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Flexible Work Practices (FWPs) redefine where, when and how employees get work done. In addition, talent, jobs and the workplace become perceived in novel and unique ways. Rather than face-time or hours spent in the office, output and results become more important. In essence, therefore, productivity is of apex-importance rather than “presenteeism”.
Flexible working includes flexibility with regard to contracts, hours, location and tasks. For sure, not every company or division within a company – especially customer-facing ones – can implement flexible working but where this is possible, employers and employees can reap tremendous benefits.
Before highlighting some of these benefits, it is important to note some of the more widely utilised forms of FWPs. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
o Telecommuting which offers location-flexibility.
o Work-from- home options which allow employees to work from home or a mobile office.
o Flexi-time, which enables flexibility in terms of start and end times.
o Compressed Work Weeks, where the standard work week is condensed into longer but fewer days.
o Hot-Desking where employees who are in the office environment for limited periods only, share space.
Other FWPs such as virtual work, phased retirement, phased return from a long period of leave, part-time work, career breaks and job sharing comprise a range of other options that are gaining in popularity.
With most of the above, there is minimal contact between line managers and their employees. For the FWP options to succeed, it is essential for task objectives, timelines, outputs and performance standard to be clearly defined and cemented in agreements that incorporate these as well as the flexible arrangements. Under these circumstances, employees are likely to increase productivity and quality, instead of lose the option to work flexibly.
From an employer perspective, various empirical studies highlight FWP benefits such as the attraction and retention of top talent; enhanced employee satisfaction and morale and a resultant increase in productivity; cost efficiencies through the reduced use of office space and resources; and, a reduction in their company’s carbon-footprint by reducing the number of employees who are travelling to a fixed office environment at a fixed time.
Depending on the nature of the FWP option, employees could count reduced commuting time; a reduction in child-care and child-transportation costs; a reduced need to take time off work for caring for aged and infirm dependents; and. a greater balancing between domestic and professional responsibilities among their range of benefits.
Yes, FWPs do not suit all personality types among employers and employees and major mindset paradigm shifts are required probably from all sides for it to work optimally. For companies contemplating the adoption of FWPs but are riddled with doubt and misgivings, it is probably worth remembering that there is no model of work that is either completely flawless or totally flawed.
Go on, give FWPs a chance.