Discuss about the Report for Flexibility and Work Life Balance.
The Human Resource management is often viewed as a very simple part of the entire organizational structure, however if the same is studied in detail then there lies a lot of complexity in managing and discharging the activities of a human resource manager. How effective is the functions of the HRM department in an organization have always been a topic of argument amongst various scholars, executives and managers. Dealing with human resource does not limit them towards only selection, recruitment and training, but it extends far off towards understanding there needs and desires on a continuous basis. With the changing environmental conditions, the expectations of the employees have shifted from ‘only’ monetary gains to an adequate work life balance and flexible work arrangements that are offered by the employers (Joshi et.al. 2002). Often the concept is misinterpreted by the organizations and they take it as a potential loss of time and energy. Thus it is very important to understand what does flexibility in work mean and how does it contribute in maintain a work life balance. Both the concepts are interrelated. Flexible working basically points out towards adoption of a working pattern which is best suited and caters to the needs of the employers and the employees. It cannot be one sided. It has to be beneficial for the employers as well. Flexible working hours can be either part time, opportunity to choose your own working time, job sharing as well as work from home. As long as the company is being able to retain good employees and are getting the required quality of outcome, flexibility in working hours should be preferred (Harris, 2007).
Off lately the concept of work life balance has been able to catch the attention of the HRM team across organizations. Its importance can be perceived today with respect to the employees commitment towards their families, children and friends. Inadequacy of balance between the work and the life is a reason for emerging conflicts, low productivity, increase in costs , employee turnover ratio as well as stress. Manager often fail to understand that if they extend their hands towards helping their managers and the sub ordinates in maintaining a work life balance then the results would be far- fetched and highly applauded by all. The employees would be more committed, responsible and would be ready to take charge of their work with confidence (Hayman, 2009).
Ensuring flexible working hours along with maintaining a work life balance has now become a part of the curriculum of the HRM module across all types of organizations- small, medium as well as large. Organizations have been offering flexibility in the working hours to their employees due to which they have been able to reap greater amounts of productivity and profitability. The word flexibility should not be construed in its literal sense only. It extends much beyond that . Sharing of the job, providing adequate maternity as well as paternity leaves, part time working as well as work from home facilities are also a part of the said thought process (www.acas.org, 2015).
Even though the benefits are many as is enumerated above yet the contention made by Julia Bourke is correct that the use of flexibility has moved away from its original paradigm. The organizations have to strategize on the implementation of flexible working hours within their organization. They will have to understand that providing flexibility does not mean that their work will be hampered or the results will be not as per the desired grade. Her debate is mainly regarding the fact that there should be equality between men and women (Russell, & McGinnity, 2011). She mentions the fact that gone are the days when men were only to look after their workplace. Today’s scenario demands for balance between the two which led to the desire for flexible working hours for men too. She basically focuses on addressing the issues related to women workforce (Government of South Australia, 2011).
Sooner or later it will be seen that the number of women workers are more on the streets than the men. Earlier there existed only what is known as maternity leave for the pregnant women. But slowly the term has found its friend in the form of what we know as Paternity leave i.e. men would also be allowed to take a break from their work when they have a new born in their family so that the mother can get help. The Australian Government has taken steps by introducing awards for recognition of the practices laid down for the balance between work and family, amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 which enables protection of the employees basis their responsibilities towards their families. However even though steps have been taken by the government yet proper cementing of the gap between the two is still at its discussion phase. It is due to non-redressal of these gaps that the statement made by Julia Bourke holds good (Bourke, & Russel, 2011).
Unfortunately the percentage of flexible work arrangements differs sector as well as gender wise. The 2005 research makes it clear that by flexibility the organization only understand two main concepts, paid leave and flexi working hours. Unfortunately workers and employees look at this opportunity of work life balance with flexibility as a poison. The negativity imbibed within them with regards the said concept of maintaining balance between the family and the work which will lead to non-discharging of their duties with utmost commitment and also the fact that they would be termed as incapable has made them take a conservative view towards the same. A quarter of the percentage of the employees believe that the kind of arrangement offered to them with regarding inducing flexibility within their work is not sufficient and they do not even prefer to discuss the same at length at the organizational level. For some money is all that matters and they view this opportunity in a negative manner as they prefer not to opt for such flexi arrangements due to monetary loss and a very small percentage f employees who wanted to exercise this option were refused by the organization due to minority. Thus the arguments stated above make it clear that only flexibility is not enough , it should be instead coupled with other benefits and initiatives so as to attract the employees for opting for the said option (Half, 2013).
The next contention which makes the statement of Julia Bourke true to believe is that organizations still have the old image of a typical ideal worker, one who should be only concentrated towards his or her work and nothing else. The organizations are still at a very nascent stage to adopt the work and care approach. The working hours are still very long for the male counterpart of the work force and with regards the female side of it only 38 percent worked for lesser hours (Shagvaliyeva, & Yazdanifard, 2014).
Gender inequality is another cause of defeat of the concept of flexibility in working hours to enable work life balance. It is basically the women who are still expected to shift into part time post delivery and the simple reason being lack of awareness of the responsibility that even men have towards family apart from the role of a bread earner. The organizations though claim to have become flexible with all employees but still many do not have the concept of paternity leave , have restrictions on their pay, the quality is not good of the part time jobs which would do adequate justice to their abilities and lastly the top managers at the organizations also have a very negative approach towards this area. These are all because of lack of proper training that should be at the various levels of the entity. Further Bourke’s contention is agreeable as it is very truly said that until and unless rights for a flexible work life balance is not legalized entities will view and portray a dismal picture only in front of the employees which would discourage them towards the adoption of it (Rose, 2008).
There still exists a minor gap between the policy written and followed. As per the survey it is found that the main change has to occur from the managerial level. It is they who need to have an optimistic mindset towards such a theory. As per the 2008 status report on Diversity and Flexibility it is established that the mangers play a pivotal role in optimizing this strategy. They will have to keep an open mind towards this policy and try to formulate methodologies for its implementation keeping in mind the organizational goals. Further the use of flexibility has moved away from its actual prototype because of the lack of the mangers to understand that the work that is pre-defined is required to be designed again so as to achieve the goals of the firm as well as provide adequate adjustable working hours so as to be able to maintain a work life balance. Thus it is very clear from the stated arguments that the work life balance maintenance is important for relieving the employees from the stress, ensure more productivity with flexible working hours, but the various hurdles to it has shifted the main crux of such a thinking originally.
The managers fail to understand the after effects of excessive working hours in the workplace. The productivity graph of the employees and the managers are bound to take a downturn. Working longer hours than desired has an effect on the productivity of not only junior level staff but also at the senior level. Longer hours of working are beneficial for both the organization and the employees (Seo, 2011). The former gains in the form of meeting excessive demands thus greater profits are recorded whereas the later is able to negotiate well with regards the payment that they would receive for working for longer hours. But unfortunately what is ignored is the fact that how long would such benefits be reaped? Ultimately ince the saturation point occurs it is bound to effect the performance and the deliverables on the part of both the employees as well as the managers (Huey, & Wickens, 1993).
Its implications are manifolds in nature. First and foremost it is a welcoming note for various health issues such as recording of high blood pressure, mental stress, Lower birth weight amongst women, increase in the number of suicides and increase in the consumption of tobacco n alcohol amongst both men and women. Studies held at the Cornell University that out of the total population of employees who work for more than 45 hours a week, 10 percent of them complain of family issues. The number increases to around 30 percent as soon as the working hours increase to 60 hours per week. This leads to divorces, mental pressures and also affects the life of the children. Depression is the ultimate result of such issues (Hausknecht et.al. 2008).
Secondly the risk of unsafe atmosphere also increased. After working for abnormal hours per day the number of road accidents cases recorded has been above average, the work place may not desire the employees to work for more than the specific hours due to the kind of environment which are exposed to such as in a nuclear power plant or a coal mining plant (Shields, 1999). Thus the effect of longer worker hours leads to weariness and exhaustion. This is mainly seen in the medical profession where doctors work for longer hours attending patients and are more prone towards road accidents as per a study conducted in Germany (Kodz et.al. 2003).
Thirdly is the myth that increase in the working hours will lead to more productivity. Companies and also employees fail to understand that longer working hours lead to an exhaustive as well as saturated stage which when achieved plots there graph of productivity towards the opposite direction (Proctor, 1996). In the white- collar jobs which demands longer hours of work faces a decline in the productivity by as much as 25 percent.Further doing the work in the same monotonous way can hamper the productivity. Certain laid down procedures will for sure lead to more production in longer working hours but will deteriorate the quality of performance which will be reflected in the high amount of dissatisfaction amongst the customers and the clients which will hit the bottom line of the firms (Circadian, 2016).
Lastly what hits both the employees as well as the mangers is their personal lives. This takes a toll. The money then becomes secondary as the person returns home with so much of fatigue, stress and tension that he or she fails to devote time to the family, distance in relations increase and by the time the consequences are understood and felt it gets too late for them to react and correct the incorrect. These implications however can be reduced and adequate productivity can be achieved within the time allotted for work if the Human Resource Management team work towards developing an environment in the challenging scenarios so as to address twin problems of flexibility along with work life balance (Spurgeon, 2003).
Another very critical and delicate issue that requires the attention of the managers is that how would they facilitate work life balance during the economic downturn. The real test lies in the way they react and build up the confidence of their employees during recessionary times. The organizations will require to device such policies so as to enable to address the issues related to work life balance and try to derive maximum productivity during difficult times (Chinchilla et.al. , 2009). Before analysing any way out for maintaining a balance between work and home during recessionary period the organizations are required to carefully study the impact of the recession on the lives of their employees. As per a survey conducted by Corporate Executive Board in 2009 it is clear that due economic downturn the employees scared to demand from their employers a policy regarding work life balance (Sherwin, 2000).
Thus it is clear that it is the employer’s duty to facilitate adequate work life balance opportunities during times of distress. One of the most recognized ways is that organizations are cutting down on the hours of work instead of giving pink slips to its employees. In this way the element of insecurity every morning is nullified as well as more commitment is seen from the side of the employees. Salary reduction is acceptable in an environment of job insecurity (Shah et.al. 2011). This way they can also be with their families in times of distress. The most famous example is that of KPMG Europe wherein to save their jobs the partners decided to either work four days a week or take a sabbatical for 90 days, this way their jobs were secured at least. Another highly regarded method adopted by the employers is what is known as telecommuting wherein employees are asked to work from home which would in turn enable organization to cut down on their infrastructural costs rather than cutting down on their work force. This in turn served two purposes, the employees could work at home giving time to their families and at the same time knew that their jobs were secured enough (Naithani, 2010).
Therefore on a concluding note it is very clear from the argument stated above that though flexibility and work life balance is of utmost importance in today’s changing work scenario and demands of the workforce, yet many organizations and also the employees who are offered with such facilities are not too keen in accepting and inculcating the same within their work environment. The actual benefits that can be derived and its proper utilization is what people fail to understand. Thus Julia Bourke’s contention is correct that there is a noticeable shift from the original paradigm of flexibility and work life balance. Further to this employers as well as employees will also have to understand that working more than the body clock permits will lead to ultimate decline in the productivity ratio and hurt the bottom line badly. Working within decent hours will increase better performance and commitments. Moreover the global financial crisis 2008 has led to such an economic downturn that the countries are still reeling under its affects even after 8 long years. During such times also employers should continue facilitating the concept of work life balance by instead of cutting down there work force , they should look at finding ways and means of reducing other fixed costs. They should always be aware of the fact that human resource are the biggest assets an entity can possess and management of this force is one of the most vital functions of any organization. The entire business structure depends upon their productivity.
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