Everyone seems to have an opinion on how we should structure our time. (High-intensity intervals of work in the morning! Lunchtime power hours! Post-dinner work marathons!) But as it turns out, when you work is probably less important than how you work, and figuring that out requires some self-assessment. Are you a maker? Are you a manager? Are you a little of both? And in those roles, what working conditions make you most productive? These are important considerations, and structured flexibility can optimize working conditions for makers, managers, and anyone who identifies as both.
Farnam Street aptly points out that "different types of work require different types of schedules"—and we at Werk have always maintained that there's no "one size fits all" solution to work. That's why it's important to figure out what type of worker you are and what can be done to best support you.
Perhaps you're a manager (even if you don't manage people). If so, your day is sliced up into meetings, calls, tasks, emails. You have to switch tracks multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times an hour.
Or maybe you're a maker. If so, you might be a writer, an artist, a programmer, a designer, a carpenter. No matter what your profession, you could benefit from hours-long blocks of deep focus, unbroken by distractions like meetings or phone calls.
Neither work style—neither maker nor manager—is a better way to work. They're just different. And furthermore, you might even need some time as a maker and some time as a manager. All that's important is pinpointing your needs and finding ways to satisfy those needs.
"Defining the type of schedule we need is more important than worrying about task management systems or daily habits," Farnam Street observes. "If we try to do maker work on a manager schedule or managerial work on a maker schedule, we will run into problems. Second, we need to be aware of which schedule the people around us are on so we can be considerate and let them get their best work done."
These problems might help explain why productivity is almost flat in the United States and productivity is flat to declining, as Deloitte notes. Workers are expected to clock in and out at a certain time—in a set environment—and stay perfectly productive during the hours in between. But nobody—not even ourselves—asks if we have the support we need to hit our strides.
Consider what Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport writes in the book Deep Work: "We spend much of our days on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we are doing with our time. This is a problem. It's difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of your schedule if you don't face, without flinching, your current balance between deep and shallow work."
Once you've faced that balance, of course, the next step is thinking about how your work parameters help or inhibit your deep and/or shallow work. And that, we believe, is where structured flexibility and all of the flexibility types of our Flexiverse come in. Remote can allow makers, for instance, to work from whatever location suits them best, but even office-based worker can use DeskPlus™ to work independently for a portion of their time, freeing them from the distractions of their workplace. TimeShift™, meanwhile, can help employees rearrange their schedules to manage tasks or engage in deep thinking outside of the usual 9-to-5 workday. And MicroAgility™ can help managers and makers keep unexpected events from becoming major disruptions.
As we found in an informal survey—and in our formalized research study—there's no one reason why people want flexibility. But we have identified three areas structured flexibility benefits, and productivity is one of those three. One of our case studies, Ryan, needs both maker and manager time as the director of engineering for a Bay Area tech company. She endorses DeskPlus for employees, herself included, who need to "unplug" for a while to achieve that deep focus. We're not all Ryan, of course, but we all do have preferences for our ideal work parameters. And flexibility goes a long way in getting us there.