Fixed Versus Flexible Working Hours in Workforce Management
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Flexible working hours have been found to lead to a happier workforce, and to
far better customer service and share valuations. However, there is a fear that
implementing flexible working hours is complicated and that it could lead to a
flood of impossible demands from employees.
Before we look at flexible working hours in more detail, let us take a brief
look at the standard working hours.
Working Hours for Employees
Working hours for employees have changed dramatically over the last two
centuries. Back in the nineteenth century when industrialization started in
Europe, workers were compelled to work even 16 hours a day. In twenty-first
century France, however, the government had fixed working hours at 35 hours a
Most industrialized countries have regulated the workweek by stipulating the
maximum number of working hours per week, minimum daily rest periods, annual
holidays and sickness pay. The standard is around 40 working hours per workweek,
typically Monday through Friday. Paid vacations range from three to five weeks a
Long working hours can lead to stress-related health problems, less time for
busy parents to attend to child-rearing, and less leisure to enjoy consumer
products and services. Henry Ford introduced low working hours so that his
employees would have the leisure to buy and enjoy the cars he produced.
Flexible Working Hours and its Impact
One major problem with fixed working hours is that employees find it
difficult to balance the demands of their personal lives and work lives.
Flexible working hours can lead to better work/life balance and result in a
Flexible working hours can come in different forms such as:
- Part-time working that enables an employee to be free during business
hours to attend to personal matters. For employers, it could mean engaging
employees during peak workload hours, and reducing overall payroll costs
- Flexi-time working where employees work extra time when needed by
employers and bank the extra hours/days off for arranging their personal
- Annualized hours is an arrangement where times worked and times off are
balanced across the year as a whole. Extra hours are worked during peak
business seasons and less during lean seasons. Employers can retain
experienced employees instead of hiring inexperienced casual or contract staff
- Customized flexible working hours during special events to enable
employees watch, say, world cup matches and yet meet their work time
Studies have indicated that flexible working hours produce tangible benefits
to employers in the forms of:
- Reduced absenteeism and employee turnover
- Lower recruitment costs as they can retain their existing staff
- Higher staff morale leading to better work performance, customer service
and even company stock performance
A survey even revealed that employees preferred flexible working hours to
substantial additional pay.
Implementing Flexible Working Hours
Employers must know when they have peak workloads, needing more employees.
This is not too difficult to assess with today's technologies like EPOS and
computerized systems that can record transaction times.
Once the requirements are identified, flexible rostering software can
generate rosters to fit the workload. This software would then help to optimize
the rosters to meet:
- Work contract requirements
- Sociability factors, and
- Employee work preferences to the extent possible
Where employee preferences cannot be met in full, the software would show the
employees why this happened. This creates greater trust in the employees that
their needs are being genuinely attended to.
The standard practice so far has been fixed working hours arranged in
different shifts. This can lead of difficulties in balancing employees' personal
and work life demands. Flexible working hours help better work/life balance and
lead to a happier workforce. A happier workforce results in less absenteeism,
better customer service and higher stock performance.
About the Author
Lucy Caudle, Marketing at SMART, writes about the benefits of
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