The widespread adoption of hybrid, remote, and “work from anywhere” models has prompted plenty of debate about flexibility and its impact on collaboration and productivity. A common question we’re asked is about the effectiveness of core hours: are they a help or a hindrance to business strategy?
The answer is complex. To drive results and build a world-class team, you need to know what works best for your business. This article covers everything you need to know about core hours to help you make a well-informed decision and propel your business growth as you adopt a new working style.
What Are Core Hours?
Core hours are times set by a business when everyone in the team must be working. Around those hours, employees can choose when they want to work, whether it be flexible hours or a standard 9-5 day.
In some hybrid businesses, the meaning of “core hours” (or “core days”) may also refer to the times when team members should be physically present in the office. Outside of core hours and days, employees have the flexibility to work from home or remotely.
Core Hours Vs. Flexible Hours
The concept of flexible hours (also known as “flextime” or “flexihours”) is a breakaway from the traditional 9-5 work schedule. It allows employees to choose when they work, fitting professional commitments around their personal lives.
Flexible hours may also encompass “compressed hours,” which allow for employees to work the same number of hours over fewer working days. This is often associated with the four-day workweek.
On the other hand, core hours are set times within a flexible working day when an employee must be at work, whether on-site or virtually.
The Pros & Cons of Core Hours
Before deciding to set core hours, your business should carefully weigh up the pros and cons to understand how it might affect your team and company goals.
While core hours can increase productivity and collaboration, they may also hamper your efforts to hire and retain the best global talent.
Advantages of Core Hours
Core hours can produce great results for your business, particularly if your colleagues are all based in the same location or across similar time zones.
If you use these hours exclusively for meetings and collaboration, your colleagues can then focus on conducting “deep work” without distractions outside of core hours. This approach, adopted by the likes of Slack, Calendly, and Dropbox, can lead to increased productivity, focus, and well-being.
Implementing core hours may also give your team members better opportunities to connect and socialize. After all, hybrid and remote working can be lonely. If you determine specific times for social meet-ups, whether in-person or virtual, you give your colleagues ample opportunity to bond and build trust with one another.
Finally, core hours can be advantageous for specific roles and business functions, such as customer support. Having set hours can improve your customer experience (and possibly your NPS score) as it allows your client-facing staff to effectively manage expectations and respond to queries at consistent intervals.
Disadvantages of Core Hours
Dictating when your employees work - even if just for a few hours a day - limits flexibility, which may restrict your company’s global growth or your “work from anywhere” strategy. This is because a global team typically works across numerous time zones. What may be accessible core hours for a team member in one time zone will likely not be optimal for an employee located elsewhere. As a result, your international team members may feel excluded or disengaged.
If your core hours or days make office attendance mandatory, you may also struggle to hire and retain the very best talent, both locally and globally. 61% of employees prefer working in a fully remote environment, so enforcing office attendance will reduce your talent pool significantly.
What’s more, core hours aren’t optimal for all types of workers. For example, caregivers may need extra flexibility to work around family responsibilities. In this case, core hours could curb productivity and retention rather than foster it.
Should Your Business Implement Core Hours?
When it comes to flexible working and core hours, there’s no single solution that suits everyone. You have to decide what works best for your workplace, team, and department.
For example, a hybrid team that predominantly works in and around a central office is entirely different from a fully remote team distributed across the globe. The former would likely benefit from core hours more than the latter.
The best way to understand your business and team needs is to analyze current and desired working styles, as well as their effectiveness. You could do this through an employee survey, asking rating scale questions such as these:
- I have access to the things I need to collaborate well with my colleagues.
- I have sufficient flexibility to suit my working style and needs.
- The number of days I work in the office is ideal for my work and my well-being.
- The amount of meetings I attend is beneficial for my productivity.
- I’m able to communicate effectively with colleagues or clients in other time zones.
- I believe core hours are right for the business.
You may also benefit from asking some open or multiple choice questions to gather general feedback, such as:
- What would help you collaborate better with your colleagues?
- Which tools would you recommend for enhanced remote collaboration?
Once you’ve gathered these answers, use the data to create charts and graphs to identify trends. This will help you determine how your team (or individual teams) work best overall, clarifying whether core hours are appropriate for your business or not. Ultimately, the key is to balance flexibility with logistics.
Your team may thrive on total flexibility, or they may need some more structure to perform optimally. There may also be differences from team to team. For example, your SDRs may thrive in a core hours structure while product marketers do better with a more flexible structure.
Globally distributed teams will likely benefit more from an asynchronous working style without formal core hours. By reducing unnecessary meetings and the expectation of instant communication, you can overcome time zone difficulties while increasing employee productivity, improving well-being and engagement, and creating a culture of trust.
We’ve written an article dedicated to asynchronous work, which outlines all the benefits, challenges, and top tips to help your teams work effectively.
At Omnipresent, we don’t have official core hours because our teams work from anywhere, across many different time zones. Instead, we’re responsible for setting our own schedules in a way that enhances our productivity as individuals and within our departments. While some of our colleagues choose to work standard working hours, others work more “irregularly.”
In general, we work asynchronously the majority of the time, using tools such as Notion and Loom to explain processes or Google Workspace to review and send documents internally.
However, we do sync up for important meetings, finding suitable times that work for everyone. This may mean working earlier some days and later other days to conduct synchronous meetings with colleagues on the other side of the world.
For us, collaboration and communication happen more organically and not at set times each day. That’s how we offer the highest levels of flexibility for our team - and it’s one of the qualities our colleagues enjoy the most about working at Omnipresent!
Read Our Full Report to Learn More About The “Work from Anywhere” Trend
We teamed up with relocation provider PerchPeek to find out how employers around the world are adopting “work from anywhere” policies. Our report reveals the challenges managers face when transitioning to new working styles and how they’re solving them.
In the report, we take a deep dive into:
- Remote and work-from-anywhere trends.
- The role of the office in the new world of work.
- Communication and collaboration in hybrid workplaces.
- Barriers and solutions to global employment.
- And more!