7 flexible work schedules to become your best boss

As new research finds that a quarter of working adults want to be their own boss, we help remote workers plan their most productive work pattern for their day.

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We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

As workers embrace flexible working arrangements, new research has found that 24% of employees are “considering contracting or freelancing” in future.

Recruitment services firm Workwell surveyed 1,447 UK adults about their attitudes to flexible working. The results show that 55% of respondents think flexibility over how, when, and where they work will be a key career driver over the next few years.

UK employees have kept a tight hold on flexible working in 2023, even as employers attempted to entice them back to the office with both perks and threats. Now, it seems that many are taking up sole trading in an attempt to take full control over their working hours.

Waving goodbye to the traditional 9-5 work schedule can feel daunting, however. For workers unsure when to set their alarm clocks, we've compiled a list of top six flexible working schedules to help you determine your most productive time of the workday.

1. The Early Bird (starting at 6am)

The early bird catches the worm, as they say. If you’re a morning person who feels energised by waking up ahead of the rest of the world, you might work best at this time. Pros and cons of the Early Bird mindset include:

Pros
  • Fewer distractions and more focus in the quiet early hours
  • More time for personal tasks and hobbies in the afternoon
  • Starting the day with a sense of accomplishment
Cons
  • Reduced time for interaction or communication with UK clients
  • Pressure to adhere to an early start time can induce stress and anxiety
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, impairing cognitive function and alertness

2. The “if it ain't broker” (starting at 9am)

Most of the UK is working the traditional 9-5, so why not join them? Ideal for those business owners who suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), this tried and tested structure is great for those who need something familiar to ease themselves into the freelance lifestyle.

Pros
  • Ensures overlap with clients for improved communication
  • Aligns with key services like banks and customer support
  • Provides time for breaks, such as at lunchtime
Cons
  • No real change from traditional working patterns
  • Leaves little time for socialising, exercising, or hobbies
  • Creates commuting challenges if working in-office

3. The Nooner (starting at 12pm)

For those of us who are not part of the ‘rise and grind’ community the idea of a slow morning is particularly enticing. This schedule allows workers to benefit from a lie-in and have a few extra hours to invest in personal tasks and interests.

Pros
  • Getting more sleep can lead to improved cognitive function, alertness, and overall wellbeing
  • Ensures some overlap with clients for improved communication
Cons
  • Can be more difficult to coordinate work with partners/clients
  • May necessitate work later in the evening, which can disrupt your personal life

4. The Night Manager (starting at 4pm)

Some people find that they are more productive and focused later in the day. Starting work at 4pm can allow you to take advantage of your natural energy levels and get more done. It’s also a great option if you have kids or other, non-work commitments during the day.

Pros
  • Working into the evening leads to fewer distractions
  • Ideal for those working with international clients who may be online later
  • Offers time for personal pursuits and leisure activities during the day
Cons
  • Limits access to training sessions, conferences, or networking events
  • Working late into the evening can disrupt natural sleep patterns
  • Working remotely and during unsociable hours can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness

5. The Side Hustler (starting at 7pm)

Many people who choose to be their own boss will do so around an existing full-time job. When running a side hustle, it’s a good idea to put in a couple of hours at the end of your work shift – ensuring you put time aside to manage your business and enjoy a bit of R&R.

Pros
  • Late start can give parents more time to spend with kids at home
  • Balancing running your business around a full-time job promises dual income
Cons
  • Juggling a side hustle with a full-time job requires careful time management
  • May miss out on important information or client opportunities

6. The Four-day Weeker

An increasingly popular schedule is the four-day work week. During this work pattern, employees either do compressed hours (working an extra two hours across the remaining four days) or simply work fewer hours.

Pros
  • Returns valuable time for personal interests and socialising
  • More time to recharge leads to reduced stress and risk of burnout
  • Reduced commuting emissions and expenses, as employees avoid travelling to and from work
Cons
  • Requires careful planning, piloting, and client communication/buy-in to implement properly
  • Compressed work hours can lead to increased fatigue and stress
  • Reducing work hours could lead to reduced income and output

7. The Ultimate Flexer

Of course, the main benefit of flexible working is that you can pick and choose whenever you start your day. If your productivity tends to fluctuate based on your personal plans, you might decide to shift between Early Bird and Night Manager day-to-day.

Pros
  • Maximum flexibility when it comes to managing work-life balance
  • Workers can start and stop when they feel most or least productive
  • Improved work-life balance creates mental health and wellbeing benefits
Cons
  • Inconsistent schedules can make it harder for clients to tie down your availability, impacting collaboration
  • Inconsistent schedules can make it challenging to set, and stick to, work-life boundaries

Why employers should embrace flexible working

That such a high percentage of employees are considering leaving their jobs due to limited flexible working benefits should make employers sit up and listen.

Research by Culture Amp, an employee engagement provider, recently uncovered that 20% of workers in the UK are at high risk of leaving their jobs in the next 12 months – unless their employee experience improves.

The findings indicate a clear opportunity for progressive businesses to get ahead of the due exodus, by permitting employees to choose their own working patterns where possible.

Naturally a company-wide shift to a 6pm start will not be practical for most sectors. But hosting open conversations, where staff feel empowered to specify the flexible work schedule they would like to introduce, can still be impactful.

Allowing employees to begin work an hour later or earlier than their current start time could go a way towards encouraging greater employee engagement and enhanced productivity at work.

“In today’s environment of tightening budgets, most companies simply cannot afford to lose this proportion of talent, especially their high performing ones. ” says Jessica Brannigan, lead people scientist, Culture Amp.

“By providing open and honest communication, employers can provide the collaborative opportunities, transparency and trust that UK employees value to maintain high levels of engagement.”

Find out more about 50+ employee benefits and perks you can bring to your workforce to improve morale.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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