7 Smarter Ways to Use Your Flexible Hours (if You're Lucky Enough to Have 'Em)
So, you’re lucky enough to work at a company with flexible hours. That’s awesome! And yet, you still find yourself working the traditional hours and eating your lunch over your keyboard.
Sure, you may arrive a bit later on days you snooze your alarm one too many times or leave a bit early to get to a dinner with friends across town, but other than that, not much is different from a job in which you have stricter hours.
Not sure how to make the most out of this sweet perk? Here are some ways I’ve learned to take advantage of this benefit while still getting my work done, being a reliable colleague, and making my boss happy.
1. Get Your Sweat On
Maybe you’re not a morning person and you find it really hard to drag yourself out of bed to hit the gym. And by the time you get home, the last thing you want to do is fight for a treadmill with the rest of your neighborhood.
Instead of trying to force yourself to work out at one of these times, get your exercise in during the day. Step out of the office to go on a run, try out class that’s usually booked after work, or utilize some of these bodyweight exercises in a spare conference room. Need extra motivation? Grab a co-worker or two and make it a bonding activity.
Just keep in mind that while some offices are totally cool with the gym-clothes look, others aren’t. And no one’s cool sitting next to someone who smells. So don’t forget to pack a change of clothes, a towel, and deodorant. The soap from the dispenser in the communal bathroom doesn’t work (I’ve tried it).
2. Run Some Errands
Just as it’s hard to get some exercise in before or after “normal working hours,” it can be hard to run those pesky errands you need to get done. Especially if they’re errands that involve going to businesses with inconvenient hours, such as banks and pharmacies.
We all know how those tasks can pile up, weigh us down, and ruin our weekends. Being able to knock a few off your to-do list during the day will clear your mind, allow you to better focus on your projects at work, and help you to avoid being that person whisper-yelling into the phone in the corner of the office to your dentist who’s being rather difficult about billing.
Remember though: It’s really easy to get caught up browsing the clearance rack at Bed Bath & Beyond when you really just went to make a return. So make sure you’re sticking to your errands and not wasting your time.
3. Get Your Yearly Check-Up
How many times have you called the doctor to get an appointment and heard something along the lines of, “The next available appointment at the time you need is in eight weeks.” Eight weeks?
Early morning slots at physicians’ offices fill up quickly because everyone—and probably their mothers, too—are trying to get in before the workday starts. But if you have flexible hours, guess what—you can make those appointments at a less busy time of day and hopefully nab one that is much sooner.
Word from the wise: If your doctor’s office is notorious for making you wait (like more than 30 minutes after your appointment time), this may not work out in your best interest. You don’t want a quick check-up or question to turn from 20 minutes into two hours.
4. Take a Nap
Hopefully you’re already getting enough sleep at night, but even if you are, sometimes you need a nap. As Adrian Granzella Larssen, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Muse says, “Studies show that naps not only improve your feeling of sleepiness, they can boost your mood, enhance your analytical and learning abilities, and banish stress.”
If you’re working from home, this is easy to pull off. But if you’re not, try shutting your office door (if you have one) or reserving a spare conference room to grab a few moments of shut-eye. Emphasis on the word spare—nothing will upset your co-workers more than seeing you napping in a place they want to be holding an impromptu sales meeting.
Learn from my mistakes, though: If you’re really tired, your body may be tempted to fall into a sleep much deeper than you intended. Be sure to set an alarm that’ll wake you up, but not bother everyone on your floor. Imagine how awkward it would be if a co-worker barged in on you drooling on your Steno Pad.
5. Meet Up With a Friend
Fact: Keeping in touch with everyone you know is tough. I mean, how many happy hours can you go to in one week? (Even if you don’t mind hitting up the drink specials every night, your wallet—and your body—might.)
Schedule a morning outing with a friend and catch up on life before you head to the office. I recently set a regular coffee date with a former co-worker turned close pal and it’s something I look forward to every Tuesday AM. Or, if mornings are hard enough, try going for a leisurely lunch or late afternoon latte.
6. Catch Up on Some Reading
When I started a new job almost two years ago, my commute was cut in half. Though I love not having to deal with switching metro trains anymore, it also means my reading time is reduced, too. If I’m in the middle of a really good story, I’ll find time throughout the day to squeeze a chapter or two in.
If you hit a roadblock or need a break from hanging out in Excel all day, stick your nose in a book and catch up with the characters you’ve fallen in love with (or come to hate. Ahem, Voldemort). Or, if you struggle to put down a good book once you pick it up, scroll through Twitter, read a few articles, and treat yourself to a break.
7. Schedule Midday Travel
Travel can get expensive these days, especially during certain times of the day. Of course the flight you want to book is $100 more than the one an hour later. But with a flexible schedule, you may be able to work your way around this.
Choose the cheaper flight that gets you home a few hours later in the morning—or leaves a few hours earlier in the afternoon—and make up for those hours at a different part of the day.
An important note: While I fully endorse all of the above, that doesn’t mean your boss will. Even if flexible hours were a part of the deal when you said yes to the job, you’ll still want to be mindful of and respect your manager’s wishes. And you’ll also want to be courteous of your colleagues as well. Constantly stealing off in the middle of the day for hours at a time could hinder their productivity if they’re relying on you. And while you may know that reading for 30 minutes makes you more productive, they may find it annoying when they’re trying to wrap up a project that needs your input.
So, yes, you should get the most out of your flex hours, but make sure you’re still getting all of your work done and being a team player. But once you have those bases covered, go enjoy it! It may even make you like your job more.
Photo of yoga class courtesy of Shutterstock.
Abby works in health education and prevention at a university in Washington, DC. When she’s not trying to make the world a healthier place, you can find her taking selfies with her cat (Mildred Meow Meow), hunting down the city's best grilled cheese, or zipping through the city on her bike, named Libby. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author