e compare today's working environment with that of past, we will find it more dynamic, fast and challenging.
The rise of information technology, business competition due to scarce resources, technological advancement etc have played a significant role in this sea change. Advance and fast means of communication, work force diversity, skilled labour force and flexible jobs are seen crucial for productivity, efficiency, quality, cost-reduction and to survive in today's tough competition.
With the advent of Human Resource Management, it has become possible to increase the efficiency of the employees to better cope with ever changing nature of the business.
Job flexibility is one of the most important elements in this regard. As organisations expand and increase the size of their workforce, employee problems both personal and job related tend to multiply and can affect motivation and productivity.
Balancing work and family life and coping with transition has become a great challenge for almost everyone. Such unresolved issues may begin to affect personal happiness, family relations, performance at work and even physical health. Flexibility is the opportunity to work out the hours that best suit the employees. The term flexible working covers flexibility in terms of time (e.g. part time work, shift work) and location (e.g. home working). Other flexible arrangements like unpaid career breaks and paid sabbatical schemes, extra days off work, holiday purchase schemes, maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave are also a cost effective way to retain valued staff with work life balance. Involvement of female workers in jobs, ageing population, increase in work force diversity, work stress, tension and balancing time for family and personal life are the basic factors behind the need for flexible job hours.
If the employees are given adequate autonomy to work according to different flexible work arrangements (stated above), they will able to Reduce stress, take care of their own or their family's needs, get away from work pressures for a more extended vacation period, balancing work and family life, to make family relations, personal happiness as well as able to show better performance at work and even physical health.
Flexibility is even more important for women with children. Especially in Pakistani culture where women prefer to take care of their children under their custody rather than day care centres and difficult for them to work eight hours or even more without giving time to family.
Ageing population, beyond the age of 65 normally don't expect to work .To utilise their lifetime experience, flexible arrangement are necessary to provide them flexible work schedule. Employees with young or disabled children under the age of six or 18 also need flexibility.
Introducing employment policies that encourage a healthier work life balance for your employees can bring real benefits to your business.
When flexible work arrangements are understood and used as a management strategy for creating more effective workplaces produce measurable improvements in individual and team performance like fewer mistakes, sickness and absenteeism, the quality of work improves, productivity increases, employees morale increases and recruitment and training costs can be reduced through improved staff retention. These arrangements will also foster a more positive perception of you as an employer.
This can lead to better relations with your employees and greater staff loyalty, commitment and motivation, reducing staff turnover and recruitment costs .You are also able to meet seasonal peaks in your business as well as shift work, part time work and flexitime can help you open longer without making your employees work longer hours.
Finding the right type can depend on the employee and the type of work being done. When deciding how a flexible work arrangement might fit an employee, some questions to consider are Can the employee miss some meetings and social functions? How necessary is it that someone be onsite at all times? How will the flexible work arrangement affect the workload of other employees? etc. Some employees have a legal right to request flexible working arrangements. Employees with young or disabled children under the age of six or 18 respectively and employees who are carers of adults may request a change to their hours, times or place of work especially in Pakistan where child labour is a burning issue. Many of the children working under 18.
Employers must seriously consider any requests they receive and may only refuse the request if there is a clear business reason why it cannot be met.
Issue of flexibility is more important when we talk about in the perspective of glass-ceiling, the involvement women in work places. This is not enough to just bring the women in workplaces and that's it .For better utilisation of that human resource we have to make arrangement to establish such an environment, in which they feel convenient to work .For this purpose flexible work arrangements are critical.
Those women who have children need more flexibility. This is difficult for them to protect and care their children during the job or to admit in child care centres specially in Pakistan.
According to Manpower report on "The changing world of work" in February 2006, flexibility and gender in work places will be one of the important issue of future.
According to the survey, 63% workers want work flexibility and 83% employers' thinks that this is a significant benefit in terms of retention. Flexibility would be a heart of work place of the future.
Flexibility enables business to compete effectively in global market places and in changing working environment. Workers want more control over work through flexible job hours. This also lead to tracing and managing work force .84% of the business honours believe flexibility improve staff retention and 70% think in near future workers will work more flexible. 63% want flexible work hours in future. 25% believe staff will spent more time on home .41% believe men will stay home to support the family. Employers recognise that there will be a shift in role men and women will play in work force.
Recently in Pakistan Agha Khan University introduced employees assistance program for maintaining work life balance .It provide confidential short term counselling to deals with employees at job problems.
More efforts are needed to promote flexibility, specially in organisations working in Pakistan to better utilise the work force talent and to encourage the participation of females and young labour force .One side this practice can lead to reduction of unemployment, involving idle labour force waiting for suitable working conditions in terms of flexible schedule as well as could be a good source for competitive advantage.
So we can conclude that the main gain for your employees from flexible working arrangements is the increased opportunity to fit other commitments and activities in with work, and make better use of their free time. This can be particularly helpful for people caring for children or other dependants, but others may find flexible working helpful too. They may feel more in control of their workloads, and manage a better balance between life and work. Employees will avoid the stress of commuting at peak times if their start and finish times are staggered or if they work from home, and many employers find that introducing flexible working arrangements reduces their sickness levels.
(The writer is a student of MBA (HRM), Final Semester, at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology)