A recent survey by specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Walters reveals that two-fifths of professionals believe their mental health could improve by adopting ‘chrono-working’.

Chrono-working is a flexible work practice allowing employees to choose their work hours based on their natural sleeping patterns. Despite the rise in flexible working due to the pandemic, 54% of employees feel their current flexible work policies do not meet their needs. Many organisations (35%) still adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach, such as mandating two days in the office or offering early finish Fridays.

Current Flexible Work Policies

The survey highlights that most flexible work policies emerged organically (22%) from COVID-19 adaptations. However, 37% of employees report that their organisations lack a clear strategy for flexible working.

Chris Eldridge, CEO of Robert Walters UK, comments on the potential benefits and challenges of chrono-working: “Chrono-working offers significant benefits in helping professionals achieve a work-life balance they are happy with. However, it’s not a universal solution. Companies with strict core hours or extensive stakeholder interactions may face challenges in implementing this practice.”

Benefits of Chrono-Working

The survey indicates that 42% of UK professionals believe working according to their natural sleeping patterns would improve their mental health. Additionally, 37% think it would enhance their focus and productivity, and 11% believe their sleep quality would significantly improve.

Chris Eldridge explains: “Flexible working has been normalised, and chrono-working acknowledges that productivity and wellbeing shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Not all professionals’ productivity aligns with the traditional 9-5 setup.”

Preferred Flexible Work Policies

When asked about preferred flexible work policies, 33% of professionals favoured a four-day work week, 29% preferred fully remote work, and 27% wanted the option to work from anywhere globally. Only 12% opted for chrono-working initially.

However, if chrono-working were adopted, 47% of professionals would choose an early start/early finish pattern, while 38% would alternate between different schedules. Only 8% would stick to the traditional 9-5, and 7% preferred a late start/late finish.

Chris Eldridge observes: “While remote work or working abroad may seem appealing initially, these strategies may not be sustainable long-term as professionals start to miss aspects of the office or want to return home.”

Learning from the 4-Day Week Pilot

Eldridge notes that variable hours could limit time spent on collaborative projects but could increase team availability for support roles and back-office functions. “Chrono-working shouldn’t be seen as a magic solution. Employers can adopt elements that fit their business model, such as allowing early birds to start and finish earlier and night owls to work later. This approach could boost employee morale, sleep, and productivity levels.”

Robert Walters suggests that employers can draw lessons from the 4-Day Week pilot when considering new working practices. Flexibility in work schedules can significantly impact employee satisfaction and productivity. The full considerations for implementing a four-day work week can be downloaded from Robert Walters’ website.