The benefits of self-scheduling have been praised time and time again. Studies have shown that high levels of flexibility in the workplace result in healthier employees, which means reduced absenteeism. When employees have more control over their schedule, they are generally happier, which means they are more productive. Furthermore, if employees handle their own schedules, it’s one less thing for management to worry about.
At Doubledot Media, 24 of my employees set their own schedules. Only the five remaining members of my team — the customer service staff — have regular hours. Staff regularly identify this flexibility as a major contributor of their job satisfaction. Employees at Doubledot continue to thrive and reach high-performing goals without intense oversight or strict scheduling.
All in all, self-scheduling has been a success for my company. It could be a success at your company, too. Here are some tips for making it work.
Find a Good System for Effectively Assessing Work Product, and Use It
In a self-scheduled setting, employees are judged on performance and product, not input time. This means you need to have a strong system for assessing performance and product to ensure that employees are steadily improving.
If you haven’t already, you should have an employee performance review system in place. This doesn’t have to be complicated. You simply need to have a schedule in place that allows you to talk with each employee individually at least once a year. Formal performance reviews give you a specific time to consult with employees about their projects and growth. These conversations can provide vital information to help you with employment decisions.
Every time an employee submits a finished work product to you, whether it’s a press release or a website overhaul, review it carefully. If you’re having to send their work back to them multiple times with changes, it might be time to have a conversation.
Maintain Consistent Communication
When employees don’t have set hours, you aren’t going to run into them in the office as much, if at all. This means your other methods of communication must be strong and reliable.
Email isn’t the best choice for effective communication. Emails arrive chronologically, which is ultimately a poor method for organization because it doesn’t consider priority.
At Doubledot Media, we use a project management software called ClockingIt where team members log their time, assign tasks to each other, and communicate about individual projects. This platform allows us to be both general and specific in our outreach and also assign urgency and priority to different tasks.
There should always be clear expectations about availability. If you and your team are in different time zones, or you have a specific deadline you have to meet every day, it’s important that everyone knows exactly when they need to be reachable. Set a requirement for reply time to avoid waiting for a teammate to log into your communication software.
Be Extremely Selective in Hiring
For some people, this seems like a no-brainer. Of course you’re selective when you hire your team. But it’s worth noting that the hiring process becomes more demanding when you choose to give your team the flexibility of self-scheduling. The stakes are higher when you aren’t monitoring your employees' time as closely, so you need to trust everyone you hire to do what’s best for the company.
Not everyone will thrive in a less-structured work environment. While interviewing, try to assess a candidate’s ability to self-regulate and manage time. Inquire about a time when they made a poor time-management decision or an excellent one. Ask what strategies they use for time management. Find out their ideal work hours. These questions become far more important when you are expecting someone to self-schedule.
Be Flexible About Your Office Setting
A major reason self-scheduled hours work for my company is because many of my employees are remote and don’t come in to a local office. It’s definitely possible for self-scheduling to work in a more traditional office setting with a central location, but it’s important to consider all your options.
If you have a local office and you find self-scheduling is boosting your team’s productivity, consider reorganizing your office arrangement. For example, offer your employees the opportunity to telecommute.
Strive for Constant Improvement
Self-scheduling can be a remarkable relief for you and it can even promote productivity if done correctly. But you should never assume you have found the perfect scheduling arrangement. Always seek out new ways to improve your company’s productivity and consult your staff on how the arrangement could be better. Stay opened-minded about other non-traditional office arrangements and how those might be employed for your business. Be an innovator!
Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of over 8,000 prescreened suppliers.