If I ever get in a position where I have employees, they will not have eight-hour workdays as we normally have here in Sweden. A workday would have a maximum of six-seven hours. Period. During all my years as a programmer, I have never felt, that I for long periods can focus and perform on top, working eight-hours a day. I do believe working six-seven hours is what we manage.
I also do believe in “true flexibility”. Meaning? In Sweden we have a saying that goes something like: “you have liberty, but it comes with responsibility”. Often brought up when you discuss the flexibility of working hours. Most often, I have found that meaning: “You are expected to be at the office before 09.00 (9AM) and then preferably, do your expected time, but at least stay to 16.00 (4PM) and then work from home or longer days other days.” Which translates to: “be there and do your hours”. Hours, hours, hours! Count them. Report them. That is the undertone I have felt. But managers should not measure hours to ensure you are fulfilling an agreement. They should be measuring hours to ensure you are not working too much. As that is not good for your health.
Workhours is not just the time spent being “onsite” (or at your remote desk). What about all the thinking put in during commuting 3hours a day? Or all the studying at evenings and weekends? Clearly, those are workhours as well. Just harder to measure. What if we could measure brain cycles spent on certain problems/contexts? Then the above would-be workhours and the hours you spend at your desk “dreaming” about non work-related things would not be. What about toilet brakes? Fetching coffee? Socializing with co-workers? You see. Hours are tricky. For me true flexibility would mean:
As long as it works for your team and as long as you deliver as expected, I don’t really care where and when you do your work.
Life is a puzzle. And if I as an employer could help you solve it. I would. Hence, if you have somewhere to be. Be there. Do you feel for leaving and go home running so that you can excel even more? Then do so.
Finally, if possible due to laws, labor unions, etc., I would require my employees to “exercise”. It does not have to be something advanced. It would be on a per-person basis, e.g.: walking, running, swimming, boxing, …; and I would happily provide workhours for it. Exercise is good for not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Your body and your brain need exercise just as it needs food and sleep.
It is crazy times, and I do believe personal health is more important than ever. Employers have the possibility to choose to be an enabler. An enabler to have less stressed and healthier employees just by reducing workhours and assisting them to exercise in one way or the other. So, be an enabler. And continue to be one, even when things get somewhat back to normal.