From quiet quitting to chronoworking: The latest viral trend sweeping the corporate world

The newest trend hitting the workplace could be a game-change. Picture: Fauxels/Pexels

The newest trend hitting the workplace could be a game-change. Picture: Fauxels/Pexels

Published Apr 25, 2024


The newest trend hitting the workplace could be a game-changer.

Unlike past trends that often cast a shadow over the working world, such as "resenteeism", "bare-minimum Mondays" and "quiet quitting", there's a fresh concept on the rise known as "chronoworking".

Experts believe this approach could bring positive changes for both employees and employers if applied thoughtfully.

What sets chronoworking apart is its flexibility, allowing employees to tailor their work schedules to fit their natural sleep cycles or "chronotypes".

This idea, introduced by journalist Ellen C Scott, moves away from the traditional 9-to-5, letting individuals work when they feel most alert and productive.

What exactly is a chronotype?

It's the personal rhythm that dictates when you're naturally more awake or sleepy throughout the day.

Imagine how some people are night owls, staying active and alert late into the night, while others are early birds who rise and shine with the dawn.

By aligning work schedules with an employee's circadian rhythm, or their natural wake-sleep cycle, chronoworking aims to boost motivation, job satisfaction, and overall well-being.

It could help reduce the stress and exhaustion many feel trying to conform to standard work hours.

Chronoworking offers a personalised approach to the workday, promising potential benefits for stress reduction, work-life balance and even company performance, by embracing the natural rhythms of its employees.

This move isn't just about keeping workers happy; it's a smart business strategy. Picture: Fauxels/Pexels

As the world shifts towards more flexible work environments post-Covid-19, employees are seeking schedules that match their natural energy peaks.

The appeal of chronoworking is growing, with workers urging companies to reconsider traditional 9-to-5 set-ups for better productivity.

One expert on the trend, Dr Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert, told the BBC that people have different "chronotypes" or times of the day when they're most productive.

Despite this, most workplaces still adhere to the 9-to-5 routine, which doesn't fit everyone's productivity peak times, he said.

For example, Breus’s research indicates that 55% of people work best from mid-morning to early afternoon, while 15% thrive early in the morning or late at night. Another 10% have fluctuating energy levels throughout the day.

Yet, a survey of nearly 1 500 American workers found that 94% are required to work outside their optimal hours, affecting their job performance.

To cope, many resort to naps, caffeine, or stress-management practices during work.

Recognising the benefits of employee well-being and satisfaction, companies are now considering more flexible scheduling.

This move isn't just about keeping workers happy; it's a smart business strategy. "Happy and content employees are more productive, which directly benefits the company," an HR expert declared.

The concept of chronoworking, or letting employees work according to their natural rhythms, has gained traction in the wake of the pandemic's push towards remote and flexible work arrangements.

Despite its benefits, the approach is far from being universally adopted, with many businesses still considering it too unconventional or outright impractical for their operations.

This includes sectors like retail and finance, where customer interactions and market hours dictate a more traditional schedule.

Nonetheless, firms with the flexibility to sidestep these limitations, especially those with employees spread across the globe, are beginning to embrace chronoworking.

But this new way of organising work is not without its hurdles. Some businesses can't afford the flexibility due to tight deadlines and fixed operating hours.

Moreover, an individual's circumstances may not align with their preferred working hours, complicating the matter further.

Experts caution about the logistical challenges that come with chronoworking. While it offers employees the freedom to work outside of the conventional 9-to-5, the need for "crossover hours" remains crucial for collaboration and maintaining team coherence.

Managers, in particular, may find it challenging to track productivity and provide support across differing schedules.

However, several companies are finding innovative solutions to these challenges. For instance, some companies mandate that all team members be available online during “core hours” from 11am to 3pm, facilitating collective work efforts.

Other firms have turned to technology, recording meetings so absent team members can stay informed, thus bridging the gap created by asynchronous work schedules.

This shows a potential path forward for organisations looking to adopt chronoworking while mitigating its challenges.