How Should CIOs Deal With Flexible Hours Requests?

What workers really want is the ability to choose their hours
What workers really want is the ability to choose their hours
Image Credit: Robert Davies

As a modern, post-pandemic, CIO we have a lot of new and challenging things that we have to deal with. One of the biggest is determining if we are going to allow our workers to be remote some or all of the time. However, as big of an issue as that may seem, it turns out that there is an issue that is even more important to our workers: just exactly when they come to work. This used to be a simple question: everyone worked the same hours on the same days. Not so much anymore. How should CIOs handle this new issue?

When Should People Come Into Work?

CIOs are starting to learn that their workers, flush with power as employers raise wages and scramble to fill open jobs, are saying that they care even more about flexible schedules than whether or not they go into an office. Ninety-five percent of people recently surveyed want flexible hours, compared with 78% of workers who want location flexibility. The new data based on a survey of more than 10,000 IT workers, offers a snapshot into just how popular hybrid arrangements have become. Now it appears as though virtually all workers prize schedule flexibility above all and the growing concerns that many CIOs have about how to keep promotions and pay fair when some employees are in the office while others are staying at home.

The survey also found that 72% of workers who weren’t happy with their level of flexibility no matter if it was time or location are more likely to seek out a new opportunity in the next year. CIO have to understand that if workers are not getting what they want, they’re open to looking for a new job. Many CIOs have reluctantly embraced long-term hybrid and remote work arrangements after repeatedly postponing their return-to-office dates or discovering that their workers were pushing back on going to the office. That has some CIOs thinking differently about in-person arrangements.

Some CIOs believe that employees should gather only when there is a specific need to do so. The thought is that they should really be organizing around bringing people together for an explicit purpose, whether that’s collaboration, innovation, planning or just socializing. Agreements between team members about when people in the group will work are growing in popularity across many industries. CIOs have to realize that flexible schedules are likely to endure long after the pandemic has faded. Focusing on how many hours people are working may be outdated. CIOs really need to shift from presenteeism and activity tracking to actually understanding the results that workers are driving and the value that they’re creating.

The survey also found that the share of people working in hybrid models, where they split their time between an office and a remote location, increased by 12 percentage points, as more workers have returned part-time to their workplaces. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said a hybrid setup was their preferred way of working going forward. A key point is that many workers have found their productivity surged while working from home and they achieved the work-life balance they had been seeking. This is one reason that so many people see hybrid work as the future. Spending two years into working remote and hybrid, worker’s muscles have now been built. They know how to make this work. People love the flexibility that this gives to them. Additionally, companies love the cost savings.

Adjusting To The New Work Schedule

While many CIOs have decided that the majority of their employees will combine remote work with in-office days, hybrid work does have its downsides. CIOs have growing concerns that hybrid work could increase inequity among rank-and-file employees. This especially applies to women, working mothers and people of color, who, when surveyed, said they were more likely to prefer flexible arrangements. Among CIOs surveyed, 71% said they work in the office at least three days a week; 63% of nonexecutive employees said they go in as often. It’s clear that there is a sharper divide between their preferences. CIOs working remotely were far more likely than nonexecutives to say they want to work at least three days a week in the office, at 75% versus 37% of employees.

What employees want may not be the most effective way for IT organizations to operate. CIOs have to be prepare for the coming battle royale over choice versus coordination that is going to happen in the future. In another survey some initial results align employee sentiment on the importance of flexibility. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said that they want to choose the days they work from home, as opposed to their employer telling them which days to go in.

CIOs are going to be reluctant to force employees to coordinate. It’s probably not going to go well because on any given day 20% are going to be at home. We need to understand that large meetings are harder to conduct if some people are in office and some are remote. Often people inside companies complain about the lack of energy in the workplace when it is sparsely populated. Forcing a one-size-fits-all solution across a large workforce can seem risky to CIOs at a time many workers are a flight risk. CIOs are probably going to feel like they’re going to have to let their workers choose where they want to work.

What All Of This Means For You

The pandemic changed a lot of things for CIOs. Their workforce was forced out of the office and sent home for a year. Now that that has all faded, the big question is how do workers want to work? Do they want to come back into the office? Do they want to work regular hours? With everyone appearing to be willing to switch jobs at the drop of a hat, CIOs are struggling to come up with answers to these questions that will allow their IT departments to operate smoothly.

CIOs are starting to discover that their workers care more about being allowed to have flexible schedules than they care about being required to go back into the office. If workers don’t get the flexibility that they are looking for, they very well may end up leaving the company. Allowing workers who are part of a team to agree on when everyone will work seems to meet the needs of the workers. Hybrid models where workers work both in the office and at home are growing in popularity. CIOs need to be aware that the hybrid model may not suit certain groups well. There may be disagreements over where workers can work in the future. CIOs have to understand that coordinating many workers and ensuring that enough are in the office can be a real challenge.

CIOs have to understand that their world has changed. Now that their employees have a great deal of say in what kind of work environment they want to work in, CIOs have to take the time to listen to what they want. The world of the future is not going to look anything like the world of the past. CIOs who take the time to find out what their workers are looking for will have the best chance of creating work schedules that best meet everyone’s personal needs. Hear what your workers are saying and then implement a plan to meet their needs.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How can CIOs make sure that hybrid work environments don’t put any of their workers at a disadvantage?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It seems as though there is more for CIOs to do now than there ever has been before. No matter if it is dealing with trying to decide what applications we should be moving into the cloud, trying to secure the company’s networks, or working out hybrid-work arrangements with our staff, very clearly our plates are quite full. What this means for CIOs is that we now have to become more careful about how we choose to spend our time. We need to very carefully try to prioritize what we spend our time on. Our goal should be to tend to those things that are going to have the greatest benefit for our company. Just exactly what are those things?