Does Flexible Working Suit Everyone?

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My previous blog explains in general how we at FlexTime use Research.  So let’s look at one specific example.  In our interesting study, entitled “Does Everyone Prefer a Flexible Work Arrangement?” the focus was mainly on considering if Flexible Working suited everyone.  FlexTime carried out the research with Adelphi University of New York.

So this study looked at whether or not employees prefer to keep their home and work life quite separate or the opposite i.e. are they are happy that the lines are blurred between work and home?.

For example, there seems a natural inclination on most people’s part to assume that employees prefer the option to work at home, if given the chance.  In addition, and the researchers in this study remind us that “organizations have been encouraged by practitioners and academics to foster a more integrative workplace policies such as on-site day care, job sharing and flextime.”

Certainly, flexible work arrangements, when compared to the standard Monday through Friday work week or fixed time shifts, allow for:

  • work to be accomplished outside of the traditional time and/or space
  • greater integration of work and home roles

However this study pointed to employees having differing views and needs in terms of keeping their home and work life separate. Therefore a key consideration for organizations is that offering flexible work arrangements without bearing in mind the needs or views of the employee may not yield the anticipated results. So organizations should not assume that such arrangements will be attractive and effective for all employees.

This is interesting for those in HR responsible for introducing flexible working schemes.

For example, in an organisation anxious to promote home working, not every mother with young children may feel that it’s effective to work from home.  Then some employees may purposely want to keep their home and work life quite separate … and so on.

Changes In Employee Rights:

In addition there is now a new dimension to all of this. To explain, since the 1970’s flexible working has tended to arrive in organisations as an agreed collective scheme to  include many of the various arrangements simultaneously.   However, now due to a recent change in employment rights, in some countries, all employees are entitled to request to negotiate their own individual flexible working arrangements.

Moreover, this request can emerge at any time. Therefore any new arrangements move away from the older collective approach to a potentially more singularly and randomly agreed process.    

In the UK, for instance, under the Children and Families Act, all 31 million employees now have the right to request flexible working. Other countries have either introduced something similar or are thinking about it.

This blog asks “Does Flexible Working Suit Everyone” and presumably employees who feel is does not suit them, won’t then look for such an arrangement – even with the new legislation allowing them to do so.

However, in cases where an employee does decide to request his/her own flexible working arrangement, it raises the question of whether or not the employee or indeed the employer knows what the outcomes might be into the future of that arrangement? For example, has the potential home worker considered the impact of isolation?  How, even though well meaning, would the employee or representative view advice on this from the employer?

But that is only the employee side of this. So from the employers perspective, do those at senior management level have an accurate knowledge about the combined effect in the long term on services, of singular arrangements being made sequentially?

So what should we make of all this?

The message seems to be that irrespective of whether or not organisations are working with the original “collectively agreed” flexible working model or are more in a react mode as per the “employee request” model – they need to keep an eye on

  1. The potential “knock on” outcomes for the employee and the workplace
  2. What is being agreed sequentially and to ensure that it’s general effects are not creating a strain on services

At FlexTime, we see that our role as a company is firstly to help to inform and advise organisations on the issues of working time and shifts. Building on that phase, for the customer we can then better apply

  • the expert software programmes which we have continuously improved on over a period of 30 years
  • the utilities which we have designed for use on hardware devices.

The overall aim is to help each scheme to run to it optimum effectiveness.

Finally, this research study won first place at a major psychology conference in in Florida (Institute of Behavioural and Applied Management), and is a published academic paper in the United States.