Flexible Working Arrangements – The Future of Work

Flexibility in the organisations is driven by many contributing internal and external components since it has got the popularity of linkage with good people management practices and better performance objectives. Flexible working has been achieving a greater pace in its development and wider usage in small businesses and MNC’s. The society in which we live has seen many radical changes in the last 2-3 decades and it certainly has its impact on the life style of people and the organisations they work (in context of technological and demographic factors). The demographical changes have a heavy influence on the size and composition of the work force the labor market now-a-days consist of an equal composition of male to female work force as opposed to earlier traditional workforce. The issue of women in the work force have become more pertinent due to the potential labor shortages in some sectors even with all the advancements in the modern society women always tend to be responsible for their family child care. The absence of flexible work option might become a barrier to work. The increasing numbers of women in the workforce is one of the top factors driving flexibility in organisations.

Flexible Working Arrangements

Women now a day are not restricted to secretarial or nursing jobs but they are equally ranked along with their counterparts such as politician’s engineers, lawyers or other management roles. Surprisingly they are even making their presence in blue collar jobs such as Bus drivers, Mail carriers and Police. Women are becoming permanent members of the workforce at all levels. Due to this pressures and expectations are mounting up requiring them to work more hours for them flexibility at work has been heralded a favorite strategy helping the men and women a better opportunity for child care.

Flexible working arrangements are not only meant for women. Another important factor pushing flexibility in the workplace is the role of fathers in child care. Men are seeking family friendly policies for a better balance and professional and family life and are looking forward to play a important role in caring for their children. Equalities and human rights commission states that almost half of fathers have some kind of flexible work option available although 30% are actually using them. Figures reveal that 91% of dads now take time off around their child birth and very much value their arrangement with the organisation.

Due to the advancements in medicine there has been a rise in ageing population. This has also led to the increase in the number of carers [parents/relatives etc]. Similar to the child care organisation have the need to extend certain kind of flexible working arrangements to carers. The statistics can be seen along with the child carers in the graphs. Another important factor acting as a driver of flexible working is “up skilling the workforce”. The employees realized the importance to up skill themselves in order to compete with the hyper active markets. So educational requirements has impacted the organisations need to provide options for their employees. Business school graduates are opting for a work-style to go with their life style driving the organisations to employ flexible working arrangements to retain the best.

Flexible working and Work-Life Balance

As the name suggests, work-life balance (WLB) in its broadest sense is defined as a satisfactory level of involvement or fit between multiple roles in a person’s life. Work life balance for any individual is having the ‘right’ combination of participation in paid work and other aspects of their lives. This combination will not always be constant. It changes according to the changing responsibilities and commitments in their work and family lives. Work-life balance policies helps the employees achieve a balance between work and family commitments. Now a days the Work life balance policies and practices are becoming increasingly important to both the employer and the employee. Due to its beneficial effects on the employee in terms of commitment, job satisfaction and low levels of stress in turn is having a positive effect on the employer. Even the legislation has been promoting Work-life balance policies and its uptake in the organisations.

Due to the changes in demography and the increase in dual career households, achieving a balance in becoming much more difficult especially with children. Despite the government campaigns (work-life balance campaign) and the working regulations in place from the last decade, achieving a desired balance is becoming tough in the house-hold, work place interface. Hence it is important for the employer to support Work life balance by adopting family friendly strategies and practices beneficial to the employees. Flexible working practices make up a majority of work-life balances policies. They include flexi-time, job share, work from home, term time hours, part time working employee support services such as crèche facilities, counselling etc. The levels of conflict between work and family will be moderated as a result of the support from the employers. These components work in various ways and positively affect job satisfaction and organisational commitment ultimately leading to employee retention and low levels of absenteeism thus supporting the business case. Decisions by either men/women to leave an organisation are heavily influenced by their concerns to work-life balance. Organisations supporting the employee’s family commitments reap benefits in terms of employee commitment and lower turnover rates. Employees who has been provided support from the management have fewer intentions of leaving the organisation and report greater satisfaction at work. A supportive work-family culture even helps the female employees to return to work more quickly after child’s birth.

Flexible Working: Impact on Recruitment and Retention of the Employees

Attracting motivating and retaining talented workforce is becoming important in the tight labor market. This is mainly due to the global convergence of technology and hyper-competition among the organisations. Strategies have been emerging accordingly to attract and retain the skilled workers to attain competitive advantage. Possessing these people management abilities in the organisation helps to cope up with the change in and around and stand out from the crowd making its steps towards organisational performance.

Recruitment is the process of finding and attracting individuals to fill the actual or anticipated job vacancies. Recruitment is another potential area which is impacted by the changing demographics of the work force. Organisations has the need to provide with what the employees need for broadening the labor pool and attract qualified and skillful workers who cannot work the traditional work schedule. There is a growing evidence that the skill shortages are mounting up every year and there is no measure to subside it in the foreseeable future. In the “war for talent” organisation need to be able to respond according to the cultural trends and provide the employees with flexible working practices they need to create a balance between work and family commitments. Responding to the demographic trends, there is even a need to engage and motivate mature age working which helps in the building of a diverse work force. A culture shift is needed so that the diverse and different patterns of work are equally valued and that too without the gender difference. Now a day the notion of working to live rather than living to work bureaucratically is gaining popularity. Realizing the importance of family friendly work-culture, legislation and benefits of flexible working strongly becoming a business case, the employees are changing their work environments supporting the employee family & professional commitments.

Subsequently the policies aiding in the Work-life balance of the employees are acting as recruiting initiatives. Flexible work schedules have been proved to be the chosen and most popular amongst the line managers. The employers who are considerate of the employees will be able to develop a sense of commitment in the employee minds boosting their motivational levels. Similar to the recruitment, flexible working options have has its impact on the turnover rate of the employees. Benefits of Flexible working arrangements in improved recruitment, retention, productivity, motivation and employee commitment. Other than the private surveys and individual surveys conducted by the organisational there is no signification research relating flexible working policies to the retention of the employee.

Employee retention can be defined as the effort by an employer to retain the desirable workers in order to meet its desired business objectives. It is beneficial to both the employer and the employees. In the perspective of the employee the balance between work and family puts him at a level of ease and increase his job satisfaction. Due to the advancements in technology individuals are able to work from any location at varied periods of time. Organisations are effectively at benefit due to the varied time zones due to the international markets and employees ready to work other than the core hours. From the employers perspective, it affects the firm’s reputation if the turnover rate is high and it will have a significant effect on the organisational overall purpose.(Even has a negative impact on recruitment). This is due to the soaring costs of the recruitment which include advertising, interviewing costs training costs as well as the use of physical resources in the recruitment process.

“one size fits all” approach no longer works. Employers other than facing constant turn over and unhappy employees should accommodate the needs of the people. An employee who has to choose between work and family may very well quit. In contrast employers can be effective in providing a work life a balance to its work force which improves the morale and produces loyal employees. Many firms are focusing on improving their HR strategies to flexible working especially for women to allow them to come back to work after their maternity leave. This is helping the organisation restore the employee’s talent to the firm. Devising a strategic pattern of work around the life style of employees gives them a feeling of empowerment and trust to manage their own work load in hours suitable to them. There are many multinational organisations that are successful in their own field that realize the importance of work-life balance to the employee and as well as the organisation and adopted multiple strategies according to their needs. Example: Dell UK has adopted and devised a strategy for implementing flexible working helping to achieve a diverse work force.

Barriers for the Introduction of Flexible Working in Organisations

Unlike the MNC’s, SME’s particularly lack the capacity to implement flexible working arrangements to their employee. Flexible working policies in smaller business are certainly at a disadvantage. The development of family friendly policies were often linked to suiting their business needs rather than the employees. Organisational culture definitely plays an important role in the development of flexible working policies which is lacking in SME’s. However organisational culture is not limited to SME’s but larger organisations also need to improve their work culture which supports the flexible work practices. HR personnel should develop strategies according to the needs of the employee and the organisation. The perception of achieving success working long hours should be shifted on the basis performance. Communication is an aspect to be worked upon when adopting flexible working arrangements as it plays an important role in the successful implementation.

Training programmes for the manager should be conducted to bridge the implementation gap between policy and practice. An effective communication strategy helps the isolated workers to be under the constant support of team members and colleagues. Awareness should be created to all the employees at all the levels about the flexible working policies and practices. In many organisations the type of job/work acts as barrier for flexible working. Some jobs acts as a barrier for flexible working as they require your physical presence at the organisation E.g.customer services, IT support, maintenance and repairs etc. But that kind of work can take advantage of shift systems. Another barrier for flexible working is perception of males who think that flexible working puts them at a disadvantage when compared to women in the work force. Despite the gender it is a common belief in the work force that taking advantage of the flexible working policies makes them lose their position at work or affects their development ladder in the organisation. One more consideration is the single or childless employee attitudes that the flexible working arrangements are unfair to them.

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