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Based on the above mentioned case study, write an essay entitled “Work-Life Balance” to critically discuss the following questions:
Do you agree with Juliet Bourke that the use of flexibility has moved away from its original paradigms?
Critically discuss the implications of excessive working hours on the performance of employees and managers.
Analyse ways in which employers could facilitate work-life balance during an economic downturn.
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In any workplace, it is extremely important for employees to have a proper work life balance. This balance has a direct relationship to employee productivity. Employees also perceive proper work life balance as an important part of their work life because it enables them to take care of their individual responsibilities and other interests that they have outside the workplace. In different companies, flexibility is perceived differently and is applied for a variety of reasons. This application has shifted from its original intent which was employee centric. These days, companies are using flexibility to reduce their wage expenses.
Changes in the Application of Flexibility
As Juliet Bourke argues, flexibility has now gained negative connotations because it is now implemented by various companies as a way of improving their bottom line. Various companies have altered the application of flexibility. They now apply flexibility as a way of reducing company payroll costs. In recent years, companies have made cost reduction and business streamlining as some of their core objectives. This has been occasioned by the economic downturn which has had a large impact on Australian businesses. Employee payroll has been deemed as the main cost centres of any company and reducing payroll costs has been highly advocated for by many companies (Kramar et al., 2014).
Flexibility has also lead to an increased workload amongst some employees which defeats its original purpose which was for improving employee’s work life balance. This is because some companies maintain a small number of staff at any given time. These retained staffs are given the entire workload that should have been handled by a larger number of people. These employees will have an excessive workload and defeats the original purpose of flexibility (Kramar et al., 2014).
Some companies have taken advantage of the recent downturn in the economy to advance flexibility that is detrimental to employees. For instance, employee work hours can be reduced even without justification, when the hours are reduced; other employees are forced to work longer to handle the work of these employees. This is implemented to see if fewer employees can achieve the workload that is handled my more employees (Kossek, Lewis, & Hammer, 2010).
Many workplaces are constantly trying to reduce their costs of operation. They believe that this will be achieved by making the employees work longer to accomplish the desired results. In cost reduction, they have applied Tele-conferencing for executives as a way of reducing travel expenses. However, this has negatively affected the executives who are forced to work late hours so that they can make conference calls to all their offices internationally. Such practices have negatively impacted the executive’s work life balance because they end up working longer and odd hours which defeat the original purpose of flexibility (Kossek, Lewis, & Hammer, 2010).
According to Eldridge & Nisar (2011), flexibility has also become “one sided”. Over time, employers have continuously sought new ways that they can use to redefine the traditional ordinary working hours and working days. For instance, banks implemented changes in 2012 that included Saturday and Sunday into the ordinary working hours. Although banks argue that converting these days into working days is in the pursuit of flexibility, most scholars claim that such actions are done to improve the profitability of these companies and are not aimed at promoting employees’ job flexibility.
Companies have started using non-traditional staffing methods as a flexibility program. In different industries, the employment of part time employees has steadily risen since 1990.Although firms advocate for this as a means of dealing with fluctuations of both workloads and the economy. They prefer these part time workers because it reduces their salary expenses. They have therefore used flexibility as a tool of wage reduction because non-traditional workers do not qualify for various benefits like retirement or health benefits (Possenriede & Plantenga, 2011).
Although such non-traditional workers enjoy more flexibility and a better balance between work and family, they do not enjoy the legal protections that their counterparts. These workers rarely have formal relationships with their employers and in case they have work related injuries; they may not qualify for medical benefits. Some companies have viewed this as an advantage to them in terms of costs and have continually employed such workers so that they can reduce their labour costs at the expense of these part time workers (Possenriede & Plantenga, 2011).
Flexibility has been used by some companies to avoid incurring training costs. Part time workers generally receive significantly less training than full-time staff. Companies have justified this by citing that these employees only have short term commitments to the organisation. As a result, these employees end up lagging in terms of skill development. Some companies take advantage of the fact that they can avoid incurring many employee costs and therefore apply flexibility as a way of reducing operating expenses (Leighton & Gregory, 2011).
The Implications of Excessive Working Hours on the Performance of Employees and Managers
Working excess hours has a negative impact on both employees and managers. Employees are prone to stress, physical illnesses or even mental illnesses. For instance, a large portion of employees that work excess hours suffers from fatigue and tiredness that is prolonged and extreme. Due to their poor health, these employees are highly likely to report absenteeism, and this will have a direct effect on their overall productivity (Pediwal, 2011).
In addition to poor health, overworked employees are often disgruntled and unmotivated. The lack of motivation affects productivity because such employees make many errors at work because either they do not care about their work or they are too tired to focus on the work at hand. Managers in such companies have problems trying to motivate the unmotivated and disgruntled employees. This will then have a significant effect on company’s overall performance (Wachter & Yorio, 2014).
Overworked employees have also been found to engage in unethical business behaviours than their counterparts who are not overworked. They are more likely to misuse assets of the company and breach the company’s code of conduct. This is brought on by the deep feelings of lack of motivation and disgruntlement. Managers working with such employees have a hard time supervising them because the employees have very little motivation (Wachter & Yorio, 2014).
Working for long hours also exposes employees to lifestyle related diseases (Uegaki et al., 2011). This occurs because the employees working long hours mostly lead an unhealthy lifestyle. This is caused by working a lot and eating at odd times or eating unhealthy foods and not exercising. These employees are prone to suffering from blood pressure, unhealthy weight gain or smoking and excessive alcohol dependency. According to Underhill & Quinlan (2011), working long hours also exposes employees to work related disorders. For instance, truck drivers are exposed to back disorders especially if they drive for long hours without breaks.
Working long hours has also been found to increase employee’s risk of sustaining occupational related injuries and illnesses. This has especially been found to occur more in some occupations like construction workers, health professionals or people who work in the manufacturing sector. If employees working in such occupations work for long hours, they are exposed to work related injuries because they are likely to have low concentration levels if they work for long shifts (Underhill & Quinlan, 2011).
In companies where occupational safety is vital, long work hours has a detrimental effect on occupational safety. For instance, employees who work long shifts that extend to the night without any breaks are prone to occupational injuries. This is due to the increased chances of falling asleep especially after midnight (Sampson, 2011).
Extended work hours also increase the employee’s exposure to physical or chemical hazards in the workplace. This mostly affects employees in the manufacturing industry who are exposed to noise, chemicals or extreme temperatures during their daily jobs. If they work long hours, they are exposed to these hazards for longer periods, and this has a dangerous effect on employee health. In spite of the presence of protective equipment, wearing those protective gears for long hours will also negatively affect the employee (Sampson, 2011).
Employees who work excess hours have a poor balance between their work and their social or family life. They often have problems when performing their home and personal responsibilities because most of their time is spent at work. Often, the employee’s sleeping or eating habits will be affected by the pressures that the employee has outside the workplace. This translates to more pressure for the employee, and this has negative effects on the performance (Wachter & Yorio, 2014).
Managers who work excess hours have poor perspective levels on what they can do to improve the team’s job performance. The overworked managers are so focused on managing their large workloads that they do not have a chance to look at their work objectively to come up with better ways of getting the work done. This affects the team’s performance because they will be stuck performing their duties with the old methods (Kramar et al., 2014).
Facilitating Work-Life Balance during Economic Downturns
During periods of economic downturns, work life balance needs to be enforced by companies in Australia. During these periods, most companies ignore work life balance and focus on implementing layoffs and reorganising the company. This will add pressure to employees and will in turn negatively affect employee productivity. To avoid this, companies need to create policies that will allow for a proper work-life balance for employees (Mikulic, Sándor, & Leoncikas, 2012).
Implementing flexible programs that are offered to employees on voluntary basis will be effective in implementing a work life balance. When employees are offered the chance to volunteer and accept reduced hours, they are able to improve their work-life balance, and this reduces job insecurity because companies are able to retain all their employees. For companies, flexible programs avail them with a chance of reducing payroll expenses and preventing major layoffs that would then lead to major recruitment costs once the economy improves (Mikulic, Sándor & Leoncikas, 2012).
Implementing training programs on the importance of reduced work hours will also be vital during GED. Reduced hours allow for personal development and give people opportunities to take up more jobs. Once employees understand the benefits of reducing their hours, they will get more job security, and when they are at work, they will put more effort in their work. This will have a direct effect on their productivity (Waddoups, 2011).
Offering employees the option of compressed work weeks has been found to improve the work-life balance of individuals during GED. In this setup, employees work the allotted hours but complete these allotted hours within less than the typical 5 days. For instance, employees can work 4 days and 10 hours each day. This arrangement is preferred by some employees because it avails them an extra off day that they can perform their individual family responsibilities (Harkness & Evans, 2011).
Job sharing can also be implemented during recessions to reduce operational costs while ensuring job security. In job sharing, two employees working part time are allocated one full-time job. In this arrangement, the company will prorate the salaries and benefits of the job to each employee based on their individual contribution. This strategy will ensure that the company maintains its workforce during downturns and doesn’t have to recruit afresh when the economy recovers (Colley, 2010).
Offering counselling to employees can be instrumental in enhancing a proper work life balance. During the recession, employees may be exposed to stress both at work and socially. This makes counselling necessary to ensure that the employees learn how to cope with the stresses. Companies can also offer financial counselling where they impart money management skills that employees can sue to cope with financial distresses (Colley, 2010).
Reduced work hours can take different forms. Companies may implement job share, part time hours, v time or term time work hours. These strategies can be applied to redistribute work across different hour posts that are more reduced. When implementing these strategies, the company needs to be alert to the fact that talent retention is important especially when the economy stabilises. Therefore, they need to negotiate with the employees on the flexible time strategy that works for them. This will help keep employees motivated and willing to work for the company when the economy stabilises (Harkness & Evans, 2011).
Companies can encourage Self-rostering among the different teams in the company. The different teams evaluate the work that they perform daily, and they can come up with better or alternative ways of doing their job. This gives the employees a feeling of being in control of the reduced hour’s initiative and makes them feel like they are instrumental in the company’s goals. If employees self-roster, they will take the reduced hours more positively than they would if it has been implemented without consultations (Anxo, Franz, & Kummerling, 2013).
Offering child care facilities to its employees will aid in improving their work life balance. A large portion of the current families are dual income households, and if they have children, child care will be their main issue. During the downturn, companies can implement these benefits to ensure that employees will be able to perform their job and access their children at any time during the work day. Such employees may work more hours because they can see their children at any time (Anxo, Franz, & Kummerling, 2013).
Employers can create their vacation policies. Typically, most companies offer a standard number of days off for vacations. Once employers design their own vacation policy, they can increase the number of vacation days that are allotted to employees. This will enhance employees’ work-life balance and also help the company retain a dedicated work force (Waddoups, 2011).
Technological advancements in recent years have made telecommuting possible. This can be used by companies to aid a better work-life balance for its staff. It lets employees work from their homes and connect remotely to their company’s network and they are able to complete their work from home. This makes employees’ schedules more flexible, and they are able to spend more time catering to their personal responsibilities (Harkness & Evans, 2011).
Remote working is an effective initiative for a proper work life balance. In remote working, the company puts more emphasis on output rather than emphasising on visibility at work. Employers can develop tools that will ensure that they can manage employees output remotely. This saves the company money that would have been incurred in business trips and commuting to and from work (Harkness & Evans, 2011).
Over the years, some companies have been using flexibility as a tool for improving their profitability by reducing their payroll expenses. They do not take employees needs into account, and this has negative effects on the employees work life balance. The costs of excess works hours exceed the benefits that a work life balance affords to both the company and the employees. Companies need to implement programs that encourage employees to maintain a healthy work life balance. This will improve the productivity of the employees and will therefore have a positive effect on the company’s productivity.
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