Case Study: Flexibility And Work-Life Balance Essay

Question:

Case Study: Flexibility and work-life balance. who benefits?

Answer:

Introduction

It would not be wrong to say that individuals nowadays are struggling, and striving to balance out their personal, and professional lives and responsibilities. Long working hours, inconsistent schedules, hectic operations, and global collaboration have all gave birth to more of the increased pressure on an individual (Drago, Wooden, & Black, 2009).

On the other hand, there also exists a constant pressure on the organizations these days to manufacture, and deliver products, and services of efficient quality, and at competitive prices. So, to meet all these issues sometimes new methods of functioning, and working patterns have to be discovered, and one of these methods can be Flexible working. It benefits almost everyone who works within an organization, be it employers, managers, executives, or employees (Grawitch & Barber, 2010).

Flexible Work-life Arrangements

Flexible working is an opportunity which can benefit each, and everyone working within an organization only when it is adopted properly keeping in mind the needs and demands of the people concerned. It is a phrase which describes the changes in working patterns to be followed to suit and meet the needs and demands of the employers as well as of the employees. Flexible working can be described in many ways (Hayman, 2009). Some of them are as follows:

Part-time work- It is a kind of opportunity in which the employees work less than the usual working hours of the business according to the availability of their free time, and it can also be done by working only for fewer days in a week. This pattern of work is most commonly used in hotels, warehouses, bars, restaurants, shops, etc. (Hill, Erickson, Holmes, & Ferris, 2010).

Flexi-time- Flexi-time is a kind of arrangement in which employee gets to choose the time in which he/she wants to work. This pattern is mostly used in office-based surroundings to assist their staff who works below the managerial level.

Annualized hours- In this pattern of work, generally the hours of an employee to work or the shifts of work on a yearly basis gets decided on a contract basis and the employee has to work accordingly to complete the specifically defined period. This is most often followed by manufacturing companies and agriculture-based companies where the work basically depends on the demand of the product (Mitsakis & Talampekos, 2014).

Staggered hours- Using this scheme, workers are allowed to fix time schedules as when to start and to finish their work which can be slightly different from other employees working there.

Job sharing- This includes sharing of a job of one person with that of the other who is working in the same company.

Working from home- This arrangement allows the employees to work from their home without being physically present at the work place.

With the development in the use of technology and communication techniques such as smartphones, internet facilities, video calling, etc. more and more variations can be done in flexible working area to support and assist the employers and employees both (Peters, den Dulk, & van der Lippe, 2009). In old times of business, employers were basically behind the people who acquire the talent, and the capability of understanding and performing the business operations. But as of now the time has changed, employers and the companies are now concentrates more on the flexible arrangements of work, bringing down the work weeks, and annualized hours of working so that the employees feel more comfortable working in that particular organization, and this also helps them in retaining their staff for long (Platman, 2004). This mode of thinking and the pattern leads to unavoidable reduction in the work-force so that it creates an opportunity for the employers to reshape their roles, and responsibilities and employees, on the other hand, could also maintain and support their personal and professional lives by working even more flexibly (Richman, Civian, Shannon, Jeffrey Hill, & Brennan, 2008).

Juliet Bourke is completely in favor of the term “Flexible Working” but she does not entirely favors the modern concept and thinking of the term and the area where the argument for reshaped flexibility is moving.

While flexibility in the work-place could enhance the productivity of the business, and reduces the over cost of the products and services, she is agitated that the exact point of flexibility at the work-place has shifted and moreover, in a negative way. According to her, the meaning of flexibility has lost its previous paradigm, and now it is more of a phenomenon of getting more outputs from a fewer people, and she is worried about the unintended outcomes and effects of this thinking. She presented this thought of her during the inauguration of the website (www.workplaceflexibility.com.au) developed to help organizations in developing and adopting practices of flexible working patterns. She is of the opinion that it can affect the employers in a negative way if the timings of using flexibility are incorrect, and then the impact of it on the business would be not so good (Russell, O'Connell, & McGinnity, 2009). Reducing the working hours of one employee when their operations and activities are not needed could, in turn, lead to the increased pressure of work on another employee, which is not at all beneficial for the organization in the long run. Hence, flexibility cannot always prove to be a win-win situation for both, i.e., the employers and the employee. It leads to various other factors which are very essential to consider.

Although, this could benefit both the parties when it is used and adopted considering the demands of the organizations and business operations and also keeping in mind the various other factors regarding the employees who work within that company (Skinner & Pocock, 2011). Sometimes, due to decrease in the demands of the customers, economic, and business activities also decreases. In that phase, people working in an organization can reduce their work hours to improve and balance their personal life and can make use of flexible work arrangements. Until and unless organizational efficiencies are adequately customized at the place and various job roles reshaped following a dismissal program, organizations could harm themselves by seeking to do more work with less number of employees. While it is proven that capable and talented workers are more productive than the workers who work for late shifts, there should be a fine line that differentiates the objectives and burn out for brilliant performers (Wheatley, 2016). Hence, considering the patterns of work nowadays, I can say that yes, the use of flexibility has been shifted from its real paradigm to a limit which is important and inevitable. Various pros and cons are related with it, and appropriate management can lead to the efficient and capable work-force who has a balanced work life.

In an organization, there come many situations in which an employee has to work for more than usual hours to complete their tasks or projects and to fulfill their responsibilities (Russell, O'Connell, & McGinnity, 2009). There can be times in an organization when the need for a particular employee arises to work for more than the specified hours so that the business could be benefitted. The performance of the employees is a major issue in all companies since years. Many types of researches have been done on both, national and international levels to measure the performance of employees working within a company. In many organizations, the performance of an employee during work consider to be most important while in others the productivity plays the important role. Depending upon the different requirements of businesses, working for long hours can be sub-divided into following categories:

Extended working hours during a week- This includes jobs in which employees or workers regularly work more than 60 hours per week.

Extended working hours daily- This involves the jobs in which employees regularly reported for more than 12 hours on daily basis.

Overtime- The term generally refers to the extra hours of work done by employees than the usually specified time limit.

Generally, Working for long hours affects the performance of an employee in a negative way and sometimes, it also leaves a negative impact on their personal lives and relationships which in no way consider being helpful for the person concerned. An organization’s overall performance completely depends on the performance of its employees. So, the companies must take care of its employees to be more productive and competitive. There are many pieces of evidences in studies, and reports that working for long hours have a greater complex relationship with hazard, and risk as extra working hours influences some factors which includes job, performance of the employee, employee control, unofficial responsibilities, and societal abnormalities. It has been emphasized by Miller (1978) that earlier, usually work-life of individuals starts at the age of 16 and ends at 70 but now in contemporary days, it starts at 20 and generally ends at 65 because of the stress caused during work the work-life of people is diminishing (Singh, 2013). Working for long hours have a variety of negative impacts on a person which includes sleeplessness, reduced time with family and other social life responsibilities. All these aspects lead to various adverse effects on a person’s body, like tiredness, negative attitude, exhaustion, turbulences, and insecurity that ultimately leads to imperfect performance activities. Insignificant performance negatively affects the business and the employer as:

The increase in the production cost- Working for longer hours result to increase in the production cost of the products as the company has to pay for the employees extra efforts and time dedicated to work but the level of performance and productivity decreases due to exhaustion and tiredness.

Decreased productivity- Researches and various studies suggest that with the increase in the overtime hours, the ratio of productivity decreases. In clerical jobs, the level of performance decreases almost by 25 percent when the employees work for 60 hours or more than that in a week.

Low quality of products, and services- Due to a reasonable fall in the productivity level of the company, the goods so produced also loses its quality because of the lack of attention and alertness during work.

Unintended faults, and errors- There develop more and more chances of mistakes and errors while working overtime as the output of the worker to work reaches to an extent after which he/she becomes unable to perform appropriately.

Reduced attention, and alertness level- After a specified limit, an individual becomes inoperative as the body of a normal person demands rest and sleep and lack of which reduces the alertness level into that person and after which he/she becomes highly inattentive which causes the more chances of errors while their performance (Been, den Dulk, & van der Lippe, 2015).

Poor health conditions- A research has been conducted by scientists to explore the various health problems related to working overtime. Some of them includes: back injuries and stressed neck nerves, high level of blood pressure especially among executive workers, increase in the mental health related problems, increased consumption of alcohol, and liquor among men, a high number of suicide rates, etc.

Increased stress- Due to higher pressure and increased work load, a person faces so much of stress while work which gives birth to unnecessary health-related issues and mental illness which is not at all healthy for a person in the long run.

Complete degradation in performance- Considering all the issues mentioned above, it can be determined that excessive working and working for longer hours result in the overall degradation in the performance level of the company which affects the organization in the long run.

An article by Marafi H. (2013) emphasizes that the problems faced by employees who are students and work part-time so that they can meet their needs and requirements generally experience a bad work life balance and comparatively major health related issues (Satpathy, Patnaik, & Agarwal, 2014). Therefore, if employees tend to be active or involved in work for longer time, this will result in a lot of negative effects on their performance and also on their health and it could also make them feel demotivated to indulge in work if they are not provided with adequate rewards, and incentives in the form of appreciation, and bonus. To reduce their detachment for work in such kinds of unhealthy situations, the employees should be properly appraised and the authority concerned should take an attempt to make the workers understand their roles, and responsibilities and also their importance towards the company. So, for instance, if there is a need for employees to do overtime, they need to be encouraged and motivated well by accommodating their psychological and all other necessities through proper incentives, bonuses, promotions, rewards, extra wages, etc. (Berg, Kossek, Misra, & Belman, 2014). This could motivate them to work for the benefits and betterment of the company by feeling it as their responsibility.

Therefore, the presentation and performance of the workers and managers are required to be effectively and properly recognized to increase their effectiveness during the longer working hours so that it benefits the organization and the business goals can be achieved. It is very essential to have a feeling of trust between the manager and the employee or workers when flexible work-life is concerned. If the manager does not monitor it properly, it is very much possible that it will create difficulties at the work place (Shagvaliyeva & Yazdanifard, 2014). Nowadays, the benefits of work life have shifted from conveyance facilities, significant bonuses, rewards, and other perks to requirements such as fitness centers for employees and services of dry-cleaning, etc. Many organizations could not afford the compensation in terms of the money they were delivering a decade ago. Managing, and retaining the remaining workers after layoffs is important, which can be performed with the use of these benefits along with the different programs such as insurance and retirement plans and schemes (Fullerton, 2008). When the striving economy and finances turn around, the employees who retain will become responsible and available for bringing the goodwill of the companies and its economy back to its original position. Increasing pressure from competitive environment leads to conflict in priorities for workers. It creates a considerable amount of stress for employees who is trying to manage and juggle work and his/her duties with the family responsibilities.

Sometimes, financial strains also make the companies cut in policies and cancellations or postponement to previously announced benefits of the schemes and programs which lead to dissatisfaction and resentment among the employees ("Job flexibility and work-life balance pay dividends for Nationwide: High satisfaction rate among employees", 2003). Heightened pressure of work and anxiety about the insecurity of job may lead to major stress, distress, and health related problems. So, for maintaining the enthusiasm among employees, employers should analyze the situation and take appropriate and effective ways such as making them understand that they are working together and will come out of this downturn collectively and that they will be least affected in this situation. The managers or the employers should tell them about the positive impacts of flexible hours of working. They should be shown the importance and should be motivated in a way so that they can cooperate well to overcome the critical situation. During the phase of an economic downturn, proper and adequate allocation and utilization of resources available must be done. Employers or managers must motivate employees to complete the work in given time so that extra time could be used for more works to enhance the productivity and profitability of the company. Prioritization of work is essential during the time of crisis as it is one of those factors which determines that how well and fast the organization will achieve its original benchmark, and in how much time. So, it is the responsibility of the employers to make sure which tasks are important and to make the workers understand the importance of that work and its fulfillment.

On the other hand, due to higher work pressure, grievances related with them also increase. So, to counter-balance this situation, an effective and open communication program should also be ensured at all levels to make them feel united and connected (Omar, 2013). It will develop a sense of harmony at the work place, and employees will also try to cooperate with each other to fulfill the company’s objectives which in turn will lead to better performance of the employees.

During the time of economic crisis, employees should try to be more polite and provide confidence to all the employees so that the maximum output can be achieved and satisfaction among the workers can be ensured. The employer should also need to provide smaller rewards to the employees who are working well which will lead to the enhancement of their confidence and trust towards the organization. Managers should regard and thank their employees for the kind of support they are showing to the company. They should be responsible and impartial and should avoid inequality and biases, if any, in assigning the tasks to the individuals else it will develop a negative feeling in all other workers (PEDERSEN & JEPPESEN, 2012). Overall, considering all the points mentioned and taking into practice these methodologies, employers and managers can facilitate the balance in work-life during the time of crisis or economic downturn.

Conclusion

Nowadays, the criteria and the working patterns of people are changing constantly and rapidly and this requires the use of flexibility in working arrangements to achieve the business objectives and the maximum output for the organization. If there is a balance in work life and all the duties and responsibilities are taken care of, then it will demonstrate a win-win situation from both the ends that is the employer and the employee (Pain, 2014). And in situations like economic downturn, proper utilization of resources should be done in a way that it creates no grievances among the workers, and the objectives of the organization can be achieved in an efficient way.

References

Been, W., den Dulk, L., & van der Lippe, T. (2015). Dutch top managers and work-life arrangements in times of economic crisis. Community, Work & Family, 19(1), 43-62.

Berg, P., Kossek, E., Misra, K., & Belman, D. (2014). Work-Life Flexibility Policies: Do Unions Affect Employee Access and Use?.

De Cieri, H. & Kramar, R. (2003). Human resource management in Australia. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Drago, R., Wooden, M., & Black, D. (2009). Who Wants and Gets Flexibility? Changing Work Hours Preferences and Life Events.

Hill, E., Erickson, J., Holmes, E., & Ferris, M. (2010). Workplace flexibility, work hours, and work-life conflict: Finding an extra day or two.

Job flexibility and work-life balance pay dividends for Nationwide: High satisfaction rate among employees. (2003).

Mitsakis, F. & Talampekos, G. (2014). Work Life Balance (WLB) and Flexibility in Paid Work (FPW) for “Generation Y”: A Discussion.

Omar, M. (2013). Non Standard Work Arrangements and Affective Commitment: The Mediating Role of Work-life Balance.

PEDERSEN, V. & JEPPESEN, H. (2012). Contagious flexibility? A study on whether schedule flexibility facilitates work-life enrichment.

Peters, P., den Dulk, L., & van der Lippe, T. (2009).

Pitfalls in planning flexibility. (2016). Human Resource Management International Digest, 24(1), 7-9.

Satpathy, I., Patnaik, B., & Agarwal, M. (2014). Work- life balance@working couples - A review of literature. ResearchGate.

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