Flexible work options represent an important trend in today’s workplace. Businesses are challenging their employees to do more with less and the employees are being pulled in many directions at once. Businesses are operating 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Despite the advancement in technology, people are working longer and longer hours. The high demand by organizations leaves less time for families to share quality time and adds a high amount of stress to individuals who are trying to balance their effectiveness at work, in the home and in the community. In today’s competitive work place employers must remain attuned to the needs of their work force.
Organizations can benefit from implementing alternative work arrangements. Examples of possible circumstances where employees may ask for an alternative work arrangement are: employees returning from maternity, paternity or adoptive leave, employees having to care for elderly relatives, employees who may, due to a disability, now wish to work on a part-time basis, employees returning to school, or employees who may wish to spend more time on leisure interests. Some of the widely used alternative work options that many organizations are engaging in to help employees manage their fast-paced, overloaded lives are: Flex Scheduling, Telecommuting and Job Sharing.
Those that do will have a distinct advantage. The reason is simple: it is very popular from the employee’s viewpoint. A recent survey showed that 78 percent of the respondents favored flexible work schedules so that they could spend more time with their families, even if it meant slower career advancement.
PRIMARY FLEXIBLE WORK PROGRAMS
Flexible work options represent an important trend in today’s workplace. Businesses are challenging their employees to do more with less and the employees are being pulled in many directions at once. The high demand by organizations leaves less time for families to share quality time and adds a high amount of stress to individuals who are trying to balance their effectiveness at work, in the home and in the community.
Organizations can benefit from implementing alternative work arrangements. Examples of possible circumstances where employees may ask for an alternative work arrangement are: employees returning from maternity, paternity or adoptive leave, employees having to care for elderly relatives, employees who may, due to a disability, now wish to work on a part-time basis, employees returning to school, or employees who may wish to spend more time on leisure interests.
The concept of flextime refers to a variety of flexible arrangements. Flexible work programs are work arrangements wherein employees are given greater scheduling freedom in how they fulfill the obligations of their positions. The most commonplace of these programs is flextime, which gives workers far greater leeway in terms of the time when they begin and end work, provided they put in the total number of hours required by the employer. Other common flexible working arrangements involve telecommuting, job-sharing, and compressed work weeks.
Supporters of flexible work programs hail them as important recognition of the difficulties that many employees have in balancing their family obligations and their work duties, and they note that such programs can make a company more attractive to prospective employees. Critics contend, however, that while flexible employment initiatives do attempt to redress some long-time inequities in the work life-family life balance, ill-considered plans can have a deleterious impact on a company.
Flexible work arrangements can take any number of forms, from basic flextime programs to innovative child-and eldercare programs.
Flextime—This is a system wherein employees choose their starting and quitting times from a range of available hours. These periods are usually at either end of a “core” time during which most company business takes place. Formerly regarded as a rare, cutting-edge workplace arrangement, flextime is now commonly practiced in a wide variety of industries.
Compressed Work Week—Under this arrangement, the standard work week is compressed into fewer than five days. The most common incarnation of the compressed work week is one of four 10-hour days. Other options include three 12-hour days or arrangements in which employees work 9-or 10-hour days over two weeks and are compensated with an extra day or two of time off during that time.
Flex place—This term encompasses various arrangements in which an employee works from home or some other non-office location. Telecommuting is the most commonly practiced example of this type of flexible employment, in which an employee works from a home office for a portion of or all of the workweek. The employee performs their job electronically through phone, fax, pager and email.
According to a survey released by Cahners In-Stat Group, “The number of U.S. telecommuters grew from roughly 19 million in 2000 to 32 million in 2001. Companies that have a telecommuting program in place include: Motorola, Ford Motor Company, Kraft General Foods, Levi-Strauss, American Airlines and Texas Instruments. There are only a few examples. The list currently contains hundreds of organization and continues to grow every year.
Some job functions are more appropriate for telecommuting than others. Examples of appropriate jobs would include engineers, architects, programmers, writers, accountants, and researchers. These types of job functions do not require daily face-to-face meetings or the use of special office equipment; therefore, it is easier for individuals in these types of jobs to spend most of their work time working from home or a virtual office.
Telecommuting can be used as a perk to attract and retain talented employees as well as attracting a wider range of workers that may not be able to commute to the office due to disabilities, geographical location, child care or other responsibilities. There are a few disadvantages for telecommuting, which include: telecommuters may have some fear of being left out and overlooked for promotions, and they miss the social aspects of being in the office.
Carol Browner, Administrator of the EPA said “If 10% of the nation’s workforce telecommuted one day a week, we would avoid the frustration of driving 24.4 million miles, we’d breathe air with 12,963 tons less air pollution and we’d conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel each week.”
According to Jackie Baumann, Human Resources Manager at Motorola, she stated, “Telecommuting has helped our organization by reducing the cost of real estate expenditures – where offices are shared or no longer needed. It has also increased productivity and employee satisfaction. People work smarter and sometimes even harder. Sales related workers spend less time in the office and more time with the customer.
Linda Hey, a Motorola employee that has been telecommuting for about a year now stated, “I enjoy the flexibility around when and how I get my work done. It is contributing to a better-balanced personal life, which makes for a happier employee. I am happier about the reduced commute time and I am able to spend more time working and less time commuting.”
Job Sharing—Under these arrangements, two people voluntarily share the duties and responsibilities of one full-time position, with both salary and benefits of that position prorated between the two individuals. The typical job-sharing arrangement consists of two individuals each working approximately on half of a week. There are many times when each person works slightly more than half of a full-time schedule in order to allow them some time together.
Job-sharing began in the mid 1960s. “In 1997, of 1,777,000 employees in job-shares, 89 percent were women.” (Brennan) It has allowed organization the opportunity to make part-time work more available by emphasizing that it is the employees who are part-time, not the job. Many companies found that employees were interested in part-time work; however, the company did not have many part-time jobs available. Job sharing was able to accommodate both the employee and the business.
There are three main types of job-share:
1. Shared responsibility – there is not division of responsibilities. The employees sharing the job are interchangeable.
2. Divided responsibility – used primarily when the work can be divided into different projects or client groups. Each employee is responsible for his or her own project or client.
3. Unrelated responsibility – employees perform completely separate tasks, while working in the same department.
Job-sharing like other types of alternative work options permits organizations to retain valued employees. It is useful in positions where turnover has been a problem and it helps improve coverage and continuity. It also increased the number of skills and experience in a single position.
For job-sharing to be affective, there must be trust between job sharers and managers, and dependability are the most important qualities of good job share situations.
Work Sharing—These programs are increasingly used by companies that wish to avoid layoffs. It allows businesses to temporarily reduce hours and salary for a portion of their workforce.
Expanded Leave—This option gives employees greater flexibility in terms of requesting extended periods of time away from work without losing their rights as employees. Expanded leave, which can be granted on either a paid or unpaid basis, is used for a variety of reasons, including sabbaticals, education, community service, family problems, and medical care (the latter two reasons are now largely covered by the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act).
Phased Retirement—Under these arrangements, the employee and employer agree to a schedule wherein the employee’s full-time work commitments are gradually reduced over a period of months or years.
Partial Retirement—These programs allow older employees to continue working on a part time basis, with no established end date.
Work and Family Programs—These programs are still relatively rare, although some larger companies have reported good results with pilot initiatives in this area. These programs are ones in which employers provide some degree of assistance to their employees in the realms of childcare and eldercare. The best-known of these programs are in-house facilities providing care for the children of employees, but even basic flex time programs can ease childcare logistics for employees. “Employers see that the availability, affordability, and accessability of good child care have a bottom line impact,” wrote Diane E. Kirrane in Association Management. “Lack of quality child care leads to employees’ absenteeism, tardiness, distraction, and stress-related health problems. Conversely, employees’ reliability, good morale, and motivation are positive results that derive from safe, stable, developmentally sound child care arrangements.”
As we have mentioned above, the most common type of flexible arrangement is flextime. Flex scheduling is an alternative work arrangement that allows an employee to work a non-traditional schedule to meet personal needs. The schedule is created and agreed on by an employee and their manager for a period of time. There are several variations of flextime arrangements for employees to participate in.
- Set starting and quitting times that are determined for a specific period of time.
- Starting and quitting times that can change on a daily basis.
- Variations in daily hours (for example, an employee may work a six-hour day and then work a ten-hour day), with required core time.”
- Variations in the daily hours per day, without required core time.”
Flextime arrangements were one of the first alternative work options available to employees. Flextime was first introduced inGermanyin 1967. (Olmsted & Smith, 16) “The Hewlett-Packard Company is generally credited with introducing flextime in theUnited States.” (Olmsted & Smith, 17).
Under flexitime, there is normally a core period of the day when employees must be at work (eg between 10 am and 4pm), whilst the rest of the working day is “flexitime”, in which staff can choose when they work, subject to achieving total daily, weekly or monthly hours. An employee must work between the basic core hours and has the flexibility to clock in / out between the other hours.
An example of a typical flextime day is below:
Begin work between 07.00 – 10.00 (flexitime)
Must be there between 10.00 – 12.00 (core time)
Lunch break between 12.00 – 14.00 (flexible lunch hour)
Must be there from 14.00 – 16.00 (core time)
Leave between 16.00 – 19.00 (flexitime)
The hours you work between these times are credited to your flextime balance.
Most schemes allow you a credit or debit margin, often of about 8 hours.
For example, if you work a 35-hour week, then, over four weeks, you will be obliged to work for 140 hours. If you work more than the required hours in those four weeks then you will be in credit. If you work fewer hours then you will be in deficit. If you exceed a stipulated credit level you might lose those extra hours you have worked, but if you go into excess deficit you might lose pay, have to use up annual leave to make the difference or be disciplined.
If you have enough flexi credit you can turn that into time off, and this is one of the best liked features. This could be one or maybe 2 days a month depending on your scheme.
Not all flextime involves working less time or different days. Sometimes employees can share the work. Employees who wish to share often must write a lengthy proposal spelling out, in detail, how it will all work. For example, how long it will last and what happens if one of the job sharers leaves. Such a document is a good planning tool for anyone wanting to share jobs. The key to making it work is good communication between partners who use phone calls, written updates, electronic mail and spiral-bound logs to keep up to date. Most companies normally pay these work sharers 120 percent of what one person would make in the job. Thus, a sharer gets about three-fifths of a regular salary plus some benefits.
ADVANTAGES OF FLEXTIME
Utlising a flextime policy in your organisation can benefit everyone involved, employers, employees and their families. Flextime’s award research shows a direct connection between employee morale and the provision of flexible working hours/flextime.
The study shows that when the organisation first recognises the work:life conflict that employees now have in a modern working environment and then shows it will make a crucial intervention so as to provide flexible working hours as a support mechanism for the employee – then the employee will “reciprocate” with a new and more positive attitude to work and to the workplace.
This reciprocation can be concious or otherwise. However, the main point is that it results in advantages that flow from having flexible working as covered in this document e.g. reduction in staff turnover, absenteeism, overtime.
The research also supports other general research that has been carried out on other Human Resource subjects, whereby it had been already well established that there is a connection between improved employee morale and reduced absence levels, better employee retention rates and also productivity. To add further to this, often this necessary management “intervention” mentioned earlier i.e. the provision of flexible hours, is most appreciated at a time of pressure, perhaps even crisis, in an employee’s life cycle e.g. when needing to care for small children or an elderly parent.
Therefore, unusually, for a Human Resources subject, flexible working hours can reach right into the employee’s home and homelife.
The study found that this is can explain why the benefits of such interventions can be felt even after that “pressured” part of that employee’s life, referred to above, has passed e.g. the child is older or the caring phase for a parent may have sadly passed. So, the initial gesture of having offered/implemeted flexible working can furthermore assist towards a more lasting workplace harmony. In other words, the employee’s positive perception, in this context, can be sustained.
In addition, the concept of work:life conflict is an issue for all people at work irrespective of their age group, their family commitments etc. So, for example, a younger or single person, will see the benefits of flexible working in his/her own way e.g. avoiding traffic, attending night courses more easily etc
So it is well known that in flextime there can be advantages for both employees and managers. From the employees’ viewpoint, it allows them the opportunity to adjust their work schedule to better suit them. After all, not all people work best on a traditional 8 to 5 schedule; everyone has heard of people describing themselves as “morning” people or “night” people. Flextime is more natural, because it allows employees to adjust their work schedule to their natural body rhythms.
Flextime makes it easier for employees to attend to personal matters, since many services are open primarily during the normal workday. Having some flexibility when one comes to work not only diminishes personal scheduling problems, it also diminishes other problems like traffic congestion. Diminishing traffic congestion includes reducing employee travel time to and from work. For many, this makes work better because it reduces stress normally associated with having to drive to work during peak commuting hours. If it is possible to eliminate some of the tension and anxiety that employees feel before and after they leave work, then chances are it will help increase their job satisfaction. Time not spent traveling can be spent at work or play. Part of flextime’s power is its ability to give employees a greater sense of personal responsibility, freedom and opportunity for participation in decision making. Deciding when to come and leave work is part of that decision making.
So far all the discussion has centered on employees, but they are not the only ones to reap the advantages of flextime. Managers also have some strong reasons to consider using flextime. Foremost among these advantages is improved employee morale. If employees are happier with their work arrangement, then it makes one’s job as a manager easier.
Happiness does not necessarily mean increased productivity. So what is flextime’s effect on productivity? We believe that flextime improves employees’ work performance. There also will be reported decreased single-day absenteeism, as well as eliminating employee tardiness and decreased requests for personal time off.
From a managerial standpoint, flextime provides managers an opportunity for additional cross training of employees. Since employees come and go at different times within the workday, it is sometimes necessary for employees to do several things, so they can cover for those who are not there. Cross training itself brings enormous advantages to a company, not the least of which is increased speed and flexibility.
It may be somewhat surprising, but flextime can also result in a decrease in overtime. The reason is that the organization is more flexible, because people work different lengths of time. Since employees work different schedules, it is quite likely that somebody will be available when extra work is needed, making it unnecessary to work overtime.
Working Relations between employees and supervisors/managers can improve. Flexible working can replace that old fashioned concept of what was is often referred to as “Face Management” i.e. the boss needs to see the employee at work to prove work is being performed. This is a cultural thing that can be overcome by organizations realizing that a more far sighted approach can be taken. Indeed if we can call Face Management an “old culture device”, it’s preservation can lead to all sorts of situations e.g. an employee can feel he/she has to stay late, irrespective of what is actually being achieved, just to impress a boss. In a modern working environment, employees can resent such an approach, often knowing themselves that by comparison flexible working, engenders a “task oriented” environment.
Arriving at Work at different times cuts down a lot of the general chit-chat about last nights TV programme or the latest news to hit the headlines. People come in at their own time and settle down to work quicker.
Communications actually improve because it becomes more concentrated as everyone outside and inside the organisation knows that all staff are available during core time.
Concentration may be difficult in a busy office, but during the flexible part of the day there are always quiet times when people can get down to doing a difficult job.
Uneven Workloads are much clearer to identify by the amount of hours worked by individuals. This enables alterations to be made or even promotions to be considered.
Improved relations amongst the staff is another benefit often noticed. People who are happy in their work are more reliable and productive and better relations between staff and management can only be beneficial.
The number of hours worked is the issue with FWH, not punctuality. The person who arrives late and leaves at the end of core time is merely credited with less hours. Much time is lost by lateness in companies working fixed hours.
Finally, one additional advantage of flextime involves employee maturity and control. This includes improved management of their time. Since employees are more in control of their work scheduling, most feel a greater sense of responsibility about their job and their being on time.
DISADVANTAGES OF FLEXTIME
Flexible work programs have many apparent advantages, but critics point out that ill-conceived programs can have a negative impact on businesses, and they add that even good programs often present challenges that a business has to address.
First of all, business owners and managers need to recognize that flexible work arrangements are not always appropriate for all people, jobs, or industries. Telecommuting and other “flexplace” arrangements, for example, can be disastrous (or at the very least a productivity drain) if used by employees who are unwilling or unable to put in a full day of work amid the non-work temptations (television, pleasure reading, housecleaning, etc.) of a home setting. Other companies, meanwhile, find that employees “flex” in and out of the business at such different hours that overhead costs increase, customer service suffers (i.e., no one comes in until 9:30 a.m., a state of affairs that forces customers and vendors to cool their heels until then), and manufacturing output suffers. This latter factor makes flex time a difficult fit for many manufacturing facilities. “Many of the factory operations depend on each other being there,” said human resources consulting executive Terry McGeorge in an interview with The Milwaukee Business Journal. “Especially when you talk about the concept of work-cell team manufacturing, they really all have to be there at the same time.”
Critics also contend that flex programs often leave managers in exceedingly difficult situations. “Far too often, flex is embraced … for its ‘family-friendly’ aspects long before the corporate support needed to manage it takes root,” wroteMarthaH.Peakin Management Review. “In these companies, flex policies are outlined in the employee manual but implementation is left up to individual managers. Then, when managers try to implement these programs, they discover that to be fair, flex requires them to treat different employees differently.”
Other disadvantages might be that those who cannot participate in flextime can become dissatisfied. Although such disadvantages cannot always be eliminated, they can be reduced by good planning on the part of management and good preparation of the work force.
Finally, many observers argue that businesses launch flexible work plans without adequate preparation. “I know that flex is a basic element of family-friendly and that family-friendly is a requisite for competitive companies,” stated Peak. “But it takes more than a statement in the policy manual to institutionalize flex. It takes new methodologies to measure job success and investment in technologies to keep employees in constant communication.”
INSTITUTING A FLEXIBLE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Business experts and companies that have instituted flexible work programs offer a variety of recommendations to businesses that are pondering a move to a “flex” environment.
RESEARCH Research the pros and cons of instituting a flexible work program in your company. Every company’s needs and operating environment is different; just because a flex program worked for a neighboring business, that does not necessarily mean that it will work for your company. Conversely, a program that fails in another firm may work in yours. Detailed research into the needs and pressures of both the operations and the employees of each business, then, is a necessary component of any decision. So is an honest assessment of the qualities of the business’s work force. Obviously, a company that is blessed with a work force of dedicated and conscientious employees is far more likely to be productive in a flex environment than is one that is saddled with a heavy sprinkling of unmotivated employees. Kirane recommended that businesses “assess current work-home issues affecting the [company] and its staff. If feasible, also assess the future needs of the work force and labor pool. Defuse concerns about invasion of privacy. Structure a needs assessment survey—for example, as a checklist that doesn’t require respondents to show their handwriting or give their names. Or, within guidelines related to business needs, allow staffers to propose flexible arrangements for themselves.”
GUIDELINES Create guidelines and systems of flex program administration that: 1) address all business needs, and 2) stand up to tests of fairness and comprehensiveness. Barney Olmstead and Suzanne Smith, co-authors of the book Creating a Flexible Workplace: How to Select and Manage Alternative Work Options, recommended that the creation process include steps to ensure that new policies are compatible with existing company objectives. They also noted that such issues as eligibility, application processes, reversibility, and changes to employee status should be plainly addressed. Finally, companies should formalize guidelines to head off complaints about favoritism or unfair treatment. “Partly to avoid polarizing staffers who have school-aged children and those who don’t, more general terms (such as work-life and flexible work arrangements) are gaining favor,” noted Kirrane. “In the workplace there is concern about equity.”
TRAINING Employees should be educated about policies and feel comfortable using them. This can only happen, stated Olmstead and Smith, if the company actively promotes the program. Employees need to know that participation in such initiatives will not hurt their career. Indeed, HRMagazine noted that a mid-990s report by the Catalyst research organization indicated that this can be a significant deterrent: “Many of the options for flexible scheduling are perceived as being bad for one’s career by management and by co-workers who have more traditional working arrangements. A job-share partner or part-time employee cannot be as committed, the thinking goes. A positive experience with less than full-time work depends on the cultural values of the employee’s organization. In some organizations, people who have taken less traditional schedules have been perceived as committing career suicide.”
Employees are not the only workers who need to be reassured. Companies instituting flex work plans must also develop resource materials and training programs for managers. In fact, in many respects, managers of personnel and projects are the people who must make the biggest adjustment to a flexible work environment. “Workplace flexibility requires managers to develop a new set of skills,” wrote Sheley. “Managers used to manage by sight, and defined work by hours on site. If a worker was in the office for eight hours, the boss assumed that person did eight hours of work.” With flex time and other developments, however, managers need to develop new skills that emphasize work flow and productivity. “Managers may need to learn about new thinking on employee motivation and performance standards,” wrote Kirrane. “Employees may need to be cross-trained for greater flexibility in assignments.”
CONTROL Ultimately, a flexible work program is only worth keeping if it benefits your company’s financial, strategic, and production goals. A key to making sure that those needs are met is to maintain control of the program. Employees and work teams can be very helpful in shaping flexible work guidelines, but business owners and managers should be wary of handing over too much control. Indeed, they need to make sure that business considerations remain paramount in any discussion of flex time and other options, and that ultimate control over flexible work programs rests with them. Dysfunctional work teams, for example, will reduce flex time to a shambles if they are left to institute and supervise it themselves.
EVALUATION Businesses should evaluate their flex work programs on a regular basis. Too many businesses introduce workplace flexibility programs that are flawed, but rather than review the program and make the necessary corrections, they throw up their arms and ask their personnel (managers and eligible employees alike) to reshape their responsibilities, priorities, and planning to match the flawed program. Other companies, meanwhile, launch good programs that lose their effectiveness over time because of neglect. Instead, business managers and owners need to practice continuous improvement in their workplace flexibility programs, just as they do in other aspects of their operations. “Fine-tune the program,” wrote Sheley. “The evaluation process will provide at least some of the information necessary to make the adjustments that will make a workplace flexibility program of optimum benefit to both the company and its employees.”
A company’s decision to implement flextime should be based on whether it allows a chance to adapt to changing life styles and employee needs. It probably will be welcomed by those employees who have two-income families and others that need the additional flexibility that flextime provides. Some say the only reason it is suspected is that men do not use it. For example, only 2 percent of eligible men have used unpaid parental leaves but, increasingly, even they are starting to change. Flextime often produces improved productivity and employee morale, but only if it is properly managed. It is important for a manager, who wishes to use some form of flextime, to negotiate a clearly defined set of responsibilities rather than simply fix the days or hours when he or she will work. Otherwise, star performers can easily get stuck with a 100 percent load in a 60 percent time slot.
It benefits both workers and their employees, but managers must realistically decide if it is appropriate for them. The ability to implement flextime is, in large part, dependent on an employees’ ability to be self-managed, as well as the preparation and training available. Flextime shifts the responsibility more toward employees and, obviously, it depends on each employee’s dependability, flexibility and accountability. Yet, when implemented correctly, flextime can be a positive way to enhance employee relations and increase an employee’s value to the company.
InArmeniaflextime is not so popular and using that will bring a lot of benefits for both managers and workers, and basically it will help full time students to get jobs. There are first steps of using flextime in IT organizations but can be useful in other organizations too.