Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
The debate on the role and benefits of flexibility in the promotion of an operative work-life balance has been perceived as a major aspect of debate in human resource management. This is attributable to the understanding that the main idea behind an operational worklife balance was to ensure that employees in within an institution realize the objectives of the organization while finding time to address matter related to individual lives (Dex & Smith 2012, p. 24). The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that the establishment of flexible working hours for employees in any organization is instrumental in ensuring that the equality of live of the employees is equated to their standards of living.
Juliet Bourke’s assertion that the use of flexibility in workplaces has moved from its original paradigm is largely misplaced. This is due to the understanding that the main intention of flexibility in terms of working hours for the employees was aimed at ensuring the development of a procedure which would allow stakeholders to benefit. Flexibility allows employees to find time to handle many personal responsibilities such as parenting and further studies (Dex & Smith 2012, p. 27). For the employers, flexibility allows for them to devise methodologies through which they can realize the objectives of the organization through part-time working hours and reduced intensity in terms of the time employees get to address their responsibilities. The career theory uses a holistic approach in the definition of work and career based decisions which help in the recognition of the best approach that can help the organization and the employees in realizing their objectives (Henry 2011, p. 45). According to this theoretical approach there is always need for organizations to be involved in the development of new set of procedures that are involved in the development of flexible hours of work. This helps in understanding the association between different responsibilities at work and personal lives. In addition, it also helps employers in developing techniques that allow them to intergrate and balance the desires of the organization and those of the company (Dex & Smith 2012, p. 33).
Since it is a technique that allows organizations to attain balance, flexible working options such as part-time work, flexible work schedules, and home based work and phased retirement have become routine entitlement in different organizations. In addition, other than executing their parental roles, men and women in the workforce also have additional responsibilities that require more time and energy. These include personal developmental initiatives or community service (Buzzanell et al 2010, p. 261). This means that other than the responsibilities that are allocated in their workplaces, employees have multiple responsibilities which can only be understand through the multi-role approach. According to this perspective, the process of engaging in any employment responsibility is an indication that the employee has numerous responsibilities that need to be addressed partly by the salaries and wages that are attributable to their employments positions (De Bruin & Dupuis 2013, p. 27). An individual’s life is therefore characterized by a multidimensional experience that can be represented as a rainbow. From this approach it is possible to understand that there are roles that will be enacted consecutively while others simultaneously within a lifetime. This is evidence that every organization has a responsibility of acting in ways that provide employees with the ability to enact different responsibilities as part of fulfilling their obligations in life (De Bruin & Dupuis 2013, p. 29). The complete nature of the roles of workers vis-à-vis their responsibilities away from work requires the understanding from the systems theory. According to this theoretical approach, it is the obligation of workers within an organization to identify areas of flexibility and exploit those areas to their advantage. There have been claims that employers often use the part-time, compulsory and unpaid leave to exploit the employees by gaining more in terms of operating at lesser costs (Dex & Smith 2012, p. 34). According to the systems theory, it is the responsibility of the employer to understand the techniques by which the organization and devise a methodology that will serve the interests of the company and the employees. This is often made possible through the introduction of system that allows employees to select the times that they are available for work so long as it is in line with the minimum hours required for minimum wage. Through this approach the employees and the organization engage in some form of mutual benefit (De Bruin & Dupuis 2013, p. 30).
Work-life flexibility has been able to gain popularity in different organizations due to the availability of technological innovations. Devices such as laptop computers, mobile phones and the internet have transformed the space and time dimensions of work. This has enabled the development of numerous flexible working arrangements in different work environments (Hacker & Doolen 2010, p. 234). In addition, through these changes flexibility arrangements have been designed to not only meet the interests of the employees but also those of organizations to enable them respond to emerging trends such as globalization and the shortage of skills (De Bruin & Dupuis 2013, p. 31). In addition, through flexible working hours companies have been able to diversify their recruitment and retention strategies. According to recent studies flexible and scheduled hours of work have been found to be essential determinants of the level of commitment and job satisfaction among female employees. This is because it provides them with sufficient time to engage in work and personal developmental initiatives including house chores and other home related responsibilities (Beck & Davis 2014. p. 273)
There are numerous implications of excessive working hours on the performance of employees and the managers. One of the major implications is their level of commitment to their employments responsibilities. For employees to be able to show any form of dedication it is important that their jobs provide some level of satisfaction not only from the monetary perspective but also from the understanding that they are able to use the finances in different personal initiatives (De Bruin & Dupuis 2013, p. 32). Excessive working hours is an indication of the absence of flexible hours. This would mean that there would be high level of absenteeism due to fatigue or limited desire to engage in employment responsibilities. Absenteeism among employees and managers could also be due to the desire to engage in personal responsibilities at the expense of employment responsibilities (Dex & Smith 2012, p. 50). This increases stress related complications considering that most employees will have the responsibility of seeking an alternative means of gaining an operational work-life balance. Failure to acquire such a balance may result in among other factors the desire to seek better employment opportunities in other organizations that provide a relevant work-life balance (Elloy & Smith 2010, p. 60).
An additional implication will be the inability of the employer to distinguish between the work and personal responsibilities that affect the work-life of employees. This is because such individuals will always want to realize both objectives without a definite structure of operation (Higgins & Duxbury 2011, p. 4). This makes non-work roles to be considered as largely ambiguous hence the organization will not be able to cultivate an understanding on how their enactments would affect the lives of the workers and the supervisors (Higgins & Duxbury 2011, p. 5). When assessed form this perspective one can argue that organizations are either incapable or are unwilling to consider the desires of their workforce in sufficient details. In addition, it can also be perceived as an intention by the organization to exploit the employees in terms of the time spent in work at the expense of their personal lives (Hosie et al 2010, p. 75). Inasmuch as this approach to work-life may be perceived as benefit to the organization in the short term. It may turn out as the least essential approach once employees are exhausted from work and they are not efficient to execute their responsibilities in the organization. this can also be considered to be in contravention of work ethics since these polices of longer working hours enable employees to spend most of their time executing employment responsibilities instead of fulfilling their essential non-work roles (Elloy & Smith 2010, p. 62).
There are numerous assumptions that can be used in developing arguments on why most employees choose to stay at work instead of exploiting the available work-life balance opportunities. Workplace cultural factors for instance have been accused of playing a major role in the determination of the attitude and the approach of employees towards work life balance programs (Hosie et al 2010, p. 78). Employees experience limited job satisfaction and enrichment since they do not wish to be recognized as special case employees who require preferential treatment. Alternatively other factors such as economic requirements have also contributed to the decision by employees and managers to experience long working hours at their workplaces. These include the desires to gain more financial resources by working overtime and part-time. In 24 hour economies there are employees who choose to get involved in longer working hours for bonuses while neglecting their non-work responsibilities (Howard et al 2014, p. 385).
One of the main objectives of organizations is to develop a workforce that is dedicated towards their responsibilities and one that is engaged in different processes that define the operations of the organizations. Highly performing employees are those whose psychological functioning is efficient and they understand the essence of engaging in different roles for the purpose of realizing personal and organizational goals (Higgins & Duxbury 2011, p. 2). The ability of employees to access flexible working hours is an indication that they are able to engage in career development initiatives. These are ways through which employees enhance their knowledge and skills in different areas of work. However, excessive involvement in employment responsibility is an indication that the said employees and managers will not have time to engage in such developmental initiatives (Hyman & Summers 2010, p. 420). These employees will not only be ineffective compared to their counterparts they will also be less competitive in the job market hence making them redundant to the organization in the long term. It is therefore important to note that exposing employees to longer working hours is not only disadvantageous to the organization but also detrimental to physical and psychological wellbeing of the workers and the managers (Noor 2014, p. 388).
From a general perspective the ability of an individual to be engaged in any working relationship requires the definition of well stipulated time and in accordance with the existing laws. This is evidence that an organization will be able to maintain the enthusiasm that characterizes the responsibilities of an employee within the organization (Mellor et al 2011, 171). However, longer working hours not only introduce an aspect of boredom but also lead to some form of monotony on the working platform. In addition, it can also be perceived as some form approach to the understanding that there is need to consider the interests of the employees as this is the only way employees can develop the urge to engage in more productive work (Mellor et al 2011, 174).
Motivation has been considered as the most essential component in the realization of organizational objectives. Motivation in an organizational platform can arise from different initiatives by the organization to cater for the welfare of its employees and the management. Organizations must ensure that their employees are well motivated is through the provision of flexible hours of work (Higgins & Duxbury 2011, p. 2). The flexibility of these hours should not only be under the decision of the employee but it should also involve the employer to enable the development of a mutual understanding of the approach that the said employee is to use in his working responsibilities (Guest 2002, p. 335). In addition, through these deliberations the management will understand the difference between the time employees send on their employments responsibilities and the time they spend in non-work related functions. Furthermore, the management will reduce the probability of fatigue and boredom among employees while improving the possibility that employees and the managers will develop some form of interest and enthusiasm in their employment responsibilities (Phillips 2010, p. 680). Tihs is a way of ensuring that such employees can realize high level of job satisfaction and job enrichment within their workplaces. Such positivity is a guarantee of some form of improves in the ability of an organization to realize its objectives (Greenhaus & Powell 2006, p. 80).
Periods of economic downturns are major setbacks to the wellbeing of organizations and employees. This is based on the understanding that during such periods employers have the responsibility of developing a methodology that could enable them realize organizational growth ant limited costs. This may imply that employers will need to reduce the volume of their workforce while at the same time intensifying the amount of work that must be done to realize the objectives of the organization (Greenhaus & Powell 2006, p. 89). This when viewed from the role stress theory provides the understanding that it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the measures introduced minimize the possibility of the development of stress among employees (Biddle 2011, p. 68). This is only possible in situations where the roles that the employers give to their employees are in line with their abilities and operate within the requirement of the law. In most situations, economic downturns often necessitate the introduction of extreme situations where employers are compelled to subject their employees to longer working hours with limited pay (Greenblatt 2011, p. 177).
One way by which employers can operate in accordance with the role stress theory is through the introduction of flexible working hours that allows employees to start and complete their work within the agreed upon times. This can be very essential in situations where employees have to be engaged in multiple works in different organizations (Elloy & Smith 2010, p. 55). This will provide time for the employees to execute their responsibilities in different work situation and realize their objectives in personal life (Pocock. 2005, p. 200). This is one way through which employers can also ensure that they increase their chances of recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees. In addition, it is also an indication that the employer will be able to cover different workplace responsibilities across longer periods of the day. This extends the ability of the organization to enhance customer service and accessibility (Buda & Charnov 2013, p. 303).
It is also possible for employers to introduce quality part-time work. This is a way through which the employer will ensure that different employees are engaged in shorter but more productive work while at the same time finding time to engage in other economic and social commitments. This is not only motivation in periods of economic downturn as it helps in attracting and retaining highly skilled employees (Elloy & Smith 2010, p. 58). Furthermore, it is also a way through which the employer can assist the employees in combining work with other aspects of their life such as study and community service. Through part-time employees, employers will be able to provide employment opportunities to more individuals in the society compared to those who only engage permanent employees (Guest 2002, p. 345). Introducing different employees to work in accordance with specific weekly working hours introduces energized employees after a set of hors hence increasing the possibility that the organization will be engaged in more productive endeavors (Greenblatt 2011, p. 179).
Other than part-time working hours, it also possible for employers to introduce compressed working hours characterized by working off days for employees. This approach to flexible work-life provides an organization with a regular work pattern, which can be attractive to different employees. This approach to mutual benefits between the employer and the employees takes the form of different variations (Greenblatt 2011, p. 180). For instance the employer can introduce 4-day week where employees work four ten hour days and take an off on the fifth day. This allows the employees time for reflection and relaxation as other employees take up their responsibilities. This happens in a rotational manner as a way of ensuring that employees are not denied an opportunity to address personal issues while at the same time ensuring that the organization does not lose in terms of the population of its workforce. Employers can also engage their employees in choice roistering where employees are expected to assume the responsibility of allocating themselves shifts according to their time plans (Greenhaus & Powell 2006, p. 72). This must however be done in consultation with the management and within the existing procedures of operation. the process of setting up this roster the identification of staff needs, identification of the needs of the organizational, documentation of employee preferences and the desire to engage the employees in a transparent system that aims at meeting their needs (Purcell 2011, p. 14).
In conclusion, flexibility allows employees to find time to handle many personal responsibilities such as parenting and further studies. For the employers, flexibility allows them to devise methodologies through which they can realize the objectives of the organization through part- time working hours and reduced intensity in terms of the time employees get to address their responsibilities. Furthermore, it is also a way through which the employer can assist the employees in combining work with other aspects of their life such as study and community service.
Beck, D. & Davis, E. 2014. EEO in Senior Management: Women Executives in Westpac. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. 43(2): 273-288.
Biddle, B.J. 2011. Recent developments in role theory. Annual Review of Sociology. 12: 67-92.
Buda, R & Charnov, B.H. 2013. Message processing in realistic recruitment practices. Journal of
Managerial Issues. 15(3): 302-316.
Buzzanell, P.M. Meisenbach, R. Remke, R. Liu, M. Bowers, V. & Conn, C. 2010. The good working mother: Managerial women’s sense making and feelings about work-family issues. Communication Studies. 56(3): 261-285.
De Bruin, A. & Dupuis, A. 2013. Work-life balance? Insight from non-standard work. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations. 29(1): 21-37.
Dex, S. & Smith, C. 2012. The nature and pattern of family-friendly employment policies in Britain. Bristol: The Policy Press for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Elloy, D.F. & Smith, C.R. 2010. Patterns of stress, work-family conflict, role conflict, role ambiguity and overload among dual career couples: An Australian study. Cross Cultural Management. 10(1): 55-66.
Greenblatt, E. 2011. Work-life balance: Wisdom or whining? Organisational Dynamics. 31(2): 177-193.
Greenhaus, J.H. & Powell, G.N. 2006. When work and family are allies: A theory of work-family enrichment. The Academy of Management Review. 31(1): 72-92.
Guest, D. 2002. Human Resource Management, Corporate Performance and Employee Wellbeing: Building the Worker into HRM. Journal of Industrial Relations. 44(3): 335-358.
Hacker, S.K. & Doolen, T.L. 2010. Strategies for living: Moving from the balance paradigm. Career Development International. 8(6): 283-290.
Henry, A. 2011. Leadership revelations: An Australian Perspective. Sydney: CCH
Higgins, C. & Duxbury, L. 2011. Saying “no” in a culture of hours, money and non-support. Ivey Business Journal Online. July/August: 1-5.
Hosie, P., Forster, N. & Sevastos, P. 2010. The Impact of Global Pressures on Australian Managers Affective Well-Being and Performance. Research and Practice in Human Resource Management. 12(1): 73-91.
Howard, W.G. D’Onofrio, H.H. & Boles, J.S. 2014. Inter-domain work-family conflict and police work satisfaction. Policing. 27(3): 380-395.
Hyman, J. & Summers, J. 2010. Lacking balance? Work-life employment practices in the modern economy. Personnel Review. 33(4): 418-429.
Mellor, S. Mathieu, J.E. Barnes-Farrell, J.L. & Rogelberg, S.G. 2011. Employees’ non-work obligations and organisational commitments: A new way to look at the relationships. Human Resource Management. 40(2): 171-184.
Noor, N. 2014. Work-Family Conflict, Work- and Family-Role Salience, and Women’s Well-
Being. The Journal of Social Psychology. 144(4): 389-405.
Phillips, J. M. 2010. Effects of Realistic Job Previews on Multiple Organizational Outcomes: A
Meta Analysis. Academy of Management Journal. 41(6): 673-690.
Pocock, B. 2005. Work-life ‘balance’ in Australia: Limited progress, dim prospects. Asia Pacific
Journal of Human Resources. 43(2): 198-209.
Purcell, J. 2011. Sustaining the HR and performance link in difficult times. CIPD Conference,