Commitment, Working Hours and Flexibility

The topic of commitment, working hours and flexibility includes the process of how working hours are set, what commitment a person is expected to provide and how organizations respond to changing demands.

A New Perspective

Working Hours

In traditional hierarchies, working hours are specified in an employment contract. There is often an underlying fear that people will not work the hours they are paid for without monitoring, especially at the lower levels in an organization.

When people have the freedom to choose and agree their own working hours, an environment of trust is created that motivates people to be fully responsible for their work.

When an organization isn’t ready for self-management, self-set working hours can be a good first step. This approach starts to build greater trust and collaboration between boss and subordinate when it works well.


When colleagues work in a culture where it is normal and necessary to share other commitments in their lives, authenticity and being whole at work are embraced. Openness about personal commitments can develop stronger relationships amongst colleagues and result in a culture where colleagues support each other.

In times of need or crisis, for example in high season, it is common in Teal organizations for workers, to voluntarily work longer hours to complete a task with motivation and pride, supporting their colleagues and working towards the purpose of the organization. Every historical stage has given birth to a distinct perspective on commitment, working hours and flexibility, and to very different practices:

Red organizations

In Red organizations, the boss determines working hours for each person. There is no formal process of setting and/or monitoring working hours. People belong to the organization and are expected to be available when needed.

Amber organizations

In Amber Organizations, working hours are determined by senior leaders and specified in an employment contract. They decide what work is to be carried out and how working hours will be monitored.

Orange organizations

In Orange organizations, people generally fall into one of two camps. There are those (often in manual roles) who work a fixed set of hours clocking in and clocking out, and those (often in management positions), who are expected to get their work done regardless of the hours stated in their contract.

Green organizations

In Green organizations, there is typically a culture of co-operation where people are empowered to work the hours they choose albeit within a defined structure. Flex-time is often used for lower-level workers in order to allow people to fit work in with the rest of their life. Working from home is a realistic option for those whose role allows it.

Teal organizations

On the surface, Teal organizations may not look so different from Green ones relative to commitment, working hours and flexibility. The difference is in maturity and coherence. Whereas a Green organization might make the practices outlines above available to specific populations, a Teal organization would make these practices widely available as a normal part of the way they operate.

Teal organizations often exhibit the following general measures:

  • Working hours are not controlled or decided by anyone
  • People are trusted to set their own goals and work until they reach them.
  • There is a shared understanding that at times, individuals may need to vary their commitment to work. These situations are shared and openly discussed so that the task in hand can be completed with everyone’s support.

In Practice

Teal organizations start from the premise that even for routine work, people have a sense of pride and want to do a good job. People are systematically considered to be reliable, self-motivated, trustworthy and intelligent.


In most traditional organizations, there is an unspoken assumption that people in managerial positions should put their commitment to work above any other commitment in their lives. Few colleagues would cancel an important meeting for their child’s school play or because a good friend needs help. In self-managing organizations, speaking up about other important commitments in one's life is considered necessary to be authentic and whole at work. There is no need for the pretence that work will always come first. Teal organizations hold meetings at regular intervals in which colleagues can discuss how much time and energy, at that moment in their lives, they want to commit to the organization. Because colleagues discuss their other commitments openly, solutions can be found to provide support and get the task done.

Working hours/flex-time

In Teal organizations people are trusted to work the hours they need to achieve their own goals. There is no requirement for monitoring of working hours, or clocking in and out, or flex-time. In some Teal organizations such as FAVI and Sun Hydraulics, the working day is still divided into shifts, which is roughly the time colleagues are expected to spend on the shop floor, but it is not uncommon to see an operator stay on during the following shift to finish a job because he/she knows it needs to be done.

In times of need

Balancing the needs of the individual with those of the organization is not always easy. For example, Morning Star has a high season for tomato processing when all hands need to be on deck. If someone wants to reduce their working hours during very busy times, they are expected to find a solution to uphold the commitments they have made. This expectation is the flip side of having no HR or planning function. An individual cannot simply file a request and let someone else worry about solving this issue. He/she has full liberty to find a solution, but until they have found one, they are bound to their previous commitments.

Working hours and Teal in the future

In the future, it is likely that the more people commit to ‘personal purpose’ in their lives, the more flexible their arrangements with the organization will be. Accommodating personal commitments to self-employment, part time work, or volunteering work will be normal. There will be no need for approval. A person will simply find a way to meet or transfer his/her commitments to another colleague and/or explore with colleagues what new roles and commitments he/she could take on that would add value to the organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

The regular meeting held to share personal commitments provides the forum for this to be aired with colleagues. If someone wants to reduce their working hours they are expected to find a solution to uphold the commitments they have made. He/she has full liberty to find a solution, but until they have found one, they are bound to their previous commitments. If a colleague continually needs to work fewer hours over a longer period of time, then this may well be raised by that person or other colleagues as part of a regular peer-based compensation and self-set salary process.

Concrete cases for inspiration

Related Topics

    Notes and references