Demand for More Work Flexibility
As times change, the workforce of today and tomorrow will be different than of the past. Work conditions and standards alter per demand and evolution of the human resource department. With need for quality human capital within companies, HR managers must respond to the professional and personal needs of employees to keep turnover rates low and retention high. The answer to the retention problem may be flexible staffing schedules and work hours. By companies implementing policies that include flexibility in working hours, employees can benefit and maintain a higher level of satisfaction at work.
Demand for more work flexibility began as early as the 1960’s. In the 1960’s certain dynamics within the family/work balance shifted. For example, more women joined the workforce. Later, as technology developed, telecommuting options strengthened the idea of flexibility in working hours. Research into emergence of family and work balance problems within the United States, offered four key areas to examine. They are:
1. History of family/work balance
2. Changing needs of present and future employees
3. New issues companies face
4. Programs implemented by companies to handle demand for flexible work hours
The 1960’s heralded the beginning of two-income households. With men and women working, the demand for more flexible work hours increased. The traditional 9-5 work hours became less appealing and so some companies began to hire from temp agencies giving temp employees the flexibility that they needed to earn and take care of responsibilities at home. “By the late 1960’s and 1970’s temp agencies were openly recruiting men and selling temp agency work in a variety of ‘breadwinning’ jobs, including occupations in the technical, medical, and industrial sectors” (Fu, 2015, p. 42). After the increase of temp jobs in the 1960’s, the 1970’s saw an even bigger increase to 185,000 temps each day. The 1970’s took another progressive step towards demand of more flexible work hours due to economic crash of 1971 and the subsequent swelling number of women entering the workforce. “This sharp rise in women’s work activity, combined with the increase in the female population, has more than doubled the number of American women in the labor force, increasing it from 26.2 million in 1965 to 69.3 million in 2005” (Becker, 2006, p. 38).
Thus, companies began creating and establishing policies that permitted increased flexibility in work hours through development of flexible work schedules. Soon the balance of home and work life became synonymous with the American employee. The change in the working population was not the only aspect to generate increased demand. In the 1990’s the use of new technology allowed for telecommuting, making work from home possible, providing accommodation for flexible work hours. People could stay at home and work and even attend meetings through the use of the internet and webcam and conference calls (Blount & Gloet, 2017).
Results of Flexible Workforce Programs
With more job flexibility in terms of scheduling and hours, employees felt a greater rate of satisfaction with their jobs and could enjoy a more balanced work/home life (Blount & Gloet, 2017). Policies that promote flexible work hours contributes to a company’s productivity and improves retention rates among its employees. By tending to the base needs of employees in relation to flexibility, a company can remain competitive amidst a growing number of savvy and competent competitors (Hughes, 2012).
While companies want to keep, employees satisfied, the down economy and consistent recessions has kept companies from developing extensive policy concerning flexible work hours. Companies face the problem of maintaining operational costs low, leading to an inability to adequately fulfill the growing demand for flexible hours. Aside from lack of resources and economic downturn, Baby Boomers are a big reason why the demand for flexible working hours has increased in the present due to lack of retirees among the population.
Baby Boomers and those from Generation Y, want not only greater flexibility in work hours, but also to work remotely. “Both Baby Boomers (87%) and Gen Ys (89%) rate flexible work as important; they also want opportunities to work remotely at least part of the time” (Schermerhorn, 2012, p. 137). Companies have to deal with these challenges as best they can. This means putting priority over certain processes.
Contingent Workforce Policy
Some companies try to maintain flexibility even with budgetary concerns. Examples of companies enforcing a contingent workforce policy is Hallmark. Hallmark centralized operations in their Flexible Staffing Department that allowed costs to remain low and gave employees flexible working hours. ” . . . employers allow workers to have part-time schedules and some of these are available to a wide array of workers, not only to parents. … promoting flexible work arrangements (such as flextime, telecommuting, and also reduced hours schedules) through employment law” (In Pitt-Catsouphes, In Kossek, & In Sweet, 2015, p. 35). Ultimately, policies and current trends suggest that there is a steady and progressive stance on demand for more work flexibility.
In conclusion, flexible working hours are an essential part of today and tomorrow’s workforce. The future suggests more and more people will demand increased flexibility in their work place. With companies facing a constantly competitive market, they may look to already available resources like technology to develop and implement policies that allow for greater work flexibility. Telecommunication, remote jobs, and the use of the internet can make for cost-effective solutions to a demand that has existed for decades.
Becker, P. C. (2006). Social change in America: The historical handbook, 2006. Lanham, MD: Bernan Press.
Blount, Y., & Gloet, M. (2017). Anywhere Working and the New Era of Telecommuting. IGI Global.
Fu, H. (2015). Temporary agency work and globalisation: Beyond flexibility and inequality. Farnham: Gower Publ.
Hughes, C. (2012). Valuing people and technology in the workplace: A competitive advantage framework. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
In Pitt-Catsouphes, M., In Kossek, E. E., & In Sweet, S. (2015). The Work and Family Handbook: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives and Approaches.
Schermerhorn, J. R. (2012). Organizational behavior. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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