Should your remote team members choose when and how they work? Where should you draw the line when it comes to flexible work?
According to a McKinsey study of 25,000 working Americans, 87% of respondents would always take any opportunity to work flexibly when offered.
While employee autonomy is the best way to go these days, schedules can make or break your organization.
No doubt, we’re all for giving work-from-home employees the freedom to choose their process. That said, it’s vital that they conform to the needs of the business and remember they’re part of a team.
That’s why you must balance things out by weighing different factors and choosing the right schedule for your remote team.
Making the right scheduling decisions helps you get the best out of your remote team.
So, the answer to “What is the best schedule for a remote team” isn’t a straightforward one. Companies have different needs and must determine the right WFH schedule tailored to their employees and operations.
This article deals with different types of schedules and helps you determine which is right for your remote team. We’ll also throw in some tips on how to optimize the schedule you choose.
Understanding the Different Types of Work Schedules
Reports emerged recently about companies wanting their employees back in the office. But employees are finding it difficult to retransition to their regular schedule. That’s why most are pushing against the move.
After all, studies have shown that remote work is as effective as in-office work in boosting productivity. So why change what’s working?
Different types of schedules can be implemented in remote workplaces to make executives and employees more comfortable with telecommuting. With the right tools and management, you can find a balanced schedule for your remote team.
Let’s look at the various options for schedules.
1. Basic Work Schedules
These are regular in-office timetables that can also be implemented in remote workplaces. They include full-time and part-time work.
Full-time is the traditional schedule for most companies running physical and virtual workplaces. It involves working 40-hour weeks, which could include daily 9 to 5 (8 to 10 hours) workdays.
Depending on the company and service offered, full-time employees can rotate shifts, but they generally maintain the same working hours per day.
Due to their long hours, full-time workers are offered different benefits. These benefits include paid vacation times, sick days, and absentee leave among days.
Salaried or exempt full-time employees are normally paid more but are not paid overtime. On the other hand, non-salaried or non-exempt full-time employees are eligible for overtime payment when they work above 40 hours per week.
If you run a remote workforce, you can stick to the 40-hour per week schedule as long as it suits your business needs. That said, you have to make adjustments and provide tools to help workers do their jobs comfortably from home.
Part-time work is usually ideal for businesses that deal with inconsistent and seasonal demand. For example, your business may require extra customer service employees during black friday periods to deal with the increased traffic.
In almost every case, part-time employees work less hours and also earn less. Most part-time employees are also not eligible for certain employment benefits like paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance.
Part-time work is one of the best schedules for remote workers. That’s because, in many cases, employees can choose when they work when tasks become available.
2. Flexible Work Schedules
Most remote teams adopt flexible schedules because they’re scattered across different time zones. Since they can’t work uniformly in real-time, managers distribute work and allow team members to get things done when they’re available.
In many cases, employees can choose their hours.
Of course, this type of schedule is only suitable for specific companies and employees.
Here are the different types of flexible schedules:
- Annualized Hours
The annualized hours schedule defines the number of hours a team member has to log every year. While they can choose these hours, most companies make some hours during the week compulsory.
This type of schedule works best when work is concentrated in different periods throughout the year.
For example, a remote team of developers may have to put in more hours when a major software application is about to go live.
- Flex Time
Managers and employers can allow employees to choose their hours with some exceptions. Flex time involves making some hours during the day compulsory for work. Remote employees can then choose when to work the rest of the day.
For example, an employee may be required to be online or on-call from 2pm to 4pm each day. They can then choose the rest of their hours.
Note that employers may require a defined number of acceptable hours each day regardless of the compulsory schedule.
So, employees may be required to work 6 hours each day but must be available from 2pm to 5pm.
3. Compressed Work Schedule
With the compressed schedule, employees are allowed to work longer hours in fewer days. For example, they can work 10 hours a day to complete their 40 hour week in four days instead of five. Most companies adopting the four day week use this method.
4. Hybrid Work Schedule
The hybrid work schedule involves splitting time between remote and in-office work. This type of schedule helps managers and employees enjoy the best of both worlds.
Employees get to enjoy the freedom of flexible remote work and in-person collaborations.
So, for example, employees can meet in the office on Mondays and Wednesdays and work from home the rest of the week.
5. Shift Schedule
Organizations that offer 24/7 services have to manage how employees work around the clock. Since customers and clients also require help during the night, it makes sense to rotate employees.
In some cases, companies use shifts even if they don’t offer 24/7 services. They do it to improve employee well-being and boost productivity.
- Split Shift
The split shift schedule isn’t necessarily exclusive to companies that are open 24/7. It’s an alternate work arrangement that allows employees to split their typical workdays into multiple shifts.
While workers get to take substantial breaks, they are still required to complete their defined daily hours.
For example, an organization may require employees to work 8 hours a day. In that case, employees may choose to work from 8am to 12pm, then from 4pm to 8pm.
- Rotating Shift
The rotating shift schedule involves having employees work through different cycles, including night, swing, and day shifts. It’s the best way to manage employees when you run a 24/7 business.
That way, you won’t have to permanently deny a set of employees night time with their families.
So, for example, you can switch an employee from day to swing to night shifts each week.
6. Freelance Work Schedule
Freelancers are normally paid based on the work they produce. They are contract employees rather than direct employees.
For example, a writer can be paid per word.
In some cases, freelancers like developers are paid by the hour while others are paid for an entire project.
As a result, most freelancers choose their hours to deliver tasks according to a deadline.
7. Irregular Work Schedule
With the irregular schedule, managers change each worker’s shift according to the business’ needs, employee assignments outside work, workload, and available work.
Most of the time, employees find out about their schedule a month or a week in advance.
What to Consider When Choosing the Right Remote Work Schedule?
You shouldn’t reshape your entire business to fit a schedule or force your employees to work with an unsuitable timetable.
Instead, you should choose a schedule after considering different factors from your staff to clients.
Let’s cover the steps you should take to identify the right schedule for your remote team.
Identify Your Resources and Work Scope
Your resources include everything you need to execute a project such as manpower, tools, and budget.
Your work scope is the amount and type of work you have to complete.
So, consider how many employees you have and their capacity to complete a project before choosing a schedule.
You should also consider your project budget and the tools you can deploy to execute the work.
What is Your Team’s Structure?
Do you run a global or local remote team? Is your workforce scattered across different time zones?
If you recruit workers across different continents, you must consider differences in work culture and time constraints. For example, public holidays may differ and some weekends may start on Fridays.
So, you can easily implement a 9 to 5 schedule and streamline your workflow if you run a local team. Whereas, allowing employees to choose their time in a geographically diverse team will be the right thing to do.
What Kind of Projects Do You Handle?
Do your projects require frequent consultations across departments? Do you need an on-call team member? Do you have to keep in touch with clients?
These questions will help you determine whether your workers should be placed on shifts, stick to a uniform schedule, or choose their hours.
Tips on Optimizing Your Remote Work Schedule
Identifying the ideal schedule for your remote team is your first task in schedule management. Doing that alone doesn’t make your workforce as efficient as it can be. You must also take steps to ensure the schedule is tailored to your business and team.
Implementing this optimization includes removing productivity barriers that may be integrated in your operations. You should also fine-tune specific business processes to facilitate efficiency.
Let’s show you actionable steps that you can take.
Set Your Expectations
Don’t just set defined hours and leave the rest to your employees. To make the most of your scheduling, clearly communicate what needs to be done during each cycle.
Focus on using defined timelines and deadlines. Don’t use vague language like, “We have to get this over the line as soon as possible.” Instead, use time stamps and defined results.
For example, you can tell workers that three blog posts must be up before 4 PM Friday.
Use a Time Tracker
Time trackers are primarily used to track billable hours to make sure workers’ wages are accurately calculated. But time tracking does more than that.
When it comes to scheduling, time tracking data allows you to determine each team member’s capacity and ideal schedule.
If you allowed team members to choose their hours for example, the time tracker will show that Employee X regularly works from 5 PM to PM. That way, you can assign tasks that are ideal for those time slots.
Time tracking also boosts accountability and ensures your employees are on top of their game. Once they know they’re being monitored, team members will be more focused on completing work before doing anything else.
Traqq, for example, helps you monitor your workers’ screen time without invading their privacy. It also has powerful reporting features and gives your supervisors control over adjusting time tracking data in collaboration with workers.
Improve Meeting Schedules
An article was published in the Harvard Business Review after authors Leslie A. Perlow, Constance Noonan Hadley, and Eunice Eun interviewed executives from different industries.
According to the study, 71% of top executives reported that meetings are inefficient and unproductive. 65% of respondents admitted that meetings prevented them from carrying out critical work and 64% opined that meetings hinder deep thinking.
That said, the solution is not to scrap meetings altogether. After all, as a remote team, you need meetings to remind everyone they’re part of the organization.
What you have to do is to rethink how you organize and schedule meetings.
Firstly, get rid of unnecessary meetings. For example, you don’t have to organize a Zoom conference call for the whole organization to address a department. You can also use important emails to share specific information instead of bringing everyone together and wasting their time.
Multitasking hurts everyone, and it’s worse for remote employees. Your team members are likely distracted by numerous domestic activities and may be tempted to juggle them alongside work.
As it turns out, doing more than one thing at a time divides your attention and causes mistakes. It also results in significant cognitive decline. According to a 2019 study, switching between tasks impairs memory and causes significant decline in cognitive performance.
That’s where you come in as a manager. Ensure you always encourage your team members to focus on one thing at a time. Advise them to use dedicated home offices and work within a specific period.
You can enforce a strict schedule for everyone, depending on the work structure you’ve chosen. Another thing to do is incorporate the use of time trackers as a core part of your process.
Encourage Employee Autonomy
The primary purpose of giving workers freedom to define how they work is to boost employee engagement. That means making them comfortable and keeping them happy and satisfied.
But employee autonomy can also work wonders for your scheduling process, especially if you favor a flexible schedule.
If you allow workers to determine their hours and how they handle assignments, they’ll be more efficient.
So, don’t just support a flexible schedule on paper only. Trust workers to make good use of their time.
You can also encourage autonomy while implementing other types of schedules. For example, if you allow a full-time employee full control of their working hours, they’ll be able to optimize their hours to suit their needs, thereby boosting performance.
You can’t ever oversell the role of communication in successful remote teams. Getting work-from-home employees to stay in touch is among the most challenging tasks for managers.
Workers tend to slide into isolation when they telecommute. That’s because they don’t get instant replies and begin to do things on their own as a result.
This style of work can affect your schedule and workflow.
So, encourage your remote team members to always link up with each and collaborate on projects that require different skills to execute. While each team member handles tasks that require their skills, they should communicate with others to cross reference critical issues and how their work connects with each other.
Provide the Right Tools
From communication and collaboration to productivity tracking, there are different tools designed to help remote teams flourish.
Consider what your team needs and ensure you make the right set of tools available. For instance, if you manage a team of remote developers, you’ll need Jira for project management, GitHub for version control, Traqq for time tracking, and Slack for communication.
You could also throw in other tools like Google Drive, depending on your needs.
Your schedule doesn’t have to be generic and you don’t have to use a random template from the Internet. With the tips in this post, you can determine what works best for your remote team and create the right work structure.