The concept of “chronoworking” is an emerging flexibility trend that can help with employee engagement and productivity, as well as attraction and retention.

Similar to autonomous working, chronoworking tailors an individual’s work schedule around their circadian rhythm and optimum times of productivity. In 2021, the Alberta Investment Management Corporation implemented its own results-oriented, flexible working policy that allows employees to work when and where they want.

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“I think we all recognize some people like to get up early and work, [while] some prefer to work more in the afternoon,” says Krista Pell, chief people, culture and engagement officer at the AIMCo. “I also think with the complexity of families and other obligations, creating their own hours allows people to be more productive, which leads to efficiency. There are some exceptions where it isn’t always optimal, but we operate in global time zones and it really helps in that sense.” 

Indeed, David Krieger, regional vice-president of benefits consulting at BFL Canada, says people are wired to be more effective at certain times than others, so if they’re able to work during those preferred times they’ll likely be more efficient. Following one’s natural schedule can also improve their energy and their mood, which spills over to their productivity.

Pell notes autonomous working has been a positive offering not only for internal employees, but for prospective employees as well. “[Though it might sound like] it’s appealing to younger workers, we’ve found it’s preferred by all generations. If we look at recent graduates, they probably have the most flexibility — more than those who have families or are far into their career. So the attraction has been massive for all ages, particularly in our largest urban areas where other organizations are mandating a return [to] office.”

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While chronoworking can have many possible benefits for a company, Krieger says right now employers are still dealing with the challenges of remote work, so the trend may take some time to pick up. But he adds that this trend wouldn’t work for some employers because of the nature of the work and the need for some employees to adhere to a fixed schedule.

If employers decide to try autonomous working it’s important to consider what the best time is for collaboration, notes Pell, adding everyone has to be on the same page with their timing. This concept is in pursuit of doing the best work while delivering the same results, which means adjusting to other people’s schedules as well.

“For many of us there are times in our careers where we need to be somewhere else or helping our family, [but if we’re not afforded that chance] it’s difficult to be our best selves. We want people to be able to be their best selves and do their best work, and the attraction and retention related to having that flexibility is massive for everyone.”

Read: Employers contending with impacts of triple-peak work hours amid rise in flexible working