Importance of Work-Life Flexibility

Over the past decade, the phrase work-life balance has been commonplace but in recent years, the term workplace flexibility has been gaining more popularity. Work-life flexibility is becoming more and more common these days as some employees, especially millennials and other younger workers, prefer work-life flexibility and not work-life balance. Work-life balance basically implies that staff members should not be totally consumed by work responsibilities. Business organizations that have adopted this workplace ideal tend to have generous, albeit still clear, vacation policies. Such companies encourage their staff members to work the normal 9-5 work schedule with very little flexibility. In addition, they discourage workaholics. On the other hand, work-life flexibility entails providing employees with flexible work arrangements or flexible schedules that allow them to have some flexibility so that they can easily manage the increasing overlap of life and work. With work-life flexibility, employees would be able to have flexible work arrangements and have more control over how, where and when they work. Thanks to the increasing popularity of work-life flexibility, it is very likely that it will replace work-life balance as more and more companies would be seeking to offer their employees more flexible work schedules so that they can better manage their personal responsibilities and work responsibilities.

Importance of Work-Life Flexibility

Implications of Work-Life Flexibility for Employees

The employees will have some control over their everyday schedule. One major implication for employees when companies replace work-life balance with work-life flexibility is the fact that an employee would have some control over his/her day-to-day work schedule. For example, when the company allows the employees flexi time or flexible work schedules, the employee would have control of when to begin his work and when to complete it. The employees would also have some control over the planning over their personal and/or family needs.

The second implication for employees is that they would learn new skills. Through work-life flexibility, an employee would be able to acquire new crucial skills. One important skill they will learn is adaptability, which entails adapting successfully to the changing environments and situations. With this skill, an employee would be able to effectively work under various work-life flexibility options such as job sharing, telecommuting, working part-time, flex-time, and compressed workweek. The other vital skill the employee will learn is good communication. Since the employee may telecommute or telework as part of his/her work-life flexibility arrangement, it would be vital for the employee to communicate effectively with colleagues, customers, supervisors and the managers through the use of various platforms such as skype, email, phone, and fax. Another new skill the employee would learn is outstanding time management. Considering that the employee would have control of when to start and complete work tasks, it would be important for them to manage their time well so that they deliver their work on time. Delivering work before the deadline calls for outstanding time management on the part of the employee who has been offered flexible work schedule.

The third implication for employees is different ways of working. When companies in the future replace work-life balance with work-life flexibility, the employees would be provided with a number of flexible work arrangements that would certainly change how, when and where they perform their work tasks. For example, the employees may engage in teleworking whereby they would frequently carry out their job tasks at a remote worksite like a business center, library or home for a defined period of the workweek, for instance for 3 days. Another flexible arrangement is flextime, refers to an arrangement which enables employees to alter the beginning and/or ending time of their workday. Put simply, the employee would be able to decide when to work. Even so, the employee would still work the same number of scheduled hours as they would work under the conventional work schedule.

Furthermore, the employee would be able to work annualized hours. This means that the number of hours which the employee has performed his/her job for the company are worked out over a year. Also, the employees would be able to work compressed hours, in which the employee works his/her agreed number of hours over fewer number of days. The employee, for example, performs a job of 14 days over a period of just 9 days. Equally important, the employee would be able to work differently by working staggered hours, which basically means that there would be different starting time, different break times, and different finishing times for staff members who work within the same workplace in the company. Additionally, employees would be able to engage in home working whereby an employee is allowed by the company to work from his/her home. The types of jobs tasks that the employee can do from home would first need to be defined and agreed upon between the employee and the employer. Moreover, the employee will be able to engage in job sharing at the place of work. Job sharing essentially entails sharing a job that is designed for a single employee with two or more employees.

The other implication for employees is that their productivity will improve. Work-life flexibility will increase employee job satisfaction, improve employee engagement, improvement employee morale, increase commitment and motivation, as well as decrease levels of sickness absence. All these would in turn result in increased employee productivity. HR have reported that staff members generally experience less stress, are healthier, and are more engaged and productive when they can make decisions with regard to when, where and how they work.

Implications of Work-Life Flexibility for Management

The HR departments will need to train employees on work-life flexibility. There is a lot that employees have to learn about flexibility through training, for example they can be trained on how to communicate with their co-workers effectively when teleworking or telecommuting. Since every employee would be operating from different locations and on dissimilar work schedules, it is important that each employee knows their co-workers’ patterns and how best to reach them. As part of work-life flexibility, the employees may engage in teleworking. As such, it is important for the HR department to train the employees on the communication media to use when teleworking, for instance Skype for Business, Adobe Connect, and GoToMeeting. Furthermore, the HR department will have to train the employees on how to make work-life flexibility happen. An employee needs to figure out what job tasks have to be carried out at the corporate offices and what tasks to complete at home, and how to effectively utilize work-life flexibility. The HR personnel need to discuss these issues with the employees and provide necessary training to the workers in relation to these issues.

The second implication for HRM is that the head of the HR department will have to make changes to how employees work. The human resources personnel will have to make changes to how, when and where an employee would work in order to better meet both business needs and employee’s needs. In essence, the head of the HR department would have to make necessary changes to the manner/how, location/where, and time/when in which a worker works. It is notable this arrangement has to be mutually beneficial to the worker and the company and lead to superior outcomes.

Thirdly, the HR will have to give staff members some control over where and when they work. The HR personnel should also provide the company employees with managerial support for their family and work lives. Moreover, the head of the HR department should not make it a one-size-fits-all type of flexibility, but he or she should instead allow for customization of the flexibility in order to better fit the individual needs of each employee in the company.

Fourthly, HR departments will need to provide work-life flexibility arrangements. There is an extensive range of flexible work arrangements that the head of the HR department can provide to the employees. These include the following: first is to allow employees to do part-time work. The employees who work on part-time basis have predictable work hours every week but fewer compared to the work hours of full-time staffs. In essence, part-time employees have the same entitlements as their full-time co-workers, for instance sick leave and recreation, although on a pro rata basis. Many employees may decide to start working part-time jobs so that they may be able to have more control not just over their work, but also over their personal lives.

Flexi-time is another flexible work arrangement and entails the HR manager offering the employees flexible working hours. The individual works his/her normal number of hours but vary when he/she begins the work and finishes it. A company can provide flex schedules that allows for workers to leave work early so that they can attend to their family obligations and arrive later so that less amount of time is actually spent by the employee commuting in peak hours. The other type of flexible work arrangement is telecommuting, whereby the employee works away from the company’s corporate offices, usually at home. Telecommuting could be on specific days or arranged depending on work.

Another type of flexible work option the HRM can offer employees is compressed hours. Compressed hours is basically a formal working arrangement in which an employee works his/her usual, standard hours, for example 40 hours per week, over less than five days. Compressed working hours is often utilized for working a nine-day fortnight. The other type of flexible work arrangement is job sharing, in which the duties of one job are shared between at least two workers on a short-term or an ongoing arrangement. For example, two workers may share one job post and every task of the job but work on dissimilar days, or two workers may share one job position but perform different facets of that job.

The other HRM implication is that the HR manager should initiate, reinforce and reward work-life flexibility. Due to the fear of stigma, many employees may be unwilling to request for work-life flexibility arrangements from the employer or the head of the HR department. As such, HR departments will need to transition into a proactive manager-initiated program and away from employee-initiated request system. At the moment, the situation in most companies is that a staff member who seeks flexibility goes to the HR manager to request for flexibility, in so doing risking the potential of stigma. In the workplace of the future, the head of the HR department would initiate the conversation with regard to how work-life flexibility could help the worker, the team, as well as the division to attain their mutual goals.

Implications of Work-Life Flexibility for Leaders

A notable implication for leaders and managers of business organizations in future workplaces is that they would need to support their employees and encourage them to take on work-life flexibility arrangements. This is primarily because such arrangements not only benefit the employees, but also the company. For example, a company can benefit in the following ways: there would be efficient utilization of computers, equipment, desks, and facilities; the manager can schedule work across longer portions of the day; there would be continuity and staff coverage by one staff member when another staff is away; and the company would be able to easily recruit and maintain talented employees who have other life interests or commitments.

The second implication for managers is that they would have to develop a work-life flexibility policy and keep track of hours worked. Company managers and leaders of future workplaces will need to create relevant flexible work polices that outline hours of work. Flexibility could be challenging. Disgruntled employees who leave may claim hundreds of overtime hours for which the manager may not have records. Also, an employee might have to take stress leave because he or she did not take any time off in lieu of all his or her overtime. Such situations give emphasis to the significance of having explicit policies pertaining to flexible hours. In addition, it would be important for managers to keep track of the hours the employee has worked. This would help the managers to accurately compute the actual hourly rate for every staff member, and find out if some job tasks are too small and others too big. Information regarding the number of hours an employee has worked could help the managers to understand and effectively decrease employee stress.

Trust and supervision is also a vital implication for managers and leaders. It would be important for managers to sustain a high level of contact through encouraging a 2-way flow of communication between the distance worker and the company’s managers, and the distance worker and his/her co-workers. This is particularly important when an off-site worker is working on his or her own. The managers will need to utilize a mixture of email, phone and face-to-face communication. Email is most suitable for confirming conversations and for quick contact. Phone communications are effective for strategizing, reviewing, and planning. Face-to-face communications are most appropriate for major management tasks that are focused on performance management, team building, motivation, as well as introducing changes with the work or in the relationship with the worker.

Team building and communication between employees who work at different times and meet less often is also a notable implication for managers. The managers will need to ensure that there is effective communication between the employees who are working at different times and at different locations. Moreover, it will be vital for the company managers to foster team building between off-site and on-site staff members by inviting the off-site workers who mainly work remotely at home to come in for training, special lunch or any other activity.

Achieving fairness for all employees is also an important implication for managers. The managers should make sure that off-site company employees are also provided with opportunities for promotion and training. It is notable that career development is vital for both off-site and on-site employees in spite of where they work. All in all, every employee has to be treated equally regardless of where or how they work.

In conclusion, as a result of the rising popularity of work-life flexibility, it is possible that it will replace work-life balance as more and more organizations would be looking to offer their staffs more flexible work schedules so that they can better manage their personal and work responsibilities. Work-life flexibility will give staffs more control over where, how, and when to work. The head of the HR department will need to make changes to how employees work and offer various flexible work arrangements including job sharing, flexi-time, part time work, compressed workweek, teleworking, and telecommuting. The managers and leaders will have to develop a work-life flexibility policy and keep track of hours worked by each employee. It is recommended that workplaces in the future should offer their employees work-life flexibility. The employer and the employees will both benefit from this trend which is growing in popularity currently.

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