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Using Flexible Work Practices Business Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 5444 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Significant amount of the recent HRM literature (Human Resource Management) concerns the issue of flexibility in the organisation either from the employees or employers perspective. This is mainly de to the socio-economic changes happening in the last decade driving the organisations towards better employment systems.

Trau(199) highlights different reason for the increase as organisations are seeking flexibility to make themselves adaptable to the competitive global markets where as the employees are favouring flexible terms for a greater security of employment and work-life satisfaction.

The traditional organisational firms are long gone due to the globalisation of markets, technological changes and increase in competitors. The successful today’s organisation needs to be able to cope itself with the hyper competitive environment and response accordingly. These patterns have led to the increase in employee opportunities and perseverance.

Based on the above attention has developed model for the flexible firm.

The growing interest in using flexible work practices in the organisations is mutual. This may be due to the laws(UK) and productivity measures by the organisation. But the increase in the range of practices employed can be noticed(kersey et al;2005)

Typically flexible working options in the work place can be said “as an employee and employer making changes to when, where and how a person works to meet individual and business needs at their best.

While the concept stays put, it is the type of arrangement that makes the difference.

Workplace flexibility (2010) states the above stated arrangement as ” any one of a spectrum of work structures that alters the time and place that work gets done on a regular basis.

Basically the flexible work options include flexi-time remote working, reduced/compressed hours work time etc. depending upon the employee/employers need and agreement.

[Revise form flexible-work [Terry o Brien] [PG10]

Types of Arrangements:-

Part Time, FlexiTime, Job share, WFH, Time offin lieu, Tele work.

The type of practices divided according to when where and how can be seen below.

When people work:-

Flexi Time:- it is the most popular arrangement where In the number of hours worked per week remains same but it just alters the start and finish times of work depending upon the need [Elbingtonet, al 1975]

Part Time Work:- Part time work in general refers to the reduction in the number of working hours as opposed to the standard weekly hours.

Variable year employment: – depending on the requirement of the job, variance year employment requires the employee to work more hours during busy perio and vice versa.

Part Year Employment:- which is also referred to as purchased leave. It allows the employee to make longer periods of leave (4 weeks – 8 weeks)

Leave:- Eg Parental Leave, Study Leave, Career Breaks etc. But without pay.

Olmsted & smith (1994) defines leave as as authorized period of time away from work without loss of benefits.

Where employees work:-

Work from home:- This method of working has become very popular now a days due to the advancements in technology. Eg: IT industry. It can be done either part time or full time or occasionally as agreed by the employee-employer duo.

Remote working:- this refers to the people working remotely at the client work place occasionally or all their working hours.

How employees work:

Job share:- Job sharing is when two people share one full time job and benefits according to the agreements.

Phased retirement allows the patrons to reduce their full time work commitment gradually over the years (5 days to 3 days/week) before moving to retirement.

Annualised hours:- these are set numbers of hours per year the employee agrees to work for the organisational instead of the standard number of hours per week.

These flexice work arrangements are not new but had started part 20 year or so. These has partly emerged due to technology; but recent popularity accompanied regarding these practices can be accredited to the government policies and laws which are trying to encourage WLB; by supporting family friendly policies.

Lewis(1997) states 5 main reasons for the introduction of these arrangement.

Meet family friendly goals.

Meet labour demand

Promote diversity


Business case

Avoid absenteeism retention etc.

These arrangements are not limited to any specific industry age or workers. Whatever the age, gender or career, flexible working applies to everyone depending on the employer’s business objectives and employee needs. These arrangements are for the benefit of both the employee and business and are neither temporary nor fixed. They may remain static or change, according to the interests of both of the parties for better organisational performance.

The laws supporting flexible working in the UK can be found later in the paper.

Forces driving flexibility:

Flexibility in the organisations is driven by many contributing internal and external components since it has got the popularity of linkage with good people management practices and better performance objectives. Flexible working has been achieving a greater pace in its development and wider usage in small businesses and MNC’s. Although one has to be conscious that like any other process of change in the organisations, flexible working holds both its pros and cons which will be discussed later in the paper. The society in which we live has seen many radical changes in the last 2-3 decades and it certainly has its impact on the life style of people and the organisations they work (in context of technological and demographic factors). The demographical changes have a heavy influence on the size and composition of the work force the labour market now-a-days consist of an equal composition of male to female work force as opposed to earlier traditional workforce. The issue of women in the work force have become more pertinent due to the potential labour shortages in some sectors even with all the advancements in the modern society women always tend to be responsible for their family child care .Rachid M Zeftane points out that the absence of flexible work option might become a barrier to work. The increasing numbers of women in the workforce is one of the top factors driving flexibility in organisations.

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Women now a day are not restricted to secretarial or nursing jobs but they are equally ranked along with their counterparts such as politician’s engineers, lawyers or other management roles. Surprisingly they are even making their presence in blue collar jobs such as Bus drivers, Mail carriers and Police. Karoly and panis (2004) points out that women are becoming permanent members of the workforce at all levels. Due to this pressures and expectations are mounting up requiring them to work more hours for them flexibility at work has been heralded a favourite strategy helping the men and women a better opportunity for child care. Irene Hardill and Dan Wheatly (2009) puts that these dual career households are the most egalitarian in nature. The number of them has been on the rise totalling to almost 2.23 million the UK by 2001 as compared to 1.2 million in 1984-91 (Irene Hardill, Anne Green & Anna Duddleston(1997)

Flexible working arrangements are not only meant for women. Another important factor pushing flexibility in the workplace is the role of fathers in child care. Men are seeking family friendly policies for a better balance and professional and family life and are looking forward to play a important role in caring for their children. Equalities and human rights commission states that almost half of fathers have some kind of flexible work option available although 30% are actually using them. Figures reveal that 91% of dads now take time off around their child birth and very much value their arrangement with the organisation.

Due to the advancements in medicine there has been a rise in ageing population. This has also led to the increase in the number of carers [parents/relatives etc]. Similar to the child care organisation have the need to extend certain kind of FWA to carers. The statistics can be seen along with the child carers in the graphs. Another important factor acting as a driver of flexible working is “up skilling the workforce”. The employees realised the importance to up skill themselves in order to compete with the hyper active markets. So educational requirements has impacted the organisations need to provide options for their employees.Business school graduates are opting for a workstyle to go with their life style “[The economist, 2006] driving the organisations to employ FWA’s to retain the best.

Influence of Legislation:

The Employment Act (2002), work and families act [2006] provides the right to request flexible working to 3.6 million parents, 2.05 million carers in the UK(BERR,2010).

According to the working time regulations Act [WTR] introduced in 1998 in the UK, it imposes a limit on weekly working hours to 48 hrs/week along with the leave entitlements granted under the European working time directive (EWTD).

Achieving balance between work and family for dual career couples is critical but young employees this generation are working to live rather than living to work according to the journalism news letter (Williamson, 2006).

The extension to the flexible work regulations (2003) has now come into force in 2009 which provided the right to request flexible working for almost a third of the UK work force.

Fig 1 [Awareness]

Equality legislation also affects the flexible working policy of an organisation in respect to gender, age and disability.

The discrimination act (1975) potentially avoids then direct and indirect inequalities in relation to gender & martial status affecting the working-time policy.

The disability discrimination act DDA (1995) ensures that the disabled person in not at disadvance by making an employer obligation to provide reasonable adjustments to the work place & work hours. (Foster, 2007)

For older workers the UK legislation requires the employers to consider the employees requests beyond the retirement age to increase their participation in the labour force [OWP, 2006; Lissenburgh & Smeaton 2003]

Despite benefits reaped by the employer to introduce FWA in the organisations, several laws imposed by the government to support work life balance has led to them being an essential part of the organisation. Another important factor driving flexibility in today’s competitive world is Talent Management. The highly volatile economic environment has significantly impacted the recruitment process posing its dependability on the highly motivated and committed staff. Attracting and retaining “Potential Individuals” has been identified as a strategic imperative (Lutbish and Smith 2007) in all the sectors as a result of the changing demographics of the working population, skill shortages and pursuit of WLB. (Byman and Summers, 2004). Organisations have been successfully using flexible work polices as a talent attraction and retention tool. Scandura and Lankau (1997) stated that employees are seen to have shown a greater deal of commitment and obtain job-satisfaction in the flexible organisations. Employers in the western countries are focussed on good will as well as productivity. Introduction of family friendly policies in their work force can be seen as a form of positive branding for the organisation, which further helps in attracting and retaining the talent as well as reputation in the market.

One more factor a concerning the employees to favour flexible Work Arrangement is the reduction in absenteeism and turnover rates which are optimising productivity levels by reducing training and new recruitment costs.

In addition to the above mentioned factors, globalisation also plays an important role in favouring flexible working in terms of start and ending work hours with reference to different time zones. There is a further push to flexible working in some cases (or countries) as result of the global economy raising the standards of business.

Flexible working and WLB:

What is WLB? As the name suggests, work life balance in its broadest sense is defined as a satisfactory level of involvement or fit between multiple roles in a person’s life (Hudson, 2005)

WLB for any individual is having the ‘right’ combination of participation in paid work and other aspects of their lives. This combination will not always be constant. It changes according to the changing responsibilities and commitments in their work and family lives. WLB policies helps the employees achieve a balance between work and family commitments. Now a days the WLB policies and practices are becoming increasingly important to both the employer and the employee. Due to its beneficial effects on the employee in terms of commitment, job satisfaction and low levels of stress in turn is having a positive effect on the employer. Even the legislation has been promoting WLB policies and its uptake in the organisations. This is based on the evidence of a “Stronger Business Case” by introducing FWA aiding in a greater WLB and their contribution to effective recruitment & retention of staff, employee satisfaction and productivity. A survey funded by Joseph RownTree foundation by the researched at university of Cambridge (Dex and Smith, 2002) concluded that “There are positive effects on employee commitment from adopting family friendly policies and it even stated that nine out of ten firms employed with WLB policies found them cost-effective”.

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Due to the changes in demography and the increase in dual career households, achieving a balance in becoming much more difficult especially with children (Bulger et;al 2007). Despite the government campaigns (work-life balance campaign) and the working regulations (2007) in place from the last decade, achieving a desired balance is becoming tough in the house-hold,work place interface. Hence it is important for the employer to support WLB by adopting family friendly strategies and practices beneficial to the employees. Flexible working practices make up a majority of work-life balances policies. They include flexi-time, job share, work from home, term time hours, part time working employee support services such as crèche facilities, counselling etc. Authors such as Mulvaney et al (2006) stated that the levels of conflict between work and family will be moderated as a result of the support from the employers. These components work in various ways and positively affect job satisfaction and organisational commitment ultimately leading to employee retention and low levels of absenteeism thus supporting “the business case” (Mulvaney, et al (2006), Cleveland et al, (2007) Namasirayan and Zaho (2007). Decisions by either men/women to leave an organisation are heavily influenced by their concerns to work-life balance. Research has steadily shown that organisations supporting the employee’s family commitments reap benefits in terms of employee commitment and lower turnover rates. Allen 2001, Ayee, Luk and Stone (1988) points that employees who has been provided support from the management have fewer intentions of leaving the organisation and report greater satisfaction at work. A supportive work-family culture even helps the female employees to return to work more quickly after child’s birth (Lyness et al 1999).

Flexible working: Impact on recruitment and retention of the employees.

Attracting motivating and retaining talented workforce (or knowledge worker- a term coined by Drunker 1989) is becoming important in the tight labour market. This is mainly due to the global convergence of technology and hyper-competition among the organisations. Strategies have been emerging accordingly to attract and retain the skilled workers to attain competitive advantage. Possessing these people management abilities in the organisation helps to cope up with the change in and around and stand out from the crowd making its steps towards organisational performance. Releasing the significance, there is an emergence of bundles of literature and research evidence that shows specific HR strategies such as FWA’s to the employee are helping attract, motivate and retain them. (Boron and Hannan, 2002, Heurtt & associates, 2001)

Recruitment as stated by sims(2002) is the process of finding and attracting individuals to fill the actual or anticipated job vacancies. Recruitment is another potential area which is impacted by the changing demographics of the work force. Organisations has the need to provide with what the employees need for broadening the labour pool and attract qualified and skilful workers who cannot work the traditional work schedule. There is a growing evidence that the skill shortages are mounting up every year and there is no measure to subside it in the foreseeable future. In the “war for talent” organisation need to be able to respond according to the cultural trends and provide the employees with flexible working practices they need to create a balance between work and family commitments. Responding to the demographic trends, there is even a need to engage and motivate mature age working which helps in the building of a diverse work force. Lewis(1997) believes that a culture shift is needed so that the diverse and different patterns of work are equally valued and that too without the gender difference. Now a day the notion of working to live rather than living to work bureaucratically is gaining popularity. (Not the case always). Realising the importance of family friendly work-culture, legislation and benefits of flexible working strongly becoming a business case, the employees are changing their work environments supporting the employee family & professional commitments (Total salary increase budget 2001/2002 conducted by world at work)

Subsequently the policies aiding in the WLB of the employees are acting as recruiting initiatives. Flexible work schedules have been proved to be the chosen and most popular amongst the line managers. Surveys have stated that the employers who are considerate of the employees will be able to develop a sense of commitment in the employee minds boosting their motivational levels. Similar to the recruitment, flexible working options have has its impact on the turnover rate of the employees. The charted institute of personnel and development (2000) cites benefits of FWA in improved recruitment, retention, productivity, motivation and employee commitment Other than the private surveys and individual surveys conducted by the organisational there is no signification research relating flexible working policies to the retention of the employee.

Employee retention can be defined as the effort by an employer to retain the desirable workers in order to meet its desired business objectives (Franks et al 2004). It is beneficial to both the employer and the employees. In the perspective of the employee the balance between work and family puts him at a level of ease and increase his job satisfaction. Due to the advancements in technology individuals are able to work from any location at varied periods of time. Organisations are effectively at benefit due to the varied time zones due to the international markets and employees ready to work other than the core hours. (Dibble, 1999). From the employers perspective, it affects the firm’s reputation if the turnover rate is high and it will have a significant effect on the organisational overall purpose.(Even has a negative impact on recruitment). This is due to the soaring costs of the recruitment which include advertising, interviewing costs training costs as well as the use of physical resources in the recruitment process. Results from a survey in Australia (joydeepttor, 1997) shows that the visible cost of turnover to the organisation (recruitment, hiring, orientation and training) is between 50 and 150 percent of a person’s annual salary. But the author predicts that the number may be quite high as the factors such as expertise loss & productivity, time are not taken into account.

“one size fits all” approach no longer works. Employers other than facing constant turn over and unhappy employees should accommodate the needs of the people. (Gregory P Smith) states that ” an employee who has to choose between work and family may very well quit”. In contrast employers can be effective in providing a work life a balance to its work force which improves the morale and produces loyal employees. Many firms are focussing on improving their HR strategies to flexible working especially for women to allow them to come back to work after their maternity leave. This is helping the organisation restore the employee’s talent to the firm. Devising a strategic pattern of work around the life style of employees gives them a feeling of empowerment and trust to manage their own work load in hours suitable to them.There are many multinational organisations that are successful in their own field that realise the importance of WLB to the employee and as well as the organisation and adopted multiple strategies according to their needs. Example: Dell UK has adopted and devised a strategy for implementing flexible working helping to achieve a diverse work force. (www.dell.co.uk)

NBS the firm upon which the research is upon has realised the importance of family friendly policies more than two decades ago and promoted tele- working for selling their mortgages and providing customer care providing support to full time home workers and in turn it has become an employer of choice. 93% of the female workforce and returning back to work helping in the low levels of turnover and productivity.

Barriers for the introduction of flexible working in organisations

Workplace capacity-Unlike the MNC’s, SME’s particularly lack the capacity to implement FWA to their employee. (Lang et al,2000) specifies that flexible working policies in smaller business are certainly at a disadvantage. This can be justified by the statement by MC Donald et al (2005) who notes that the development of family friendly policies were often linked to suiting their business needs rather than the employees. Organisational culture definitely plays an important role in the development of flexible working policies which is lacking in SME’s. However organisational culture is not limited to SME’s but larger organisations also need to improve their work culture which supports the flexible work practices. HR personnel should develop strategies according to the needs of the employee and the organisation. The perception of achieving success working long hours should be shifted on the basis performance. Communication is an aspect to be worked upon when adopting FWA as it plays an important role in the successful implementation.

Training programmes for the manager should be conducted to bridge the implementation gap between policy and practice. An effective communication strategy helps the Isolated workers to be under the constant support of team members and colleagues. Awareness should be created to all the employees at all the levels about the flexible working policies and practices. In many organisations the type of job/work acts as barrier for flexible working. Some jobs acts as a barrier for flexible working as they require your physical presence at the organisation E.g.customer services, IT support, maintenance and repairs etc. But that kind of work can take advantage of shift systems. Another barrier for flexible working is perception of males who think that flexible working puts them at a disadvantage when compared to women in the work force. Despite the gender it is a common belief in the work force that taking advantage of the flexible working policies makes them lose their position at work or affects their development ladder in the organisation. One more consideration is the single or childless employee attitudes that the FWA are unfair to them.

But successful implementation of the FWA in the organisations is needed that can benefit both the employer and employee. The spectacular Olympic 2012 in London had had its impact on flexible working as nearly 2 out of 10 organisations have trialled new forms of working. Recent survey taken out by the Institute of leadership of management stated that nearly half of the companies who tried flexible working practices during the Olympics are likely to continue them. Responding to the mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s comments that “home working would be a skiver’s paradise” – the employers said the employees were more productive and motivated.

According to the literature, flexibility in the work place does have its impact on the employee in terms of motivation, commitment and morale. Like an open environment, flexibility can be powerful tool in attracting and retaining good employees.

Research Design and Methodology:-


This chapter sets out by stating the research objectives of the study and will explore the nature of qualitative and quantitative Research method. By knowing them in detail helps out to create a link between the devised research questions and appropriate data collection methods. It describes then chosen research design and the techniques used for data collections the sample size and limitations of the study.

Research Questions and Objectives:

What is the impact of flexible work policies on the employee in terms of motivation and organisational commitment?

What is the impact of FWA in the Recruitment of employees at NBS?

What is the impact/role of FWA in the Retention of employees at NBS?

What is the effect of flexible working on the WLB of the employee?

Overview of the Research methods:

Qualitative Research Methods:-

Generally speaking, qualitative research provides information about the “human side” of an issue.

According to Bryman & Bell(2007), “It is a research strategy that usually emphasises work in word rather than numbers as in quantitative methods in the collection and analysis of data.” Johnson and Christensen (2004) stated that the unique feature of qualitative research is that it helps the research’s gain a deeper understanding of the participants than purely quantitative data. This method uses participant observation/ethnography, interviewing and focus groups as data collection methods. However due to the ambiguity in connecting theory and research it is facing some resistance. But there is no one best method everything is dependent on the research question and the resources.

Quantitative Research Methods:

Quantitative Research often entails as systematic and or scientific investigation employing mathematical models and theories. It enables the researcher to provide the data to the reader in numerical forms such as percentages and statistics. It has the benefits of easily tabulating large volumes of data. A quantitative method uses data collection methods such as questionnaires, structured/semi structured Interviews, focus groups. But it has its drawbacks of being totally objective in the interpretation of results as it falls to gain a deeper understanding of human experiences and a lesser control of the variables involved.

Mixed Methods Research:-

However one more method of Research called mixed methods research has been gaining Importance which claims to bridge the gaps between qualitative & quantitative forms. It involves collecting, analysing and mixing quantitative and qualitative approaches providing a better understanding of research problems than one method alone. (Creswell .J.W (1997). Despite Challenging in nature it provides strengths that offsets the weaknesses of the other two methods. But it all comes down to the suitability of the research questions and the research design chosen. Some times during the mixed methods research it is not possible to understand the benefits of the process until we analyse the data. Conducting mixed methods research helps to develop multiple perspectives. For my research it helps me to analyse both the employee and employers perspectives on flexible working and its impact on attraction and retention of employees in relation with WLB.

My research consists of both qualitative and quantitative data collected through a series of interviews with 4 HR Managers and 60 employees who have access to flexible working at NBS. I am aspiring to know the impact of the flexible working on the employees in relation and its effect on turnover rate of the employees at NBS.

The semi-structured interviews which hold an equal importance as the self-completion questionnaires helps to the gain knowledge of the employer’s perspective in relation to the attraction retention of the employees and WLB.

Research Design

Of all the research designs, Case-study approach has been found appropriate for my research as it entails as detailed and intensive analysis as single case and or organisation (Bryman and Bell, 2007) According to the research questions designed it allows the observations to be evaluated in context(Robson, 1995). According to Adams(2005) it helps dealing with the problems of reliability and validity and allows the triangulation of data. It is best suited for my research as NBS already boasts about the happy employees due to their flexi-working policies in their websites. Case study is deemed advantages as it enables the researcher a greater understanding of complex issues and helps by adding experience and strength to what is already known from previous research (soy, 2006).

Case-study has the unique ability to deal with different data such as interviews, questionnaires, focus groups and texts (Uin, 2003). However according to some critics, this approach has the limitations of reliability due to the small number of cases/participants and due to the deeper exposure to the case may result in biased findings (Soy, 2006). But due to its contemporary nature in terms of interpretation it still remains the appropriate and popular strategy with a small group of participants (Hagaan, 2009) within an organisation.


As stated above mixed Methods research has been followed as it helps my research to understand both the employees and employers views on flexibility through self -completion questionnaires and semi-structured interviews respectively. It helps to o be adopted as it focuses frame my research theoretically and philosophically as it employs multiple methods. Mixed methods research has to be adopted as it focuses on the emergence and importance of flexible work practices in the view of the employer by qualitative methods and link with evidence gathered from the employee through quantitative method. It helps to gain a complete picture of the flexible working at NBS. It doesn’t deal with merely collecting both the forms of data but it uses the strengths of each answer the research questions. The data integration can be done by merging connecting or embedding in my research the data collected is integrated by merging it using “convergent parallel design”.

Since both are equal importance convergent parallel design has been used where in qualitative and quantitative data collection has been conducted separately, yet concurrently but merged during the interpretation. This can be found in the analysis section of this paper.

Data Collection:

Self-Completion Questionnaires

To assist the survey with the employees at NBS, self-completion questionnaire has been designed by the researcher with an aim to focus directly on the research questions. All the ne


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