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Like it or not, things have changed. The traditional “work rules” just don't apply to most jobs, and that can be hard to hear. Many of us are already overwhelmed by the amount of difficult decisions, changes, and new responsibilities we have to face. However, in order to do the best for our company, it is important to take a close look at the situation. What has changed since then and, most importantly, how do we have to react to these changes?
Old rule: traditional office hours
New rule: active hours
For many industries, the introduction of remote working has caused a major shock that, if we are honest, not all were fully prepared. As the way we work from home is constantly changing, it is important for us employers to recognize that we cannot change the entire work format and enforce the same rules. "That's how we've always done it" is irrelevant. Circumstances have changed and it's time for entrepreneurs to adjust.
Sorry folks, but the traditional Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. The schedule is officially dead and it's time for business owners to take the plunge. Instead of sticking to an outdated format that, to be honest, was never really productive, don't be afraid to reconsider.
Replace your traditional working hours with predefined "active working hours" that apply to you, your employees and your company. That could be 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. every day (or any other reasonable part of the time) and encourage your staff to be available and / or on call during these times.
Don't forget to ask your reps for input about what works best for them – and it doesn't necessarily have to be the same active hours for every employee every day of the week. Whether they work 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., or 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. when they are at work, whether or not the job gets done is far less important.
Related: Do You Trust Your Employees? Your office might tell you otherwise
Old rule: standard 40-hour week
New rule: flexible planning
I love reminding people that the eight-hour work day is over 200 years old. Robert Owens, a Welsh labor rights activist, is credited with coining the phrase "eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, eight hours of rest" in 1817. This concept quickly got to America. In the early 1920s, the idea of the eight-hour working day took off and we have relied on this structure ever since.
Obviously, many things have changed in the past two hundred years. So why are we still clinging to a concept that is literally centuries old? Research has shown that shorter work days (and shorter work weeks) are fantastic ways to improve both the quality of life and the quality of work for your employees. We know that employees who are happier (and more productive) help improve the bottom line. So why don't we switch?
As a business owner, you need to critically examine whether or not the eight-hour workday is actually working for your company. Resist the urge to make decisions based on your desires. You may love the eight-hour workday because it makes it easier for you to keep track of your employees – but that doesn't necessarily mean it's best for your company. Instead, you may need to focus on hiring people you trust so you don't have to keep an eye on them every day.
Studies show that employees work better in focused periods of time – and when they are in control of their own schedules – and that your employees' wellbeing pays off. Companies that introduce more flexibility into their work week can see productivity gains, employee health and wellbeing, and profitability. Sticking to a rigid work schedule can harm your bottom line more than it can help your peace of mind.
Related Topics: Why Business Owners Need To Show Their Employees That It's OK To Be Wrong
Old rule: too much (or too little) oversight
New rule: accountability
One of the reasons many business owners refuse to introduce flexible schedules or work from home options is because they fear it will be difficult to supervise employees when they are out of the office or logged in at the same time are.
While these new ways of working may require a great deal of trust in your employees to actually get things done instead of watching Netflix on company premises, the point is to create a structure in which you can get what you need while Your employees can thrive. Accountability is vital. It allows your employees to have a clear understanding of responsibilities and expectations, and gives them the freedom to thrive in a nontraditional work environment while still being structured enough to ensure the work gets done.
Unfortunately, if you don't know what your employees are up to on a daily basis, this is not always a "them" problem. If your employees don't have clear expectations of what to do (and how to do it), it will be more difficult for them to give you the confidence you need to get things done.
Instead of getting disconnected from your team – or becoming a dreaded micromanager on the other end – try to be a touchpoint, not a bottleneck. Do you want to keep your team on track? Set up some key metrics, and then have weekly check-ins, where reps can tell you the top three things they're working on that week. You can quickly check in via Slack or email all week, but for the most part, it's about learning to trust the people you've hired for great work.
Related: Leadership through accountability is contagious
Old rule: be a good manager
New rule: be a great leader
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, one of the most important things you can learn is the difference between a manager and a leader. Anyone can lead a team (with varying degrees of success), but it takes a lot of time, energy, and effort that are probably not currently available to you.
Instead of looking at your role like leading a team of people, focus on learning how to be a fantastic leader too. Be creative and flexible. Instead of pointing your fingers at your employees (or the pandemic), learn to be proactive instead of reactive. What can you do better as a manager? Where can your team improve? Learn how to enable your team to work autonomously and at a high level.
Remember, it's not just about doing the best or most convenient for you. It takes practice, but eventually you will find a solution that works best for your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.