The Implication of Alternative Work Arrangements for the Workforce and the Organizations During Times of Crisis

Subject: Employee Relationships
Pages: 7
Words: 2139
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

The aim of this project is to discuss the implication that alternative work arrangements (AWA) have on the workforce and the organization during times of crisis. The project begins with a discussion on crises in organizations. This discussion gives, first, a definition of crisis and second, a classification of crises in organizations. After this, the project proceeds to a discussion on AWA in which a formal definition of this is given. The project continues with a discussion of three AWA work arrangements, namely, telecommuting, flextime and job sharing. After this, the report proceeds to discuss the implication that AWA has on the workforce of an organization and the organization itself. The project finalizes by making its conclusion. The conclusion being that, AWAs have a positive implication on the workforce and the organization during times of crisis.

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Main body

Crises in organizations

A crisis is an “unplanned event which causes major disturbances in an organization and triggers a feeling of fear and threat amongst the employees” (managementstudyguide.com, 2012, p. 1). From this definition, it is clear that a crisis has the potential to compromise productivity in an organization and in effect damage its financial performance. The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants when taking into account severity, frequency and timing, classifies crises in organizations into three classes, namely, operational crises, sudden crises and potential crises (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, n.d., p.3). According to the institute, operational crises are more frequent but less severe whereas sudden and potential crises are relatively less frequent but more severe (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, n.d., p.3). The institute points out that, sudden crises require a crisis management plan as they occur unexpectedly (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, n.d., p. 3). The crisis management plan enables the affected organization to mitigate adequately the effects of the crisis at hand. The Institute further opines that operational crises are evitable only through good management whereas potential crisis are resolvable only through sound strategic planning and risk management procedures (Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, n.d., p. 3).

Alternative Working Arrangements

An alternative working arrangement (AWA) is any working arrangement that is “different from the department’s norm and which accommodates the needs of the employee and the department” (Brown University, 2012, p. 3). This definition emphasizes on the fact that the essence of having AWAs is to introduce working-flexibility in an organization. AWAs empower employees to strike a balance between their work and their personal commitments and in effect, this ensures that there is no compromise in their productivity. AWAs reward employers with productive employees and reduced operational costs. To realize in full these benefits it is imperative that an organization develops a formal approach towards AWA that ensures there is proper accommodation for the interests of all the employees and those of the organization (KLR Consulting Inc., n.d., p. 1).

Methods of introducing AWAs

There are a number of methods by which to introduce AWAs in organizations. This project discusses three of them, namely, telecommuting, flextime and job sharing.

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is one of the methods of introducing AWAs in organizations (APEGM, n.d., p. 5). In this method, interested employees can work remotely at alternate work locations of their choice, that is, they are not office-confined. For instance, with telecommuting an employee can choose his or her home as the alternate working location. A derivative of telecommuting is partial telecommuting whereby interested employees distribute their work between the office and an alternate work location of their choice. Telecommuting is apt in situations whereby an employee can work fully independently whereas partial telecommuting is apt in situations whereby an employee cannot work in full independence e.g. if he or she is part of a team (APEGM, n.d., p. 5).

One of the advantages of telecommuting is that it improves the morale of the employees who take part in the arrangement. Another advantage of this method is that it lessens the time that is lost to breaks, commuting and socializing. Another advantage of this method is that it reduces the overhead cost and ultimately lessens operational costs for employers. Another advantage of telecommuting is that it awards an employee with the freedom to direct his or her work at his or her own speed and with no interferences. Another advantage of telecommuting is that it enables an employee to better integrate his/her family life into his/her work life.

One of the disadvantages of telecommuting is that it causes disconnect between a telecommuting employee and his/her colleagues at the office. Another disadvantage of telecommuting is that it has the potential to compromise the promotion of a telecommuting employee. Another disadvantage of telecommuting is that employers run the risk of lawsuits from telecommuting employees hurt off-site.

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Flextime

Flextime is another of the methods of introducing AWAs in organizations (Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2010, p. 4). In this method, interested employees are free to a certain limit to choose their working hour. Flextime arrangements, additionally, set aside core working hours during which flextime employees have to be on-site working. It is common for flextime employees to work for more or less than 8 hours in a day. In whichever case, a flextime employee has to ensure that he or she works 40 hours in a week. Flextime arrangements have no effect on an individual’s income.

An advantage of flextime programs is that they improve working comfort and job efficiency. Another advantage of these programs is that flextime employees can create time for their personal commitments. Another advantage of these programs is that working hours are not lost and thus, there is no loss in income. Another advantage of this program is that they attract convenient commuting solutions. Another disadvantage of flextime programs is that they have the potential to make supervision of staff more difficult. Another disadvantage of these programs is that there is greater difficulty in the coordination of group activities. Another disadvantage of these programs is they easy compatibility with the problem of overwork.

Job sharing

Job sharing is another of the methods of introducing AWAs in organizations (APEGM, n.d., p. 3). In this arrangement, multiple individuals share a single full time job (Womens-Work.com, 2009, p. 1). The number of hours an individual works determines the compensation he or she receives. In job sharing, organizations consider the individuals (sharers) and the job. This consideration is a crucial step in determining the formula by which to, first, create a job sharing schedule and to, second, delegate responsibilities and duties. It is common in job sharing programs for individuals to work independently or dependently of one another. Job sharing schedules can involve the sharing of days, weeks, months and years. When in search for a job-sharing partner the emphasis should be on the individual’s communication and organizational skills as these are critical success factors for job sharing programs (APEGM, n.d., p. 3). If possible, the job sharers should work as a team or a unit.

An advantage of job sharing programs is that they significantly reduce employee absenteeism and turnover. Another advantage of job sharing programs is that their increase productivity as their attract diversity of skill and decrease fatigue among job sharers. Another advantage of job sharing programs is that they aggressively encourage professional development among the job sharers. Another advantage is that they reduce an employee’s exposure to high-stress jobs. Another advantage of job sharing programs is that they are family-friendly, in that, job sharers find more time to spend with their families.

A disadvantage of job sharing programs is that they significantly cut down on an employee’s income. Another disadvantage of job sharing programs is that they have less potential for employee advancement or promotion. Another disadvantage of job sharing programs is that they cause operational costs in an organization to rise since it becomes costly to administrate and train multiple employees.

Implication of AWA for the workforce

From the above methods a recurring and inherent strength in AWA work arrangements is that they enable employees to better balance their work and personal commitments. Workers lacking such a balance or those that have one that is weak are vulnerable to crises all the time (The Workplace Council, n.d., para. 1).. Therefore, AWAs reduce crisis vulnerability in employees and as such have a positive implication on the workforce in times of a crisis. For instance, let us take the case of Sue and Administrative assistant at La Trobe University. Sue negotiates for a flextime work arrangement so that she can attend to her failing health, which has been negatively affecting her job productivity (La Trobe University, 2005, p. 11). The flextime arrangement allows Sue to meet her medical appointments and after a while her health improves and so does her productivity at the workplace (La Trobe University, 2005, p. 11).

The importance of AWA in mitigating the effects of crisis is noticeable in today’s neo-economic cultures where individuals take up multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. The greatest challenge and cause of crisis for these individuals is how to balance between work and personal commitments such as family. The solution to this challenge is AWAs as they take into account the needs of these individuals (APEGM, n.d., p. 1). Even though AWAs have their shortcomings, this one inherent strength outweighs them all.

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Implication of AWA for the organization

Organizations benefit more and detriment less from AWA programs. One way in which organizations benefit from AWA is through improved financial performance. AWAs enable employees to strike a balance between their work and personal commitments. This in turn motivates them and improves their concentration on the job. Ultimately, the employees become more productive and this in turn boosts the organization’s financial performance. Research shows that “Employees who find their lifestyles satisfying and rewarding because of the ability to balance all commitments will be hardworking, dedicated, and productive” (APEGM, n.d., p. 1). Another benefit that organizations enjoy from AWA is cost savings, which results from a reduction in the organization’s operational costs (OPPAGA, 2010, p. 4). AWA programs such as telecommuting have the potential to cut down on the energy consumption of an organization as well as the size of office space. When an organization realizes this potential it spends less on energy and rent and hence makes monitory savings.

Another benefit that organizations enjoy from AWA program is employee retention (OPPAGA, 2010, p. 6) and reduced employee turnover (Heathfield, 2012, p. 18). AWA programs boost the motivation of employees to work for their organization since there is accommodation for their needs. High employee turnover in an organization can have detrimental effects on its current and future financial performance especially when it involves skilled labor. It occurs in two ways.

In the first, known as internal employee turnover, an employee abandons his or her current job position and takes up a new position that is available to him/her in the same organization (eNotes.com, 2012, p. 7). In the second, known as external employee turnover, an employee abandons his/her current employer to work for a different employer (eNotes.com, 2012, p. 7). Employers incur direct and indirect costs to employee turnover. Direct costs are those that an employer incurs when replacing the individual who has made the turn over. Indirect costs are those that the employer incurs because of reduced productivity (Sigma Assessment Systems Inc., 2012, p. 9). Taking into consideration this and the other benefits that organizations enjoy from AWA programs then the conclusion is that AWA programs enable an organization to deal with sudden and potential crises. Therefore, AWAs have a positive implication to the organization during times of crisis.

To illustrate this we take the case of First Tennessee Bank (FTB). In 1992 this financial service company is facing a sudden and potential crisis following mounting operational costs and reducing customer loyalty (Workplace Flexibility, 2010, p. 5). The both of these are as a result of the company’s high rate of employee turnover. To combat this high turnover the company institutes AWAs for its employees (Workplace Flexibility, 2010, p. 5). Five years after the implementation of the AWAs the company enjoys significant savings to the tune of $3 million due to reduced employee turnover and in addition enjoys increased customer loyalty (Workplace Flexibility, 2010, p. 5). In 1997, the bank’s customer retention was 96%, 9 points higher than its industry’s average (Workplace Flexibility, 2010, p. 5).

Conclusion

AWAs introduce working-flexibility in organizations. The working-flexibility is beneficial to the organization and its workforce. To achieve it, it is imperative that an organization develops a formal approach towards AWA that ensures that there is proper accommodation for the interests of all the employees and those of the organization. This project concludes by opining that AWAs have a positive implication for the workforce and the organization during times of crisis. The conclusion is the end-result of weighing the benefits and detriments of AWAs.

References

APEGM. (n.d.). Flexible work arrangements. Web.

Brown University. (2012). Alternative work arrangements. Web.

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Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. (n.d.). Crisis management for directors. Web.

eNotes.com. (2012). Turnover (employment). Web.

Heathfield, S. (2012). Advantages and disadvantages of flexible work schedules?. About.com. Web.

La Trobe University. (2005). Flexible work arrangements toolkit and case studies. Web.

KLR Consulting Inc.. (n.d.). Business value of alternative work arrangements. Web.

managementstudyguide.com. (2012). Types of crisis. Web.

OPPAGA. (2010). Some alternative work arrangements can reduce costs and provide employee benefits. Web.

Sigma Assessment Systems Inc. (2012). Overview of employee turnover research. Web.

The Workplace Council. (n.d.). Alternative work arrangements will reduce absenteeism improve productivity, morale, and boost financial results. Web.

Victoria Transport Policy Institute. (2010). Alternative work schedules. Web.

Womens-Work.com. (2009). Job share. Web.

Workplace Flexibility. (2010). Flexible work arrangements: selected case studies. Web.