Are Flexible Working Hours Good or Bad For Your Career?


With increasing commercial real-estate prices for companies, longer commute times for employees and growing family responsibilities, there are now a record number of companies in Hong Kong offering flexible working hours. But what are the Pro's and Con's? And what impact can this have on your career, morale and success? Here are the advantages and disadvantages, as well as some examples from companies that have started to offer this popular benefit.

The Main Advantages For Employees and Employers

Flexibility to meet your family's needs actually increases your morale at work

If you have a flexible schedule, you can conveniently meet your personal obligations, life responsibilities and family needs. You can take a yoga class during the day, attend parent-teacher events and even be around when the repair man needs to be visit.

This level of freedom to meet life's demands has been shown to increase employee morale and reduce absenteeism, Datum (a high-tech block chain company based in HK) recently introduced flexible working hours for all their employees, when asked how it was working out, their CEO Roger said "people at Datum enjoy a flexible and supportive work environment, where results are more important than time at your desk and management have an open communication policy where the team can talk directly to managers at any time."

Reduced rush-hour commute times alleviate stress and increase your productivity

Commuting for up to an hour (and sometimes even more) isn't uncommon. So working from home can save an enormous 2 hours per day! It also reduces pressure on the existing infrastructure, making other people's lives easier. Taking the MTR or Bus after 8am is a much more pleasurable experience too, so the flexibility to start at 10am in the morning will reduce your stress levels.

Offering employees the flexibility to start work later or work from home develops an image as an employer of choice with friendly work schedules, which has been shown to reduce staff turnover. AfterShip is another example of a Hong Kong company empowering their employees to choose by offering flexible working hours and an unlimited work-from-home policy. Tracy, a product designer at AfterShip told Vanna she can "choose when and where and how I work best".

Less burn-out and overload, for both you, and your boss!

A results driven approach to flexible working means you can take breaks when you really need them, without having to worry about your boss watching over you, or worse, colleagues gossiping. This of course works both ways, as your boss can focus on providing you with the support you need to deliver results, and not how much time you spent at your desk each day.

This approach allows employers to actually extend their hours of operation, something that's usually restricted due to people's personal schedule of fitting everything in before and after rigid, restrictive hours of work. If you're an evening person, this could empower your employer to operate or offer their services later in the evening. Miro (an Artificial Intelligence company head-quartered in Hong Kong) now offers unlimited leave to its employees. According Wallace, their Director of Delivery - "This is especially useful when you have a big project and work really hard at it (late in the evenings for example), because you know you can just take as much time as you need off when it's done, or if you have any urgent matters to take care of, there's no approval process, you just take the time you need". Policies like these enable companies like Miro to recruit outstanding employees.

The Disadvantages For Employees and Employers

Staying at home can impact your relationships

Working from home can give the impression to neighbours and friends that you're not actually working, or worst still, your additional 'flexibility' may be interpreted as 'always being available', which results in being asked to look after a friend's child or feed someone's cat! Saying no to requests is difficult and will impact your relationship with friends and family.

Depending on the type of work you're doing, team-orientated departments suffer the most from flexible working hours, as teams need to meet. These meetings serve as the foundation of relationships with your colleagues, which need to be developed and be cultivated for you to effectively grow and progress within an organisation. So, if your department requires strong collaboration on projects, it's imperative that guidelines are set to ensure people meet in person.

You can't tell if you're actually working or not

There is no clear delineation between home time, and work time. So, there is a danger that using a flexible working schedule actually means working all the time. Psychologically, a change of scenery is important so you can effectively 'switch off' from working when you need to. Doing this from home is particularly difficult.

As an employer, you might feel perfectly comfortable calling your employee at 10:30pm because you've let them work from home and assumed they had a leisurely morning. Flexible working hours only work if there's a certain level of understanding and trust between employee and employer. Without it boundaries become blurred which adversely impacts the morale of company.

So, what's best?

Overall, the advantages to both employees and employers of flexible working hours generally outweigh the disadvantages. If you want to reduce your stress, improve productivity, increase your morale and gain more control over your life and time, then flexible office hours will help you achieve all these amazing benefits.

Companies that offer these types of benefits need good managers and structure to manage the disadvantages mentioned above, and not all companies can be this flexible, especially when roles are customer-facing or hands-on, care-based roles like nursing.

Offering a mix of fixed and flexible hours ultimately results is happier employees, which translates to attracting and retaining the best people. So, it's a trend we'll continue to see companies adopt in Hong Kong.

Looking for flexible working hours?

We interviewed Datum, AfterShip and Miro about the benefits of flexible working hours.

If this is the type of working culture that resonates with you, you check out their profiles and vacancies below:

Team Vanna

Vanna's expert writing team

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