Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How to Say Goodbye to the 9 to 5 Without Losing Productivity

Life is far from predictable, so why do we think the workday should be?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The past year exploded the concept of a set work schedule. Life is far from predictable, so why do we think the workday should be? Many professionals today wear multiple hats. That means juggling Zoom calls with endless requests for PB&J sandwiches from hungry kids, keeping the dog from barking or cat off the keyboard, and managing home renovations — all while converting a bedroom closet into an office.

At BasicOps, our team members begin their workday when it makes sense for them — barring a morning meeting or an impending deadline — and likewise, they finish when it makes sense for them. If they need to pick their kids up from daycare late afternoon and get back online to finish something in the evening, so be it.

Flexibility in the workplace has gotten a lot of press over the last year, but it's a relatively new concept and one that is already having a profound impact on the way we work. As an employer, it's our job to set our teams up for success by taking advantage of project workflow applications or scheduling regular check-ins with staff, both of which can help maintain accountability without losing momentum.

Let's dive into all the ways you can ditch set work hours without compromising and output.

Establish crossover hours

Productivity is a two-way street, and managers may feel less productive juggling employees who all have their own schedules. One possible solution: Try allocating one or two hours per day where everyone is "on." This will allow employees to start a bit later and finish later if need be, while ensuring that collaborative processes such as meetings can happen daily.

For example, if you run a remote team, you can ask everyone to be at their computers between noon and 2 p.m. each day. Schedule important meetings during this timeframe, and create opportunities for your team to collaborate in various ways, whether it's for one-on-one check-ins, brainstorming or presentations from project leads. Setting time frame expectations will help establish a routine — this is especially helpful if your team can feel loosely connected at times.

One significant upside of this option is it honors your employees' circadian rhythms. Some of our best problem-solving and memory-enhancing processes happen during the "theta state" when you're just nodding off, making it vital to respect your workers' natural sleeping patterns. Not only will they show up more rested and energetic, but your company will also benefit from enhanced productivity.

Related: The Best Coffee to Kickstart Your Workday

Embrace workflow apps

Whether you love them or hate them, workflow apps such as Slack and Trello have taken center stage during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, they offered a handy collaboration method for remote teams. But now, they have taken center stage as virtually all companies adapt to remote work and employees clocking in and out at their convenience.

There are plenty of advantages to using workflow apps: From seamless chat functions to project timelines and video conferencing, applications can help anchor your company's project goals in the cloud and up your collaboration game. Embracing this workflow method will make the difference between floundering in the remote-working abyss or thriving in a virtual workplace.

It's far easier to bid farewell to the nine to five if there's a cloud-based office to keep everyone on task. Make it a priority for your company to find an application that suits your style, whether it's a highly visual app or a project-focused software.

Related: How to Create a Workflow That'll Get Employees to Reach Your Business Goals

Promote trust

There's something solid, almost timeless about the nine to five. Its origins date back to the 1920s, when the Ford Motor Company issued the famed 40-hour workweek. The Fair Labor Standards Act helped solidify the standard workweek, and the 8-hour workday has persisted for the past century.

While the nine to five helped establish workers' rights when it wasn't unusual to put in 16-hour stints at work, times have changed. It's time for today's employers to let go of the notion that the eight-hour workday is the only way. Forward-thinking companies need to transition to an output-based model, in which workers are held accountable for their responsibilities, rather than time on the clock.

Trust is a vital component of the departure from the nine to five. Managers and supervisors need to establish systems that promote autonomy and self-motivated working styles. This is a far cry from micromanaging — instead, it's transitioning to a workplace policy full of check-ins, self-assessments and project management that values independence.

As you let go of the nine to five, meet with your management teams to create a framework that's flexible, but consistent with fair expectations and goals. It's also a good time to start evaluating and implementing new digital communications and productivity platforms to keep everyone on the same page when it comes to what needs to be done and where projects stand. As employers, we need to embody a new mantra: Work when you feel most effective and inspired. Not only will your team start producing more quality work, but you'll also have a happier, more creative workplace.

Related: Workflows Are the Future of Automation

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks