Thursday 24 March 2011 DIGITALIRELAND INSIGHT 9 Flexibility Why Irish bosses should embrace flexible working
Often the real reason why flexible working levels in Ireland are below international norms is because Irish bosses cling to Dickensian work ethics and still like to see their employees clock in and out. Doireann Mc DerMott looks at the reasons why company heads here should embrace the 21st century world of work
F there’s a silver lining to the recession, it’s that smart companies are beginning to turn time into a tool to attract, retain and engage high-performing talent of both sexes, according to Sylvia ann Hewlett in
her December 2009 new york Times article ‘Making Flex Time a Win-Win’. So what are the win-win elements to a more flexible work- ing approach? What advantages are there to both employers and employees if they adopt a less traditional work environment?
Cuts the commute time It is clear that by working from home it elimi- nates time wasted commuting to work. This can create more productive workers by giving employees the opportunity to devote quality time to their work. It also means that employ- ees can work around their own schedule, not only allowing more freedom of movement but also alleviating stress. Flexible working means that workers can avoid an early morning start or avoid getting stuck in rush hour traffic, and it also gives them extra time to concentrate on their work. This provides bosses with happier, less stressed and more focused employees.
Happier employees Every employer’s dream company involves happy, highly-motivated and productive staff. Flexible working arrangements (FWas) allow employees to work around their own sched-
ule, enabling them to have a better work/ life balance. That means happier employees, which in turn means higher productivity. and offering FWas are an attractive alternative to companies who want to increase employee benefits, but are still feeling cash-strapped and are not in a position to offer the huge bo- nuses of yesteryear.
Reduces company cost Flexible working has real tangible benefits for employers as it helps create a cost-efficient company, saving large sums on office space and other overheads such as electricity, of- fice equipment and house keeping costs. Thus home-based employees offer lower start-up costs. This, in turn, encourages entrepreneur- ship.
Carbon footprint not only is commuting cost-efficient, it is also impacting on the future of the entire planet. Each kilometre travelled and each car manufactured adds to the destruction of the environment. Employers would be creating eco-friendly companies by embracing flexible working. Cutting carbon emissions is detri- mental in reducing the hazardous effects of climate change.
Family Flexible working means that workers with
children have more flexible hours to drop them to crèche or school. Working in a home environment means that employees are in a place they are comfortable and they do not have to worry about family or home mat- ters while at work. It also gives them greater flexibility to deal with home matters in their chosen hours, allowing them to focus better when working. This again creates happy and productive workers.
Decrease in absenteeism The Society for Human Resource Manage- ment’s June 2009 study Workplace Flexibil- ity in the 21st Century: Meeting the needs of the Changing Workforce reported that com- panies with formal FWas saw an increase in employee morale and job satisfaction paired with increased employee retention, increased productivity and a decrease in absenteeism.
Savings in non-productive management cost structures The more educated employees are, the less formal management structures are required, as they are in Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ striving towards ‘self-actualisation’ and are therefore self-motivated to willingly strive for excellence in their work output. (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by abraham Maslow in his 1943 pa- per a Theory of Human Motivation). Reduced
layers or management hierarchy, resulting in a flatter management structure, can provide considerable savings in non-productive costs. In such circumstances the employee is moti- vated towards goal accomplishment and not the tangible rewards of salary, bonuses or other perks which in management speak are mere ‘hygiene factors’.
Promotes a relationship of trust between employee and employer Workers who feel trusted are usually highly- motivated and therefore more responsible for their workload. Good employee relations es- tablishes a level of trust where a more produc- tive work environment can be nurtured and trade unions are less effective or indeed, in the proper context, not likely to be required. In such circumstances, industrial action, breach of employer-employee trust, loss of custom- ers to competitors and associated other losses due to downtime can be avoided.
Better recruitment choices Having a flexible work environment will also give an employer an edge in recruiting top tal- ent, and can actually increase office coverage, and reduce office space and overhead expens- es. and heaven forbid your office or building falls prey to a natural disaster, the company’s workforce will already be trained to operate outside of the workplace.
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