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Want to Be a Better Leader? It May Be Time to Ditch the 40-Hour Workweek

It’s time for leadership to let go of the “traditional” workday schedule and offer “on-call” hours and work periods to allow employees to juggle their responsibilities without living in fear of losing their jobs.

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If you’re running a business, “good enough” is rarely, if ever, good enough. We should always be striving for better, and good leaders need to consistently take the pulse of their business to keep an eye on what’s working, what’s not, what to improve and what needs to completely change.

2020 has been the year of the pivot, and leaders have had to adjust on the fly. What if the changes made this year are for the better of the company? Leadership should consider whether the adjustments—which may have originally been viewed as temporary—should be made permanent, and who knows? Maybe the pandemic will change the workplace for good.

Workplace Rules Have Changed 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to embrace remote working. At the same time, remote work has changed priorities for employees, and leaders must embrace all of the ways that things have changed—especially the ways employees interact.

Gone are the days when you would have a meeting to discuss a meeting. Spending countless hours at home in front of a camera, watching your colleagues and trying to focus on the conversation and appear interested is exhausting. Zoom fatigue is real, and we need to move away from scheduling meetings to discuss things that could’ve been an email.

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The change in meeting best practices goes hand-in-hand with the end of the open-plan office space. Once a “must-have” for leaders who encouraged open employee collaboration, these layouts are not only unsafe due to how COVID spreads, but have also been shown to decrease productivity.

The 9-to-5 Is a Thing of the Past 

Take a moment to think about this: When was the last day you received an email from a coworker or a client that was sent before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.? My guess is that your answer was something along the lines of “when wasn’t there a day when I didn’t receive an email outside of those times.” And you’re not alone.

Email, cell phones, laptops and the internet allow us to be connected to our job any time of the day, any day of the week. So why do most employers still require employees to be present physically, or virtually, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday?

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It’s time for leadership to let go of the “traditional” workday schedule and offer “on-call” hours and work periods to allow employees to juggle their responsibilities without living in fear of losing their jobs because they had to help their child with a math problem at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday.

Employers who embrace this will become the employers of choice. A study by Buffer found that 99 percent of people would choose to work remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers if they could—99 percent! Remote work is no longer a “nice-to-have” perk. It’s a must-have.   

Communication is key

If you Google “qualities of a good leader” and browse through the first page or two of results, many list “communication” as one of the top leadership traits. Great communication skills are crucial to having satisfied, loyal employees and a successful business.

To develop a clear work plan that satisfies both the employer and the employees’ needs, leadership should clearly communicate expectations with employees. Before implementing a plan, ask employees to provide suggestions for the new work plan and feedback about the old. Listening is another high-ranking leadership quality.

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Once the plan is finalized, be open and honest about it. Chances are you won’t be able to incorporate every suggestion or address each piece of feedback you received when you develop the new plan. Take a moment to address why some things couldn’t be implemented. 

If you want to be a better leader, you need to cultivate trust with your employees. Adapting the workplace to the changing times, including new work plans, and thoroughly and thoughtfully communicating those plans is critical for leadership. Don’t be a bottleneck and learn to trust the people you hire to do their jobs. 

Rosanna Berardi is the managing partner of Berardi Immigration Law and the CEO of High Wire Woman, where she helps working women create a blueprint to live their lives in a simpler way and take back their most precious commodity: their time. She has been featured in the L.A. Times, Huffington Post, Forbes, Bustle and more.

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