You are currently viewing Flexible working can dampen motivation

Flexible working can dampen motivation

Whether you’re balancing a day job with caregiving responsibilities, working on the side, or simply looking for more autonomy in your schedule, flexible working can be a boon for employees. However, recent research suggests it may also have a hidden cost: A series of studies of nearly 2,000 employees and students found that working non-standard hours significantly reduced people’s intrinsic motivation, making the less motivating and enjoyable work. The good news is that the authors also identified an effective intervention to enable workers to reap the benefits of flexible working without sacrificing their intrinsic motivation. By changing their mindsets to normalize working during traditionally non-working hours, employees and students were able to stay motivated even when working on weekends or holidays. Based on these findings, the authors recommend tactics like customizing your calendar view, installing an app to notify you when it’s time to work, or simply reminding you to focus on things. benefits of flexibility, to make working when you want it more enjoyable. even if it goes against the default social norms.

Flexible working is here to stay. A 2019 survey found that 80% of workers would prefer to work for a company that offers flexible working hours – and the pandemic has only intensified this trend, with employees in all sectors accepting the possibility of working when and where they want. This has been extremely beneficial for many people, especially those who balance work with care responsibilities, hustle and bustle, or even just a demanding personal life. However, our recent research suggests that in addition to the benefits, there may also be a hidden downside to flexible working.

Through a series of studies with nearly 2,000 employees and students in the United States and Europe, we found that working non-standard hours like weekends or holidays significantly reduced intrinsic motivation. people, making work less motivating and enjoyable. Why would a policy that seems so exciting to employees end up making them worse?

The answer lies in one of the most powerful psychological forces in our lives: social norms. Despite the growing acceptance of non-traditional work schedules, society continues to have clear standards that define when it’s — and isn’t — appropriate to work. The default 9 to 5 remains strongly ingrained in our culture: calendar apps gray out weekends and evenings, Google Doodles and other consumer products rebrand for the holidays, and many businesses and schools close weekends, evenings and holidays.

Admittedly, going against a norm can sometimes feel empowering. But it can also sap our motivation. In one of our experiments, we asked employees how they felt about their jobs first when they worked on a regular day and then a week later when they worked on a federal holiday. We found that motivation and enjoyment were significantly lower when employees worked on a public holiday, even though both days were Mondays and employees engaged in similar work-related activities.

The good news is that our research also identified a strategy that can help employees and students stay motivated when working outside of “regular” work hours: we found that by intentionally changing their mindset , people could maintain their motivation while enjoying a flexible schedule.

In a first experiment testing this idea, we asked full-time employees to imagine working on weekends. We told one group to think about how their time could have been better spent on non-work activities, like relaxing with friends or listening to music, while we told a second group to think about how they were making good use of their time by catching at work. A control group was simply instructed to think about how it would feel to work during this time, with no explicit prompting of the mindset.

While these differences may seem subtle, they had a major impact. Focusing on the benefits of working weekends helped employees in the second group normalize work during this non-standard working time, and as a result, this group said they would be on average 23% more interested and engaged in his work than the other two groups. Interestingly, the control group imagined that they would be just as demotivated as the first group, even though we did not prompt them to focus on the inconvenience of weekend work. This suggests that people’s natural tendency when working non-standard working hours is to think about how their time could have been better spent pursuing non-work activities, highlighting the power of our mind-shifting intervention.

In another experiment, we tested this intervention in a real environment, with students working in a campus library during spring break. We helped one group of college students reframe that time into standard work hours by getting them to think about how people often use spring break to get ahead or progress in their work, while getting another group to keep the default social norm by reflecting on how people usually use this time to have fun, relax and unwind. We then asked students how they felt about their work and found that those in the first group were 15% more intrinsically motivated to complete their work.

Importantly, while these experiences have allowed us to intentionally inspire people to change their mindset, our daily lives are full of subtle reminders of time-use norms that can have a substantial impact on this. how we feel about our work. For example, you may be planning to use a long flight to get some work done, but when you sit down and see a screen full of in-flight entertainment options, it can dampen your motivation to work. Similarly, you may have been delighted to take Friday off and work Sunday instead… but when you open your calendar and are reminded that you are working a weekend, it can be very demotivating and cause you to experience your work as less engaging. and fun than if you had worked on Friday. Recognizing these cues and proactively replacing them with prompts that help change the way you think about non-standard work schedules can help you stay motivated when working a non-traditional schedule.

Flexibility is a boon to the modern workplace, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of intrinsic motivation. When employees find their work motivating and enjoyable, they work harder, perform better, are more creative, and are more helpful and altruistic. They also report improved work-life balance and overall well-being.

To reap the benefits of flexible working without sacrificing your ability to stay motivated, try to find ways to proactively change your mindset (whether that’s customizing your calendar view, install an app to notify you when it’s time to work or just to remind you to focus on the benefits of flexibility). With the right mindset, it’s possible to have the schedule you want and love your job too.

Leave a Reply