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Windowed Work: Reframing Your Workday In Pandemic Times

In a 1959 speech, President John F. Kennedy famously remarked: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger and one represents opportunity.” Although today it is widely recognized that this was not the precise interpretation of the Chinese characters, President Kennedy’s wisdom about a crisis yielding unique opportunities may be more important than ever.

Brookings Institute scholars advise that the first step in any crisis is to recognize there is one and not underestimate the severity. (Are you listening, Mr. President?)

The term crisis should not be used casually, because if everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis. Such a mentality leads to burnout and delays. But recognizing a crisis is vital in diagnosing the problem and prescribing a remedy. Some crises can easily be defined in advance (yes, we could’ve / should’ve seen this one coming). Others are a series of events which gradually accrue. To turn an existing crisis into an opportunity requires reframing the problem and looking at the issues through a different lens. 

The coronavirus pandemic has cut a deep swath through societies around the world. Out of the chaos, innovative solutions have begun to pave the way for new systems, structures, and values to emerge and take hold.  

In medicine, the global contagion has opened the door to telehealth and online doctor visits. In education, the need for social distancing is accelerating more personalized education though telelearning. 

The Windowed Work concept is as novel a solution for daily work output as the virus that instigated it. Time-blocking the optimal “day-parts” to maximize your personal productivity when and where you can be the most effective is a game-changer for personal and professional time management. With windowed work, you block-out the hours when you work best. Balancing remote, on-the-job performance with household and family needs allows you to fully customize your work schedule.  

For many in today’s workforce, adjusting the timeframe for a more flexible schedule has gone from being a perk to a necessity during the Covid-19 pandemic, and new research affirms its effectiveness. Nearly 4 in 5 workers (79%) said their current job allows for it; of those, 73% said the arrangement leads to improved productivity

“When employees have greater control of their time, they’re often more motivated, engaged and productive on the job. Giving staff autonomy over their schedules demonstrates trust, which can boost morale and productivity. It really comes down to managing your own schedule and taking care of personal tasks during the workday can help alleviate burnout and ultimately improve productivity,” commented Megan Slabinski, Seattle-based District President of Robert Half Technology.

“As an employer, especially in a city like Seattle that is so ahead in technologies and integrating these within a company’s work culture, it’s important to offer staff flexibility and let employees decide, within reason, what arrangement works best.  Seattle organizations know the tremendous benefit that remote work, and the concept of windowed work hours can have on retaining their top talent,” Slabinksi added. 

Providing employees with flexibility will be just as important when organizations prepare to reopen and transition back to the office as it has been since the start of the pandemic.

Among professionals who have the option to follow a flexible schedule:

  •  A greater percentage of respondents with children (78%) than those without (66%) said windowed work allows them to be more productive.
  • Nearly an equal number of men (75%) and women (71%) said they get more done when integrating personal and professional activities throughout the day.
  • More employees ages 55 and older (39%) noted they prefer a traditional schedule than those ages 41 to 54 (32%) and 25 to 40 (22%).

Here are four tips for managing windowed work in your workday:

  1. Coordinate team coverage. Synchronize your schedule with your peers. Having access to someone in your department during core business hours ensures you with access to colleagues who can respond to requests.
  2. Identify your power hours. When do you reach peak productivity: the early morning, late afternoon or evening? Carve out quiet time to tackle high-priority projects when you tend to hit your groove.
  3. Set wide windows. Bouncing between tasks can be inefficient. Cluster activities that require similar effort and resources, and block off hourlong increments, or longer, to get them done.
  4. Schedule and share your calendar. Make sure your colleagues know when you’re available to meet and collaborate — and when you’ll be less accessible or offline.

“Windowed work” is just one of the many ways workers are reassessing their changing roles in a hub-and-spoke  work environment. According to research from Robert Half, more than half of office workers surveyed (57%) said they have experienced a shift in their feelings toward work due to the pandemic. Of those…

  • 60% are more motivated to be employed at an organization that values its staff during unpredictable times
  • 40% will prioritize their personal life over their job moving forward  
  • 33% want to pursue a more meaningful or fulfilling position

Additional Findings:       

  • More employees ages 25 to 40 (68%) experienced a change of perspective due to the pandemic than respondents ages 41 to 54 (45%) and 55 and older (40%).     

Of respondents who said their feelings shifted during COVID-19:

  •    More women (65%) than men (56%) expressed interest in working for a company that appreciates its employees during uncertain times.
  •    Nearly an equal number of working parents (41%) and professionals without children (39%) reported a desire to place greater focus on personal versus professional activities.
  • While workers are in a decidedly introspective mood, now is a good time to apply for a job in and around the Puget Sound.

According to the June jobs report, employers added 4.8 million jobs, the highest monthly figure since the government started keeping records in 1939.

 The national unemployment rate fell to 11.1%. Meanwhile, new BLS data shows many in-demand roles, particularly in the technology sector, have significantly lower unemployment rates.

For example:

Information security analysts: 1.4%

Software developers: 3.5%

Computer network architects: 2.4%

Web designers:  2.9%

Windowed work has the potential to replace the 9-5 workday with a more flexible, more self-directed labor force. That being the case, the novel coronavirus will have given rise to yet another transformative opportunity. [24×7]