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The policy paper aims to propose some flexible working polices in order to solve the problem of unhealthy work life balance and long working hours of the employees. The importance of solving the unhealthy work life balance of the employees is illustrated. It is believe that both the company and the employees can benefit from the flexible working policies through improved performance and staff morale. Three flexible working policies are suggested. The advantages and disadvantages of these three policies are outlined and elaborated. Flextime and part time work are chosen to be carried out in the workplace. In order to implement these two flexible work arrangements effectively in the workplace, the company should develop a comprehensive monitoring system. It is important to note that all employees should have the right to request the flexible working polices regardless of their positions once these policies are implemented.
Statement of the Problem
What flexible working policies should the company adopt to improve the unbalance work-life style of employees?
Public has increased concern about the unbalance work-life style of employees. As a securities company in Hong Kong, our employees have to work 60 hours a week in average. In contrast, the International Labour Organization has set a standard working week of 40 hours (International Labour Organization, 1935). Currently, the company does not have any regulations to protect employees from the long working hours. We must look into this matter seriously as this may affect the performance of our company.
Background of the Problem
Some employees were torn by the long working hours of the company. Also, there are only two shifts in a day for the security guards. Since the security guards have to keep alert during work, it is exhausting for the employees in a 12-hour shift with just one day off a week. Long working hours becomes a common problem facing in the workplace. Following the global trend, employees' expectation has changed in favor of a more balanced work-life style.
In the 2010-11 Policy Address, the Chief Executive has said that the government would consider conducting a study on standard working hours (Tsang, 2010). Since it takes time for the government to set up the laws regarding the working hours, our company should set up some working hour policies to protect our employees. According to a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong in 2010, the average working hours per week in Hong Kong was 48.7 hours (Chung, Pang, and Tong, 2010), which is more than the standard 40 hours suggested by the International Labour Organization (International Labour Organization, 1935). 39% of the 1,009 respondents said that they have too long working hours and would consider changing jobs for a better work-life balance. Also, near 60% of the respondents complained of prolonged fatigue resulted from the long working hours. (Chung, Pang, and Tong, 2010).
Statement of the interests of the organization with respect to the problem
In Hong Kong, the study of setting up legal regulations related to standard working hours is still under progress. Regardless of the legal obligations, our company should appreciate that a more balance work-life style of the employees is beneficial to the performance of our company through improved staff morale and increased productivity. A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong in 2010 showed that near 60% of employees think that flexible work arrangements are vital when considering joining or staying in the company. (Chung, Pang, and Tong, 2010). Therefore, it is necessary to introduce some flexible working policies to retain quality employees. We have to minimize the possible dissatisfaction of the employees towards the company. This is to ensure that the employees can work efficiently during the working hours. With the flexible work arrangements, employees can be more focused and make fewer mistakes during the working hours.
Currently our company has no relevant policies regarding the long working hours. Our employees have to work 60 hours a week in average with two shifts. However, there are a few policies adopted by the other companies. In order to minimize the hazards resulting from the long working hours, most companies adopted flexible working policies. More flexible work arrangements should be made in the workplace to achieve a better work-life balance for the employees. Flexible working arrangements different from the standard full time work are provided to the employees. The arrangements aim to meet both the needs of company and employees. Some flexible working options include flextime, compressed work weeks, and part-time work.
Flextime: A range of start and finish times in the workdays would be offered to the employees.
Flextime allows employees to vary their working hours within certain core times given by the company. This means that employees can vary their start and finish time to suit personal circumstances, travel arrangements or for other reasons. Employees can choose their own start and finish times around the fixed hours determined by the company. It is a flexible way of arranging the employee's normal working hours over the working week. According to the Labour Force Survey (2003), near 20% of men and 26.7% of women were employed with flextime arrangements in the United Kingdom.
This option can accommodate the needs of employees with children and other personal demands. Thus, the morale of the employees can be improved.
This option may result in lack of supervision in some working hours. If this policy is not carried out properly, there is a risk for employees to abuse the system. Employees may make up their start time and finish time if time is recorded on paper but not machines. Also, there will be additional workload for the management as this policy requires a comprehensive supervision.
Compressed work weeks: Employees can cover the normal working hours in fewer working days.
Rau (2003) stated that employees can work 40 hours in less than five days. Usually, a ten-hour, four-day week is adopted. Another alternative is working nine days out of ten in two weeks. Employees undertake this option will not result in a deduction in salary or annual leave entitlement.
The amount of time for the employees to travel to the workplace is reduced. Employees can have more personal time to seek a better work-life balance.
This option may be difficult for some employees to adjust to a long hour working day. Also, this policy cannot minimize the possible hazard on employees' health, such as prolong fatigue.
Part-time Work: Employees can work fewer hours on a part time basis. This means that employees can work more than 20 hours but less than 40 hours a week. Job security and other fringe benefits will be included on a pro-rated basis.
Part time work can have certain forms. It results in a reduction in the number of working hours within the same job. Some employees can work just weekends, while others work a variety of hours to meet personal needs. This could include working three to four days a week, or just working in the mornings or afternoons in certain weekdays. Currently, all of our employees are full time employees.
This option can increase the flexibility during the working hours. With more part time employees, the company can arrange the work hours in a more flexible way to handle the extra demand during peak periods, such as Christmas or Lunar New Year. The labour cost can also be reduced since part time employees are paid less than full time employees who at the same position.
Part time employees are less committed to the job. Changing some full time employees into part time employees will affect the morale of the company. Also, part time employees may need longer time to adapt to the working environment.
The options of part time work and flextime should be used together so that the working arrangement will be more flexible. A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong in 2010 stated that the most desired flexible work arrangement among employees is flextime. (Chung, Pang, and Tong, 2010). These two flexible working policies can match the interests for the company to improve its performance and the interests of individual employee to have a better work life balance. In order to maximize the benefits of these two arrangements, the goals should be delivered to the employees clearly through effective communication. At the planning stage, the company should listen to employees' opinion to ensure that their interests are not neglected.
The company should pay attention to some obstacles associated with flexible work arrangements. Flextime requires a comprehensive supervision system to monitor the employees. The management should assess and update the system frequently to ensure that the employees cannot abuse the flextime policy. The company can develop a computer-based system to calculate pay, deductions and leave automatically. Although the workload of administration may increase, an updated monitoring system can benefit the company in the long run.
The benefit of part time employees should be similar to full time employees who perform similar work. This can prevent discrimination against part time employees. Thus, part time employees can be fully committed to the company. The efficiency and quality of part time employees can be ensured with increased job securities from the company. All employees should have the rights to request a shift to part time work or flextime schedule regardless of their positions. This can ensure that the flexible work arrangements are carried out consistently in the company.