Effect of Flexible Working Hours on Employees
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Title: Can the introduction of flexible working hours at Fleet Diving Squadron contribute to organisational effectiveness and increased employee morale?
Background to problem identified:
The United Kingdom (UK) Armed Forces are required to serve under demanding commitments at home and abroad. Deployments usually last between six to nine months and usually cause a strain on family life, which invariably leads to individuals seeking early termination to maintain familial harmony. Vuga and Juvan (2013,1060) suggests that "It is exceptional in terms of the demands it puts on its members and, indirectly, their family members (e.g. irregular working hours, unpredictable work tasks, frequent moves, longer absences from home, the requirement to sacrifice one's life for the benefit of a country".
In this era of competitive global workforce, with increased social media advances changing the hopes and anxieties of workers, the Armed Forces must endeavour to guarantee the welfare of their personnel to retain valuable individuals to ensure organisational effectiveness (Dupre and Day, 2007). Flexible work arrangements can lead to improved conditions for both workers and employers with military families having an acute need for such arrangements (Flexible work options benefit diverse range of employees, 2010).
The growing demands on parents with young children has led to an increase in their request to employers for flexible working arrangements (Martin, 2004). Whilst the Employment Act of 2003 provides statutory rights for individuals with parental or carer responsibilities to request flexible working, the Armed Forces are exempt as such arrangements may affect operational flexibility (2011). As part of the government's commitment to improving the lives of servicemen and women, they are encouraging greater use of flexible working conditions such as : compressed hours, allowing individuals to theoretically work somewhat lengthier hours some days of the week in order to take an extra day; working from home, permits the use of prevailing IT to work from home on either a consistent or occasional basis; flexible start and finish times, permits individuals to start and finish at different times during the working week (Working for MOD - Ministry of Defence, undated).
The wide scale adoption of flexible working across a spectrum of organisations is due to the benefits obtained both from the potential to decrease cost and improve service and efficiency. These benefits outspread into the community and the environment by matching work to specific style, permitting flexibility in individual life, reducing travel, stress and the use of paper and energy (Jupp, 2000). A changing demographic workforce has also contributed to impressing upon organisations of the need for varying work patterns. There are now more single parent families, persons looking after disabled individuals and more remote extended families, reducing the support of parents or grandparents to assist with childcare tasks (Williams, 2005).
These social and demographic changes are creating new contexts in which organisations must function. In the 21st century workplace, people want flexibility and autonomy, but also security and the means to provide for their families, and this requires organisations being able to adapt to these new contexts (Lake, 2013). Equally organisations and individuals are becoming more receptive of the possible advantages of flexible working arrangements. Employers are realising and experiencing how significant it is for them to offer the right work life balance to their employees, to achieve worker productivity (Galea et al., 2013).
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has identified the need to understand service personnel attitudes to flexible working due to shortfalls in recruitment as well as high voluntary termination rates. Lyonette et al (2015) suggests that many individuals felt the need to sacrifice their careers rather than stay, with women being unable to manage the needs of a family with demands of service life and most agreed that the services needed to more flexible as a when needed.
Permitting personnel to plan their time in order to better balance opposing demands of family responsibilities and military duty, can reduce or eliminate levels of work-life conflict, and thereby augment individual performance and organizational effectiveness (Beauregard and Henry, 2009).
The demanding role of military service can sometimes lead to a lack of quality time spent with family. Servicemen and women also do not have a choice of where they are required to serve and may be required to commute to their units. The aim of this research is to investigate the benefits of introducing a core working week arrangement to enable individuals to enjoy greater leisure time on weekends with their family.
It has been suggested that in the 21st century, the requirement to work flexible hours will be the greatest (Martin, 2004). The objectives of this research are to identify if employees can achieve a better work-life balance and, consequently reduce their desire to seek early voluntary termination of employment to achieve such.
Military families are not immune from the pressures of balancing work and family responsibilities. As such, their ability to balance these commitments is an important factor in deciding to remain with the services (Grandey and Cropanzano, 1999). Dupre & Day (2007,186 ) suggests that "retaining employees is a primary concern of military organizations because it is imperative to have skilled, trained, and prepared enlistees in the ranks at all times". Pederson et al (2008) argues that offering family-friendly benefits to employees can increase progressive work life balance , allowing work and family to be balancing areas.
This research will look at the suitability of introducing one form of flexible working, namely a compressed workweek schedule whereby individuals work longer hours during the day reducing the workweek to four days; this will enable them to have a three-day weekend by having the Friday or Monday off. Research suggests that this method of working is commonly used in manufacturing companies due to the need for workers to be present at the same time and there is no requirement to serve customers (Bates et al., 1999). For practical purposes, this schedule is very similar to the one used for non-deployed shore based military organisations and will be one of the options presented to individuals for consideration, although other choices may be presented.
The data collected will be analysed and presented to the Commanding Officer to assess whether the introduction of flexible working would be viewed favourably by the military component and assist them in achieving a semblance of work life balance whilst maintaining operational effectiveness.
The data to inform this research will be collected by the distribution of a questionnaire with the questions structured to produce qualitative information (Saunders et al, 2012). The sample will consist of Military employees as the civilian contractors are not covered by MOD employment regulations. There are 113 male and 67 female service persons currently on staff. The selected participants should vary in age, gender, background, marital status and family composition
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