheduled to give everyone the opportunity to get out for a stroll in the sun.

Flexible working hours mean, that you can basically work whenever it suits you best. Be a night owl and spend the morning out in nature or be an early riser and shut down your laptop at 4 pm. You don’t have to drag yourself through a non-productive morning. Just close the laptop and clear your mind. Read a book. Bake a bread. Have a bike ride. Take care of your child. Or zoom call your mom.

You don’t have to do any of this, but you have the opportunity. And I guess that already makes you feel better.

Freedom with structure

Of course, with this new freedom subsequently comes a higher responsibility. When everyone can basically work whenever they want, how do you manage to work together? It has to work out for everyone in the team. More communication and more compromises are necessary. You won’t find meeting times that suit everybody. We probably should rather call it freedom with structure. But as we strive for more asynchronous communication anyways this is also a chance and might lead to an even higher productivity.

Let’s see, where this takes us. We don’t know if this is the right solution. But it’s worth trying and right now the implementation of flexible working hours seems like a good step towards better employee health and motivation.

Thoughts, observations and learnings from Berlin-based…