Businesses are looking at ways to boost productivity
There is a theory in management that assumes employees need supervision at every step, because they are inherently lazy and don’t want to work. Businesses which operate under these conditions tend to be supervisor-heavy with control given to a central group.
If that attitude sounds cynical, consider that the majority of businesses today operate with little flexibility when it comes to scheduling staff. Sure, there are certain industries which do require staffing needs to be met without input from the employees. But there are many other organizations which can provide flexibility for their staff as long as the work is getting done.
Do flexible work schedules work?
The alternate management theory recognizes that workers do have motivation to fulfill their goals and take responsibility. Management is de-centralized, and employees have input into their own schedule and time frames.
Two researchers, Phyllis Moen, (a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota) and Erin Kelly, (a work and organization professor at MIT) studied two organizations which agreed to set up a flexible initiative. One company was the electronic retailer, Best Buy, and the other company was only referred to as TOMO in the paperwork, as they wished to remain anonymous.
With both organizations, there were two groups. The control group operated under the same company work schedule that had been in place. Supervisors granted time off and gave employees their schedule. In the second group, the employees had control over their time. They were told that projects had to be completed on time and goals had to be met. But the focus was on productivity and results, not hours in the office. With the second group, managers were encouraged to be supportive about priorities outside of work.
Survey says: Flexibility improved productivity
At the end of the study, the group with flexible time were found to be happier and less stressed. They had met their goals and were even sleeping better. In another study related to this one, researchers found that the effects of having a flexible work schedule trickled down to the children of the employees. The children were less stressed and slept better.
In addition, employees who had the flexible work schedule were more likely to stay with the company than those in the control group. Ultimately, in the right environment, flexible schedules do work.
What’s your management style?
There are always people who just want the paycheck and won’t give their all to work no matter what the incentives are. I think, on the whole, most people take a great deal of pride in their job, but they do need to be able to balance their situation at home and their work life. It’s not just those who are married and have kids. Single people actually do better under flexible scheduling, because they don’t have to ask permission to take time for themselves.
Think about your staff and how they work most effectively. If you’re having a hard time thinking about flexibility as the work-family balance, change the wording. Balance may be an unrealistic goal. What you want is a work-life fit, which is the term used by the American Psychological Association, because it is gender-neutral and implies that flexibility is for everyone, not just the elite few.