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How Many Hours Should Your Employees Work Remotely?

CoAdvantage- Working long hours is tough on a person, can infringe on family time, and often upsets a healthy work-life balance. Moreover, longer hours can worsen health problems, which has its own set of workplace consequences, like absenteeism and higher health insurance costs. Remote work may also be aggravating the problem of long hours, with nearly half of employees saying they work longer hours when working remote than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“While remote work affords employees greater flexibility, it also makes disconnecting extremely difficult,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, told the Society for Human Resource Management. “Many people feel pressure to keep up with rising workloads and are putting in long hours to support the business and customer needs.”

Employers have experimented with all kinds of answers to these issues. Six-hour workdays. Four-day workweeks. Flex schedules. Unlimited time off. Now that remote work has become increasingly commonplace, does it affect scheduling concerns and make any of those alternative schedules more or less appealing?

Flexibility seems to be key.

The Harvard Business Review recommends that “allowing for some asynchronous collaboration will give employees the flexibility to manage their multiple responsibilities.” In other words, give employees a little more autonomy to say no and to schedule their work their own way. Gartner agrees: it advises employers to “focus on outputs, not processes.”

“As a manager, you have to stop paying attention to the process and pay more attention to what things are getting done,” says Brian Kropp, Distinguished Vice President, Research. “Just talk to your team about what you want them to accomplish.”

Scheduling flexibility comes in three basic forms.

Gartner describes three basic scheduling approaches to remote work scenarios:

1: Flextime (workers choose their own hours),

2: A compressed workweek (working 40 hours in fewer than 5 days), and

3: Non-standard shift work (so not everyone has to work a standard 9-to-5 schedule).

So, the question may not be how many hours remote employees are working. Instead, it’s if they’re meeting objectives and getting the work done. Indeed, trying to micro-manage details of remote work arrangements can backfire. Some employers have leaned heavily into employee monitoring during remote work. That’s understandable, especially if there are productivity issues, but it can also make the experience more difficult than it needs to be if supervisors are trying to dictate hours in a scenario where rigidity is less effective than flexibility.

In the end, this is not a question with a one-size-fits-all answer. Communication between executives, mid-level managers, and employees is crucial, as is the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.