Flexible working hours

6. Literature Review

6.1 Definitions

Janssen and Nachreiner (2004) defined Flexible Working Hours as involving a continuous choice on behalf of employers, employees or both, regarding the amount (chronometry) and the temporal distribution (chronology) or working hours.

“Arrangements that allow employees to have a more variable schedule as opposed to complying with the standard 8-hour workday” (Janssen and Nachreiner, 2004)

According to the definition of Handbook on Alternative Work Schedules, Flexible hours are referred to as the times during the workday, workweek, or pay period within the tour of duty during which an employee covered by a flexible work schedule may choose to vary his or her times of arrival to and departure from the work site consistent with the duties and requirements of the position.

Flexible working hours is also defined as a system of attendance whereby individual employees select their starting and finishing times from day to day, subject to the concurrence of the work unit in which they work and to specified conditions. A system in which employees can start or stop work at different hours of the morning or evening provided that they work a certain number of hours per day or week (http://www.hrdictionary.com/definition/flexible-working-hours.html).

According to the definition of Technical staff, Southern Cross University, flexible working hours are work schedule in which employees can use their own discretion as to the time on the job as long as they complete the specified number of hours within a work period that is, one month, one week, or one day (Barker, 1999).

It is a system of working a set number of hours with the starting and finishing times chosen within agreed limits by the employee (www.oxfordreference.com)

Christensen and Staines (1990) defined this as an arrangement provides employees with some limited discretion as to the starting and stopping times for their work day, while requiring a standard number of hours to be worked within a given time period.

Flexible working hours refers to the practice by employers of allowing employees to vary their attendance pattern. Variation is usually in terms of start and finish times, as well as hours per day. Flexible working hours are often referred to as flexi time. Employees working flexible hours are able to use flexi time credit to take time off without reducing other leave credits. Flexible working hours are usually subject to a number of operating rules (Transport strategy, Adecision maker’s guide book).

‘Flexible working hours’ are also defined as working time arrangements allowing a continuous choice regarding the duration and the temporal distribution of working time for both the employee and the employer (http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2006/05/DE0605NU4.htm).

A simple deviation from the standard working time is not seen as sufficient for a distinction. The definition intends to exclude shorter but regular working time arrangements such as part-time work or deviating but regular working hours such as shift work (http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2006/05/DE0605NU04.htm).

6.2 Why flexible working hours are implemented?

Flexible working conditions are becoming increasingly common within modern economies, and in many countries legislation has been introduced enabling certain groups of employees to request ¬‚exible working. For example, Scandinavian countries in particular grant extensive ¬‚exible working rights, such as parental leave, ¬‚exitime and other family friendly provisions to employees (Brandth, 2001).

Flexible working arrangements are increasingly offered by organizations in order to remain competitive through the recruitment and retention of top performing employees. These arrangements aim to be a win/win situation for the organization, by way of increased productivity and loyalty, and for the employee through work life benefits.

The introduction of flexible working allows employees to have greater control over their work life balance, and can act as an important tool in the organization’s recruitment and retention process. Flexible working is one device that employers can use to attract a more diverse workforce, allowing them to compete in the war for talent”( Management Brief Report).

Some forms of ¬‚exible working schedules such as part-time work, compressed work weeks, annualized hours, and ¬‚exitime have a long history and have traditionally been introduced largely to meet employer needs for ¬‚exibility or to keep costs down, though they may also have met employee needs and demands (Dalton & Mesch, 1990).These and other ¬‚exible arrangements are also introduced ostensibly to meet employee needs for ¬‚exibility to integrate work and family demands under the banner of so-called family-friendly employment policies (Harker, 1996; Lewis & Cooper, 1995). Often a business case argument has been used to support the adoption of flexible work arrangements; that is, a focus on the cost bene¬ts (Barnett & Hall, 2001). Other contemporary drivers of change include increased emphasis on high-trust working practices and the thrust toward gender equity and greater opportunities for working at home because of new technology (Evans 2000). Nevertheless, despite much rhetoric about the importance of challenging outmoded forms of work and the gradual association of flexible working arrangements with leading-edge employment practice (Friedman & Greenhaus, 2000), the implementation of these policies remains patchy across organizations (Glass & Estes, 1997).

Since 2003 the right to request ¬‚exible working conditions has been granted to all UK employees with children aged less than six years or to those with caring responsibilities (BERR 2008). This right has recently been extended to employees with children aged up to 16 years (BERR, 2009).

Many of these legislative changes have been explicitly or implicitly underpinned by the assumption that ¬‚exible working will have positive effects on employee adaptability, performance (Artazcoz 2005), work-life balance and health (MacEachen 2008).

In a number of low and middle-income countries ¬‚exible working hours is a relatively new concept which tends to be restricted to large multi-national companies.

Paul Ashton, mobility solutions support manager at Logsys, discusses the work anywhere, anytime, on any device implications of flexible working. Following the introduction of new UK legislation in April 2003 with regards to offering employees with young or disabled children flexible working options, there have been massive developments in the way in which organisations operate. Two years on, the ideas behind flexible working are still being discussed, experimented with and tentatively accepted throughout the UK. At the forefront of this movement is the objective of providing employees with a suitable work/life balance and key to its success is supporting this through achieving more profitable business practices. Flexible working is all about working in real time. It is about mobilizing work forces and giving individuals the freedom and ability to work any time, anywhere, using any device. It is about enterprise-wide access to information, applications and data and the ability to utilize these items as and when they are needed. For employees it means home working abilities and potentially improved work/life balance. It should also mean easier working, more effective methods and processes, and the ability to work smarter to achieve more. For employers it means maximizing efficiency to achieve more through the same resources. It means improved employee retention and improved services for customers- which in turn means increased competitiveness and greater profitability.

6.3 Kinds of flexible hour work practice

Flexible work arrangements can take on a variety of characteristics, ranging from staggered working hours to remote, off-site work areas. Within the Flexible work arrangements themselves, employers often provide additional flexibility (e.g., selecting the time of day when staggered working hours begin) and/or offer various options for Flexible work arrangements in order to provide even greater flexibility to their workforces (www.clc.executiveboard.com).

Compressed working weeks

“Any system of fixed working hours more than 8 hours in length which results in a work week of less than 5 full days of work a week” (Tepas,1985). This standard definition includes the most obvious examples with 9, 10 or12 hours a day, and a normal full-time working week of 36 to 42 hours. Twelve-hour shifts are particularly controversial.

In recent years, as Hoekstra, Jansen & Van Goudoever (1994) report for the Netherlands, “there has been increasing variety in working patterns. The compressed working week is one of the many possible arrangements for working hours. This increasing variety can be attributed to the desire for greater flexibility in working hours.

Tepas (1985) have listed the potential advantages of the compressed workweek as follows:

1. Increased possibility for multi-day off-the-job leisure and care activity

2. A reduction in commuting problems and costs

3. Fewer workdays with no loss of pay

4. A regular, steady workweek

5. Ease in covering all jobs at the required times

6. More time for scheduling meetings or training sessions

7. Increased opportunity for communication within the organization

8. Increased opportunity for communication with other organizations

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9. Decrease in start-up and/or warm-up expenses

10. Fewer supervisory personnel may be needed

11. More efficient stock flow for assembly-line operations

12. Less night work

13. Increased production rates

14. Improvement in the quantity or quality of services to the public

15. Better opportunities to hire skilled workers in tight labour markets

Flexi time

Ronen (1981) described Flextime (also called flexible working hours) as a type of flexible work arrangement that allows employees to vary their work schedules, within certain ranges and dimensions, according to their differing needs ().

Unlike other flexible work arrangements, flextime focuses exclusively on the work schedule and does not alter the location of work or the total number of hours worked. Although there is no truly “standard” work schedule, the traditional workday is defined as a forty-hour week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (Catalyst, 1997).

Flextime allows employees to break from the standard work schedule by starting the work day early and ending early, starting late and ending late, or taking breaks during the day and making up the time at the beginning or end of the day. Some flextime options allow employees to work extra hours on one day to make up for shortened hours on another day.

Golembiewski and Proehl, (1978) and Christensen and Staines (1990) have been identified several key dimensions of flextime, such as core hours (the daily hours during which employees must be at work), bandwidth (the earliest and latest starting and stopping times to which employees can adjust their schedules) and schedule flexibility, which is the ability to change starting and stopping times from day to day and week to week without prior approval from supervisors.

A study by Hill, Hawkins, Ferris and Weitzman (2001) found that perceived flexibility in the timing and location of work was positively related to work-family balance, and that the greater the extent of such flexibility, the more the employees were able to work a greater number of hours without harming their work-family balance. Another study found a direct effect of flextime on work-family conflict (Shinn, Wong, Simko, & Ortiz-Torres, 1989).

Several studies have found that flextime is related to outcomes indicative of work-family conflict. For example, Ralston (1989) found that employees were better able to juggle work and family demands after flextime was implemented and Bohen & Viveros-Long (1981) found that flextime reduced stress among parents. Thomas & Ganster (1995) found that flextime was directly related to perceived control over work and family, and it was indirectly related to work-family conflict.

Annual-hours contracts

annual-hours contracts are contracts of employment where the total hours to be worked in a twelve-month period are specified, rather than the weekly hours. This provides employers with the flexibility to devise a shift system to ensure continuous operations. Traditionally annualized hours were adopted in the manufacturing sector, but increasingly it is a popular system for organizing work time in the service sector, especially where twenty-four-hour, seven-day-week services are provided (http://www.jrank.org/business/pages/39/annual-hours-contracts).

Job Share

Job sharing is an arrangement where two or more employees share the duties and responsibilities of a single full time job. Each job sharer has broadly the same responsibilities, although their contractual terms and conditions of employment may differ.

Job-sharing is common now across a range of occupations, including professions such as GPs, accountants and managers. This is an option that women may prefer as a way of returning to work after maternity leave. The employer benefits as it retains valuable skills within the organization, encourages retention and often results in greater productivity (www.clc.executiveboard.com).

Self rostering

“Flexible rostering is where each rostering period is planned individually (typically 4 -6 weeks at a time). Shifts are allocated on the basis of manning requirements which reflect anticipated demand patterns, as well as myriad other rostering parameters, including staff’s preferences for off-duty” (Silvestro & Silvestro, 2000).

Thornthwaite & Sheldon (2004) described that employee self-rostering systems enable individual employees to tailor working hours to maximize their compatibility with domestic responsibilities. Such rosters would allow employees to choose to work mornings, afternoons or school hours only, or some combination of different hours each day.

Self-rostering means that a group of employees make work schedules by themselves. This is based on a company time frame determined by the employer in which the quantitative and qualitative demands have to be met. By designing the work schedules, the employees determine their own starting and ending time duration of their services and are supposed to create a dialogue to synchronize the individual wishes with the requirements set by the employer (Zeggenschap, 2008).

Part time work

Employees with a part-time work arrangement typically follow one of the following schedules:

  • Work a reduced number of hours per day, five days per week
  • Work eight hours per day, less than five days per week

Employers are increasingly providing part-time employees with many of the same benefits provided to full-time workers particularly smaller employers that want to attract candidates but do not need many full-time workers.

As with flextime, some states mandate that part-time work be available for women returning to work after a pregnancy (www.clc.executiveboard.com).

6.4 Benefits of flexible hours working arrangement.

Both employees and employers alike can benefit through the utilization of flexible work practices. Flexible work arrangements can help to improve recruitment and retention, assist in managing workloads and in boosting employee satisfaction. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), U.K. guidelines for employers and employees state that flexible working opportunities benefit everyone: employers, employees and their families (www.dti.gov.uk, Flexible Working).

For individuals, the opportunity to work flexibly can greatly improve the ability to balance home and work responsibilities. The DTI guidelines provide examples of the following flexible working schemes:

  • Annualized hours describes working time organized on the basis of the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than a week; usually to fit in with peaks and troughs of work. Pay will depend on the hours worked each pay period.
  • Compressed hours allow individuals to work their total number of agreed hours over a shorter period. For example, employees might work their full weekly hours over four, rather than five, days. They would be paid for a full-time job but would not receive overtime payments for any agreed extra hours worked during a day.
  • Flexi time gives employees choice about their actual working hours, usually outside certain agreed core times. Individuals are paid for the hours that they work.
  • Home-working doesn’t have to be on a full-time basis and it may suit an employee to divide their time between home and office. Individuals are paid according to the hours that they work. Employers are required to carry out a risk assessment of the activities undertaken by home-workers, identifying any hazards and deciding whether enough steps have been taken to prevent harm to them or anyone else who may be affected by the work.
  • Job-sharing typically involves two people employed on a part-time basis while working together to cover a full-time job. Both receive pay for the hours they work.
  • Shift working gives employers the scope to have their business open for longer periods than an eight-hour day. Agreed flexible working arrangements may lead to a shift premium payment not being required.
  • Staggered hours allow employees to start and finish their day at different times. Pay depends on hours worked in total rather than the time at which they were worked.
  • Term-time working allows employees to take unpaid leave of absence during the school holidays.

Bond et al, (2005) The Families and Work Institute report, “When Work Works”, states that employees who are provided with flexibility in their work are more likely to:

  • Be engaged in their jobs and committed to helping their company succeed;
  • Intend to remain with their current employer; and, Feel satisfied with their jobs.

The positive work-life balance effects of flexible working are probably the best known and most frequently cited advantages. Aiming for a greater balance between demands from within and outside the workplace is often the driver for individuals to seek such arrangements. The interplay between employee wellbeing, work-life balance and performance brings into play factors such as organizational commitment, enthusiasm, energy and satisfaction.

Flexible working arrangements, such as ¬‚exitime and teleworking, are becoming more common in industrialized countries but the impacts of such ¬‚exibility on employee health and wellbeing are largely unknown. Several studies have highlighted the bene¬cial effects of employee-negotiated ¬‚exible working on health and wellbeing, such as reduced stress and stress-related illnesses, reduced sickness absence and improved work-life balance, including time spent with children and marital satisfaction (MacEachen 2008).

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Kerry et al (2010) examined the health and wellbeing effects of ¬‚exible working arrangements which favour the worker as well as those dictated by the employer (for example, ¬xed-term contracts or mandatory overtime). The ¬ndings of this review tentatively suggest that ¬‚exible working interventions that increase worker control and choice (such as self-scheduling or gradual/partial retirement) are likely to have a positive effect on health outcomes, including improvements in physical health (reduced systolic blood pressure and heart rate), mental health (e.g. reduced psychological stress) and general health (e.g. tiredness and sleep quality) measures. Importantly, interventions which increased worker ¬‚exibility were not associated with any adverse health effects in the short term. In contrast, interventions that were motivated or dictated by organizational interests, such as ¬xed-term contract and involuntary part-time employment, found equivocal or negative health effects.

Kandolin (1996) reported signi¬cant reductions in tiredness during the night shift when comparing intervention and control group participants. Smith (1998) demonstrated improvements in mental health, sleep quality on day shift, sleep duration on night shift and alertness during night shift in the intervention group compared with the comparison group. Viitasalo (2008) found statistically signi¬cant decreases in systolic blood pressure and heart rate for workers with ¬‚exible scheduling compared with those in the control group.

A study which was performed by Cranfield University, found that the intuitive expectation that the employee who is better able to integrate work and non-work will experience enhanced wellbeing. Indirectly, this positive association impacts on performance, with employees in a sense ‘repaying’ their organization with improved levels of motivation and drive.

Some employees who had become accustomed to working flexibly expressed unwillingness to move back to a more traditional pattern, linking their flexible arrangement to reduced pressure and stress.

There was abundant evidence of individuals adapting their working arrangement over time to meet both changing job demands and evolving demands from the home, and great value was placed on the personal control to meet needs from both domains which was afforded by their flexible working pattern. So flexibility is highly valued, but does not remain static over time (www.workingfamilies.org.uk).

Stress is linked to wellbeing and work-life balance, and here the picture is less clear. Flexible working could be seen as a positive measure which helped reduce workplace stress through reducing hours, cutting down on commuting time and minimizing work overload. However, it could also be a source of stress, if a reduction in hours meant that employees struggled to achieve objectives which had not been appropriately reduced to match such a change. This reinforces the message that flexible working needs to be well designed to succeed, particularly in the case of reduced hours work where the required tasks of the role should reflect the hours available (www.workingfamilies.org.uk).

This study at Cranfield University also focused on the impact on employees’ performance related to the flexible working schedule. It has found that individuals and their managers felt positive 61% and 45% respectively. A similar number of managers 43% felt that there was no impact either way from flexible working. Only a small proportion of respondents indicated that flexible working had a negative impact on the quantity of work of either the flexible workers themselves or their co-workers.

Flexible work allows people to make changes to the hours or times they work, and where they work. It helps people organize their careers to accommodate other commitments, and to manage transitions in and out of the workforce. For flexible work to be described as “quality”, these changes must not adversely affect income, career progression, availability of scheduled leave or access to desirable employment for those who take it up. For an arrangement to be considered truly flexible it must provide the employee with the means to manage his or her work while managing other commitments, and without adversely affecting the business. In addition, “quality flexible work” provides benefits for both employees and employers. Benefits for employees may include increased opportunities for families to spend “quality time” together and greater ease for family members to combine paid work and family responsibilities, while benefits for employers include addressing skills shortages and increased staff retention and loyalty (Fursman, 2009).

Employee driven flexibility is widely regarded as a measure that can reduce work-life balance conflict. For example, in New Zealand, research by the Department of Labour (2008) found that employees who reported a particular FWA was available to them were more likely to rate their work-life balance highly. This is supported by research by the Families Commission showing that 88% of survey respondents who had a lot of flexibility were satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 52% of respondents who had little or no flexibility (Families Commission, 2008). Statistics New Zealand data also shows that among employed people; those that did not have flexible hours in their main job were more likely to be dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their work-life balance (Statistics New Zealand, 2008). Similarly in Australia, a 2008 survey found that employees without FWAs were more likely to experience work-life balance conflict (Pocock et al, 2009).

Fursman and Zodgekar (2009) studied the Impacts of Flexible Working Arrangements on New Zealand Families. The findings of this research suggest that many family members have access to flexible work arrangements, and that such arrangements provide significant benefits for them and their families, including less stress and pressure and more opportunities to spend time together. Flexible work arrangements can also allow family members to meet their care responsibilities while maintaining their participation in the paid workforce. The arrangements wanted and needed by families changed as their families changed; for example, as children reached school age, or older family members became increasingly more dependent.

A range of studies associate flexible work arrangements with positive outcomes for employees. This includes a positive impact on employee’s perceptions of job quality (Kelliher & Anderson, 2008), increased job satisfaction and reduced leaving intentions (Forsyth and Polser-Debruyne, 2007), enabling families to spend more time together, and reducing stress and pressure (Families Commission, 2008).

Gill et al(2007) studied the incidence and impact of flexible working arrangements in smaller businesses. In this study, positive impacts of flexible work arrangements in recruitment and retention, enhanced employee relations, commitment and loyalty are found, together with disadvantages of operational problems and administrative burdens.

William et al (1981) have found that the flexi time did not support the traditional flexi time consequences for work satisfaction or leisure satisfaction. However, employees working under a flexi time schedule reported certain other improvements, including easier travel and parking, a smaller amount of interrole conflict, a greater feeling of being in control in the work setting; and more opportunity for leisure activities.

6.5 Limitations of implementation of flexible working hours

Hayman (2009) has revealed that the attitudes and expectations of co-workers and employers intermingled with issues about fairness, managerial support, feelings of guilt, and career impacts are particular barriers to flexibility. And also he found that the availability of flexible work options alone may not be enough to influence work-life balance outcomes for employees and that perceived usability is critical. A UK study by Waumsley and Houston (2009) also found that perceptions play a significant role – with study participants perceiving that flexible working is detrimental to work performance and career progression. This was despite participants’ recognizing that flexible working delivers work-life balance benefits.

Organizational policies on flexible work cannot be fully effective without real support and commitment from management in implementing and applying these policies. Managers need to encourage and actively support the use of flexible arrangements, and organizations need to actively support managers in making flexible working arrangements part of the normal operating environment. Managers need to be provided with appropriate resources, training and time to appropriately assess all requests for changes in work arrangements. Some adjustments to work organization may be necessary, such as scheduling meetings when all staff can attend (Equal Opportunity for Women in the WorkplaceAgency;http://www.eowa.gov.au/Pay_Equity/Files/Recommendations).

Organizations also need to ensure that all employees who are using flexible work arrangements are accepted and respected as valued and committed employees. Such employees should be included in all training and professional development opportunities and given the opportunity for promotion on the same basis as all other employees.

A critical part of a flexible work culture is ensuring that employees understand and work within an environment of mutual trust and obligation. Employees must have a strong commitment to the success of any flexible work arrangement. Employees on flexible work arrangements must maintain work and performance standards and ongoing communication between employees and their supervisors is essential.

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Employee engagement in the success of flexible work arrangements will maximize benefits for both the organization and the employee (Equal Opportunity for Women in the WorkplaceAgency;http://www.eowa.gov.au/Pay_Equity/Files/Recommendations)

Research by the Families Commission; found that a perception of unsupportive workplace cultures; a perceived impact on career progression and reduction in income; and a perception that flexibility was only available to highly valued employees were among the barriers experienced by employees (Families Commission, 2008).

It also found that flexibility could also lead to guilt about taking time off and employees working harder and doing longer hours than might ordinarily be the case (Families Commission, 2008).

A recent smaller study of firms in the New Zealand accounting sector noted the impact of traditional values and culture within the sector that work against flexibility (Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 2010). This includes a culture of long hours and at partnership level, a perception that being a partner and caring for children were ‘mutually exclusive’ (Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 2010).

Work-life balance issues including Flexible Working Arrangements have a significant gender dimension (Fursman, 2008). Fursman’s 2008 review of literature usefully summarizes some of the key issues emerging as including:

  • The significance of gender differences in the industries and occupations that women and men work in, with different occupations affording different opportunities to access Flexible Working Arrangements.
  • A range of literature discusses gender differences in decision-making about career choices – with women more likely to make decisions based on accommodating family needs.
  • Differences in the availability of Flexible Working Arrangements, both in the UK and New Zealand, with women more likely to request arrangements affecting their total number of hours worked where as men were more likely to request forms of flexibility that had no effect on income and earnings.
  • Research revealing differences between men and women’s perceptions of work with women more likely to place weight on putting family needs before work (Fursman, 2008).

Social policy journal of New Zealand mentioned about a research showed that there were a number of barriers preventing the take-up of flexible working arrangements, with many of these resulting from employee perceptions that using flexible work arrangements would not be supported by their employers. The lack of available arrangements in particular workplaces was an obvious barrier; however, other barriers centered on negative employer attitudes, both perceived and actual, to requests for flexible work. Employees reported that they did not use flexible work arrangements because doing so would have a negative impact on career progression and negative financial consequences (particularly for those who perceived that flexible work necessarily involved reduced working hours). Employees also reported perceptions that only valued employees would be granted flexible work arrangements, and that the nature of their work and/or industry would make flexible work impossible. Some employers confirmed employee perceptions regarding the negative impacts of using flexible work arrangements, expressing concerns, for example, about appointing to a management or supervisory role those using flexible arrangements (Fursman and Zodgekar, 2009).

A “face time” culture, excessive workload, manager skepticism, customer demands, and fear of negative career consequences are among the barriers that prevent employees from taking advantage of policies they might otherwise use (Corporate Voices for Working Families,2005). In some cases employees may not use flexibility because they are unaware of the options available to them (Budd and Mumford, 2006).  while “in some companies that have flexibility policies on the books, employees are implicitly discouraged from using them for fear of risking denial of promotion, termination, and disdain from co-workers who resent having to pick up extra work.” (Christensen and Schneider, Workplace flexibility)

In a 2009 study of access to flexible work options, ‘”40.6% of the respondents felt that there might be negative career consequences associated with the use of flexible work options (those responding “somewhat agree,” “agree,” or “strongly agree”). …Younger Boomers and Traditionalists are more likely to strongly disagree/disagree that people who use flexible work options are viewed as being less serious about their career” (Pitt-Catsouphes et al, 2009).

6.6 Conclusions

Though successive generations have been united in their belief that work is simply a necessary evil, it would seem that, thanks to changing priorities and ever-evolving technologies, our attitude to our jobs is steadily shifting. Rather than the old ‘take the money and run’ attitude of yesteryear, when workers had resigned themselves to the fact that they had to spend most of their week tied to the office so they might as well get as much money out of it as they can, today’s workforce has other priority Of course, no employers have yet to face a prospective strike as their workers feel they are being paid too much; money will always be an issue and will remain the fundamental reason why everyday can’t be a holiday. However, managing to find a good ’employment-life balance’ is steadily becoming almost as important as securing a healthy salary. Recent research carried out by Universum found that, of the junior employees polled, 40 per cent ranked flexible working hours as the most attractive perk an employer could offer. This proportion increased to 50 per cent among those with more than a decade’s work under their belts, proof perhaps that age does bring wisdom. Specifically, extra holidays beat performance-related bonuses to the most desired work perk, while flexibility was also highly sought after. “Money is no longer what drives people,” Sasha Hardman, HR associate director at law firm Allen & Overy, told the Times. “They want interesting work, the opportunity to progress, to work with interesting people and a good work-life balance. We need to be much more flexible about the fact that people don’t all want the same thing.”Fortunately, it also seems that employers are picking up on their workers’ wishes and, more importantly, seeing the benefits to them of flexible working.
Not only are workers happier and, therefore in theory more productive, but they free up office space and cut back on little overheads that actually add up to a tidy sum over a year or two.
Indeed, any manager who insists his workers come into the office every day from nine to five is increasingly being seen as a professional dinosaur, given that the technology exists to allow many people to carry out the same tasks from their own homes.
It seems likely therefore, that commuting to work will be something of an historical aberration, confined to the 19th and 20th centuries and sandwiched by the cottage industries of yore and the cyber-working of the future.

Fursman and Zodgekar (2009) suggest that many family members have access to flexible work arrangements, and that such arrangements provide significant benefits for them and their families, including less stress and pressure and more opportunities to spend time together. Flexible work arrangements can also allow family members to meet their care responsibilities while maintaining their participation in the paid workforce. The arrangements wanted and needed by families changed as their families changed; for example, as children reached school age, or older family members became increasingly more dependent.

There was evidence that flexible work arrangements could also have negative consequences, such as impinging on family life. Respondents showed a high degree of commitment and dedication to their work, and often felt guilty using flexible work arrangements. However, those that did not have access to flexible work were more likely to report that they felt like they were constantly juggling work and family responsibilities. The need for flexible work often drove people’s choices about the kinds of work they engaged in, with this sometime resulting in a significant under-utilization of their skills. However, although decisions about the kind of work were consciously made with family needs in mind, there was little evidence of family-based decisions about the use of particular flexible work arrangements (Fursman and Zodgekar, 2009).

“Quality flexible work” arrangements can provide a range of benefits for employers and workplaces as well as for employees. However, significant numbers of respondents in the qualitative and quantitative stages of the research reported negative workplace cultures which impeded their ability to use flexible work arrangements. Both managers’ and colleagues’ attitudes to flexible work had an influence on whether workers felt they could access such arrangements without sacrificing career progression, income or their reputation as committed workers. Offering “quality flexible work” (Fursman and Zodgekar, 2009).

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