The evidence is everywhere: The 9-to-5 workday is making less and less sense for the modern-day workforce. A recent study found that the majority of UK employees, for example, would prefer to work 8-to-4 or even 7-to-3. At Werk, we call this flexibility type TimeShift, and structuring it into your organization could prove vital for talent engagement and retention. To put it bluntly, it could be the difference between someone succeeding or failing, and staying or quitting.
The reason? Meetings are often scheduled at the very beginning or very end of the conventional 9-to-5 workday, yet many employees struggle to make them on time or stay for the entirety. These late-afternoon, early-evening commitments are especially challenging for parents since in most households, the kids' school day ends a lot earlier than the parents' workday. (The Center for American Progress estimates that the misalignment between school and work schedules is costing the U.S. economy as much as $55 billion in lost productivity every year.)
9 a.m. meetings or standups can be especially problematic for a lot of folks, but allowing them to shift their workday later, even by as little as 30 minutes, could make a world of difference. A 9 a.m. meeting might be difficult for parents, for example, who have to drop their kids off at school before heading to work. While all parents feel this strain, it still disproportionately impacts women. In a recent study, 54 percent of parents said the mother does more managing of children's schedules and activities, which is another reason why inflexibility contributes to the gender leadership gap and pay gap. Inflexibility doesn’t just cause women to scale back their hours or opt-down into lower paying positions—it forces them to opt out. In fact, a whopping 30 percent of women leave the workforce entirely after having a child due to these types of conflicts.
But TimeShift isn’t just essential for working parents—it can also be make or break for commuters who spend an average of one hour per day getting to and from work during rush hour. For employees in urban areas who rely on public transportation, commute times can actually double—and that’s being conservative given the nature of many train systems today (ahem, MTA, ahem). When employees are repeatedly late to morning meetings due to the unpredictable nature of traffic and transit, they might be perceived as uncommitted, when really, they'd be happy and able to attend the same meetings just 30 minutes later by simply avoiding rush hour.
Besides, early morning meetings can be productivity-killers, as time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam points out. "A 3:30 p.m. meeting isn't replacing anything else because you weren't going to start anything at that time. But an 8 a.m. meeting supplants a time you would have been motivated to start something big," she writes for Fast Company. "To be sure, many teams meet first thing in the morning to figure out what everyone will do that day. But another option is to have that meeting at 3:30 or 4 p.m., figure out the next day's plan, send everyone home, and then come in the next morning ready to roll."
In fact, a study conducted by meeting planning tool WhenIsGood.net showed that 9 a.m. meetings on weekdays have an acceptances-per-suggestion rate of 0.347. Meanwhile, 3:30 p.m. weekday meetings have an acceptance rate 30 percent higher at 0.452. According to a study conducted by scheduling app business YouCanBookMe, the best time to schedule a meeting is 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.
These same considerations should made when scheduling activities and events outside of normal working hours. For a lot of folks, 5 or 6 p.m. happy hours are an automatic no. Try moving these activities up by 30 minutes or an hour so all employees can have the ability to bond with their colleagues and feel like an integral part of the team.
That said, there's probably no perfect meeting time, no one time slot that works for everyone. But bringing meetings closer to the middle of the workday makes these meetings more accessible for more people. And a 30-minute TimeShift is sometimes all it takes.