The term “work-life balance” has been around for decades. For much of that time, the struggle to attain this elusive equilibrium has typically involved having too much “work” and not enough “life.” Employers have been urged to, among other things, create dynamic paid-time-off policies and encourage employees to use their vacation days regularly and sick days when necessary.
In recent months, however, the imbalance may have shifted to “life” outweighing “work.” This is because many employees are now working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and surrounded by obligations related to their personal lives. One potential solution that’s getting a bit of attention is “windowed work.”
Color-coding the day
Under the concept, employees set up daily schedules that are segmented into “windows” of time indicating varying degrees of availability. So, instead of working within the monolithic block of time allocated to a traditional nine-to-five schedule, an employee’s workday would include periods of:
- Limited availability (able to communicate only minimally while attending to childcare or other personal responsibilities),
- Moderate availability (able to communicate as necessary while working independently), and
- Collaborative availability (able to engage in longer discussions and attend virtual meetings).
Each of these three types of windows is color-coded on the company’s cloud-based calendar or collaboration platform. Limited availability would usually appear in red, moderate availability as yellow, and collaborative availability would show up as green.
For windowed work to be effective, managers need to interact cooperatively with employees to set expectations, arrive at a mutually acceptable daily schedule (which could vary from week to week), and check in regularly to discuss workload and productivity.
For instance, each team member might submit a proposed windowed workweek with notes indicating his or her distinctive concerns and challenges. The manager could then integrate the schedules to ensure strategic objectives will be met and customers well-served. As commonly accepted “green times” become clearer, teams can open regular windows for meetings and team-building activities such as “morning coffee” or “check out my home workspace.”
Although one might assume that working remotely makes employees feel more distant from each other, some employers are finding the opposite holds true. Teams may actually grow closer together once everyone settles into a reasonable schedule and finds ways to comfortably communicate. After all, many people are most at ease at home in an environment that they fully control.
If your current approach to handling remote employees is serving you well, there may be no need to drastically alter anything. But, in a year in which stress has skyrocketed and change seems to be occurring so rapidly, you may find windowed work a helpful approach to organizing employees’ time in a mutually acceptable manner. Please feel free to contact us for help measuring and improving productivity.