Weighing the Benefits of a Self-Controlled Work Schedule
The workplace of today is significantly different than that of a decade ago. Instead of the employees meeting employer requirements, they are now the drivers of demand for companies to change corporate culture. The idea of flexible and temporal working situations is gaining more popularity; however few realise that this was a growing trend even in the 1990’s. Research and statistics have shown that individuals of more modern generations favour and tend to work better in these scenarios as they are often too busy with other pre-existing obligations in life. Many young adults decide to pursue higher education, and others are busy raising a family, and in some cases, they are both. Traditionally, it has been observed that women who pursue further education and training, as well as being the primary caretakers for a family, are more likely to pursue this work life. Many companies have chosen to leave the traditional nine-to-five workday to appeal to the newer trends, however both employer and employee must weigh and contrast the pros and cons of each. The factors such as gender, age, and work motivations will be evaluated in the reasons why people tend to choose these flexible and temporal work situations. In addition, the advantages and disadvantages for both employee and employer will be thoroughly discussed.
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Richard J. Boden, Jr. from the United States wrote about the growing trend in his article “Flexible Working Hours, Family Responsibilities, and Female Self-Employment” in 1996, based off reports from the previous year. The article focuses on the gender differences regarding why individuals choose the flexible and temporal work schedule, citing that between 1975 and 1990, the number of self-employed women had doubled from 1.7 to 4 million. This significant increase rose enough awareness that an empirical inquiry was deemed reasonable. His article and research explain that women who claim family reasons are more likely to pursue self-employment for a flexible work schedule. As defined by the U.K. government, one who is self-employed runs their business for themselves, and does not abide by rules and regulations normally set out by an employer (GOV.UK, 2018). Boden deducts that there is greater impact on having a young family for women than men, thus early mothers have a greater chance to switch from a wage-based employment to self-employment to work around home obligations (Boden, 1999). It should be noted that the respondents for this research sample were men and women of white, non-Hispanic background in the United States. Private and public sectors have noticed this trend for decades now, but the question lies, where are we today?
The U.K. Labour Market bulletin of 2018 revealed interesting comparative statistics of the labour market from August to October of 2018, with data of a year earlier. In this, they found that self-employed individuals in the United Kingdom decreased by 33,000 to a total of 4.77 million people, and the number of women working part-time decreased by 77,000. In contrast, the number of women working full time increased by 207,000. However, the Office for National Statistics published an article in 2018 titled “Trends in self-employment in the UK” which analysed the overall trend and showed a “rapid growth of self-employment”. Between 2001 and 2017, the number of self-employed individuals grew from 3.3 million to 4.8 million (12.0% and 15.1% of the labour force, respectively). The article continues to state that between Q1 of 2001 and Q4 of 2016, the number of female part-time (PT) self-employed individuals grew from 439,000 to 812,000, and the number of female full-time (FT) self-employed individuals grew from 433,000 to 732,000. In addition, the number of female employees (being not self-employed) remained rather stable, showing that more women entering the workforce are opting for the self-employment work life. Overall, the trendline for female PT self-employees saw the greatest incline in the period.
At the same time, male PT self-employment increased from 273,000 to 569,000 and was the largest growth trend for male employees (FT and PT) as well as male self-employees (FT and PT). Regarding male part-time employment, numbers increased from 1.07 million to 1.64 million. Given that children in the family tend to have a less significant impact on male work life, one must consider factors as to why male PT self-employment has gone up. In a recent Forbes article, it was discussed that traditional gender roles are changing for both men and women. Essentially, more men are deciding to have a larger role in the family life by becoming stay-at-home fathers, as well as more women going out into the workforce and being the primary source of income. In the United States in 2015, 42% of mothers were the sole or primary source of income- bringing in 50% or more of the household income. The later 22.4% of women claimed to be co-sources of income, estimating 25-49% of income (Glynn, 2018). While the report clearly states that women are of high importance to overall economy, things such as workplace flexibility hold them back from their full potential. The report also shares that families in the United States, and it can be assumed countries such as the U.K., are looking different than decades ago. Many married couples do not have children as early in their marriage, if any at all. In addition, there is an increase in the number is single parent households, and with the rising costs of day-care, there is a push for the need for more temporal and flexible working scenarios.
When factoring other parts into the female demographics, age, race, and educational background also play significant roles. The same study conducted by the Center for American Progress showed that white women make up most of all categories (main source of income, co source, and no source) compared to that of black, Latina, and other non-Hispanics, however from 1975-2015 all races increased in their number of female breadwinners. Over all, many female breadwinners were those with some college education, between 18-29 years old (Glynn, 2018).
These statistics, in comparison with U.K. numbers, show relatively similar trends. In the Guardian’s Work-life Balance Journal, an article about working mothers in England showed that in 20 years, the number has increased by one million. The article is quick to share that with progress in the business field, women “enjoy greater financial independence and equality of opportunity…” however they sacrifice time with family (Weale and Barr, 2018). The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also released that nearly three quarters of mothers are in full or part time work positions. More specifically, the report shares that mothers with children between the ages of 3-4 have the lowest employment rate of all adults in the work force (65.1%) but of these mothers, the majority are in part-time positions (58.7%) (Office of National Statistics, 2018b). In addition to the stress of having a young family, Anne-Marie O’Leary, editor-in-chief of Netmums, says that a large reason why many mothers enter or return to the workforce is due to the high cost of living.
In contrast, as stated earlier, the impact of children in the family is smaller on men’s work life regardless of changing gender roles. ONS shared in the same report that 58.0% of men without dependent children work full time, and only 9.1% work part time; while men with children ages 0-18 average 83.2% full-time and 6.1% part-time (Office of National Statistics, 2018b). One could suggest the reasoning for this inverse relationship is that women who choose to stay at home or cannot find any means of income while caretaking, rely on the male counterpart to be the primary source of income.
It is clear to see that there is a significant difference between men and women in the workplace with regard to full time positions and flexible/temporal positions (part time, self-employed FT and PT). For women, due to traditional gender roles, it is favourable to pursue job opportunities in which they have a stronger control of their schedule. For men this is less important, as the familiar obligations are less dependent on them. The ONS also released that in 2015, 53% and 68% of live births in England and Wales were to women and men ages 30 and up respectively. In addition, Nicola Haines from ONS Vital Statistics Outputs Branch stated that the average age of parents in England and Wales had increase by nearly 4 years over the last 4 decades (Office of National Statistics, 2018a)- this in part might reflect young adults putting work before family.
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John Rampton for Inc. wrote in an online article about the various motivators for current generations, where flexible schedules and time off was listed for Millenials. He says “they’re content with selling their skills to the highest bidder… they’re not as loyal” which goes to show that the largest percentage of the current workforce is more concerned with themselves and their well-being, than climbing the corporate ladder. Rampton also points out that millenials (born after 1980) want jobs that have skills training, mentoring, and other performance enhancing programs to assist them on the job (Rampton, 2018). This would require work schedules that allow employees to participate in other activities and find the right balance in time management. Studies also show that Millenials are happier and perform better with structured work schedules and a stabilized work-life balance (Rampton, 2018). Rampton also adds that Generation Z is quite similar to millennials, and that they also demand flexible work schedules. Other reports shared 70% of millennials want flexible work, as compared to the 47% of people over the age of 55 (Wilson, 2018).
Across the board, in the United Kingdom studies show that three quarters of employees prefer work flexibility rather than a pay raise. In this report conducted by Powwownow, one thousand people were surveyed. Connecting back with gender, 81% of the female respondents said that flexible working makes a position more appealing, and 45% strongly agreed that they would favour jobs with flexible work schedules. Compared to men, 69% responded in favour to flexible work schedules. James Downes, MD of Powwownow said that respondents desire a work-life balance that allows their career and personal lives to “compliment and support” one another, and that many state they do not have enough time for hobbies or to see friends and family during the week.
Thirdly, several studies show that a proper work-life balance, often attributed to flexible and temporal work, improves overall health as compared to earlier generations. Many older generations including people born from the 1900’s-1950’s, had a history of being burnt out by workload and dedication. Many men and women were too busy earning money in unstable financial times, and climbing the corporate ladder, that they did not spend enough time taking care of themselves. An extensive report conducted by members of the Cochrane Library showed that those in control of their schedule have significant improvements in their overall health, specifically “systolic blood pressure and heart rate; tiredness; mental health; sleep duration; sleep quality and alertness; self-rated health status”. It is also important to note that there were no negative health issues cited as a result of self-controlled work schedules. On the other hand, the authors concluded that interventions made in company interests such as fixed term and fixed part-time employment resulted in “equivocal or negative health effects” that should be interpreted with caution (Joyce et al,. 2010).
But what does flexible and temporal working do for businesses and overall economy? Niel Carberry of The Guardian wrote that businesses in order to compete, must think on their feet, and that means keeping up with current demands. He shares that in the competitive recruiting environment, having a flexible and agile work culture is essential for companies, and that they must be able to manage a mobile and fluid work atmosphere. Flexibility has several benefits, because by giving workers what they want, employers are promoting stronger work ethic, and higher productivity. The Guardian’s latest survey showed that 97% of UK firms find flexible workforces to be vital or important for business investments and job creation. The same study also found 87% of businesses reported that it allowed them to work with fluctuating demand, and 65% said its crucial for creating employment opportunities (the Guardian, 2018). In addition, Ernst & Young Australia found that women who work in a flexible environment waste less time at work, and by creating more flexible roles, a company could save $1.4 billion a year in recovering lost wages (Ernst & Young, 2018).
However, while companies should be adopting flexible work schedules, many of them find it difficult to do so. In a study by HR and lus Laboris, 30% of employers said the demand for flexible working was a challenge. The study also showed that a flexible work schedule influenced 89% of responded when asked to join an organization (Smail, J). However just like a work-life balance for employees, employers must have the proper balance in their scheduling practices. Hays a leading recruiting group, wrote that managing a workforce takes greater effort, as not all employees are physically under one’s supervision. Other challenges include providing development and promotion opportunities to all employees, as well as building and developing a corporate culture when not all employees are present together (Hays, 2018).
There is overwhelming support to argue that flexible and temporal working situations are better for both employees and employers. Statistically, there is a significant and strong demand for employer control over their work schedule, and the benefits of having a proper work-life balance have positive impacts, including on physical and mental health. The company advantages are also stronger than the disadvantages as over all work productivity increases and companies see a lower workforce turnover. While companies do need to step up their management practices as a flexible and fluid workforce can be harder to control, the ratio of end-benefits will increase annual profits and boost economies.
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- Weale, S. and Barr, C. (2018). Number of working mothers in England rises by a million in 20 years. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/29/number-of-working-mothers-in-england-rises-by-a-million-in-20-years [Accessed 15 Dec. 2018].
- Wilson, R. (2018). 70% of millennials want flexible working options, research finds – Recruitment International. [online] Recruitment International. Available at: https://www.recruitment-international.co.uk/blog/2018/02/70-percent-of-millennials-want-flexible-working-options-research-finds [Accessed 16 Dec. 2018].
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