Flexible work options provides an alternative approache to getting work done through non traditional work hours, job structures ,and locations. The availability of flexible work options grants an opportunity for individuals to mould their careers in order to optimise their work and personal commitments. As for organisation it promises an increase in productivity,boost ‘employer of choice’,reduce fix cost. However flexibility is also reputed as costly for employers and favours unequal treatment in terms of pay and benefits for employees.
This essay aims to examine the nature of flexibility and further highlight the different types of flexibility throught the flexible firm model(Atkinson) . In the 1990’s up til present day flexible work practices has become a central point for Uk government policies with Fagan et al (2006) believing globalisation; competition,productivity,active ageing; the long hours culture were particularly the source for the rise of flexible working practices.
It is important to note that this belief remains the same today, except that advancement in technology is an additional influencing factor. Atkinson’s model of the flexible firm is an arrangement in which mangament offers employees different forms of flexibility practices namely functional,numerial and financial flexibility in order to optimize the use of human resources and quality of work. It is mainly focused on dividing the workforce into core and peripheral groups. The core group entails full time,well paid,secure professional jobs,functional flexible and difficult to replace.
Whereas the peripheral group consist of employees who are numerically flexible(Legge) because their skills are abundant in the labour market hence relatively despensible thus low job security,consequently may lead to low productivity due to low morale or they are only needed to complete particular task e. g lawyers. From the employees view,it is better to be part of the core than the periphery since the former provides job security,increase career opportunities and better work conditions.
Alteration in job design grants the core workers the benefit of soft HR practices implemented to achieve high performance, high commitment and high motivation and thus loyalty to the organisation despite managements persuasion to work across demarcation line as it reduces cost for them. But on the other hand it enhances the ‘its not my job syndrome’in employees(Mcdonals,2010). If employees don’t practice their new skill regularly they loose it. Therefore the cost of training and retraining does not serve the purpose significantly.
However in the Uk there is a liking for numerical and temporal flexibility at the expense of functional flexibility(Macdonald,2010). This can be witnessed in an increased use of part timers,short term contract,cleaning agencies. This facilitates the firms ability to adjust the level of labour inputs to meet flunctuations in output(Jenkins,2004). However campos and Cunhas highlights the downside of outsourcing as there is a loss of control over proprietary information and less job security. Nontheless numerical flexibility through part timers helps to reduce costs for employers, for example, workers can be employed when they are needed.
It is not necessary to pay for workers who are not productive. This helps attract inward investment. Unlike temporal flexibility it relates to variation in the number of working hours. Flexi time gives employees control over their work schedule thus not only benefiting the employee in terms of achieving a work life balance,job satisfaction but the employer too as it reduces absentism(Lee,1991) therefore higher productivity. Furtheremore teleworking allows employees individual choice in the location of work and covers the possibility to work from home and cutting down job related expenses e. g food,clothes,communiting expense.
However Brannen (2005) argues that what appears on the surface to represent a ceding of control by management to empower employees actually results in a loss of control,because flexible work arrangements unsettles what is a ‘reasonable amount of time’ to spend at work. This is because individuals find it hard to disengage from work. Hence critics of the flexible firm model by Legge. She believed there is a hidden agenda in the flexible firm model,which craftiliy promotes flexibility is good,but the real question is for whom? Futhermore there tends to be a pattern of professional isolation(Macdonald,2010).
To conclude one can note that flexibility promises to provide organisations with a competitive edge by cutting down cost for employers,boost employer choice,increase in productivity and assure employees job satisfaction,motivations,work life balance. However,there still appears to be many unresolved issues relating to the flexibility debate. This is highlighted by legge’s critism of mixed empirical support for the flexible firm model and the advantages of the flexibility is not equally shared. Notedly due to unequal treatment in terms of pay and increased job insecurity for workers.