Alternative Work Arrangements

Beyond redesigning the nature of the work itself and involving employees in decision, another approach to making the work environment more motivating is to alter work arrangements, we’ll discuss two alternative work arrangement: flextime and job sharing work arrangements which have become more popular.

Flextime: SR is a classic “morning person”. She rises each day at 5 A M. sharp full of energy. However, as she puts it, she is usually ready for bed right after the 7 P M news.

SR’s work schedule as a claims processor at The Hartford Financial Services Group is flexible. It allows her some degree of freedom as to when she comes to work and when she leaves. Her office opens at 6 A M and closes at 7 P M. It’s up to how she schedules her 8 hour day within this 13 hour period. Because SR is a morning person and also has a seven year old son who gets out of school at 3 P M every day she opts to work from 6 A M to 3 P M. Her work hours are perfect. She is at the job when she is mentally most alert and she can be home to take care of her son after he gets out of school. SR’s work schedule at The Hartford is an example of Flextime. The term is short for ‘Flexible work hours”. It allows employees some discretion over when they arrive at work and when they leave. Employees have to work a specific number of hours a week, but they are free to vary the hours of work within certain limits.

For example, exclusive of a one hour break, the core may be 9 A M to 3 P M with the office actually opening at 6 A M and closing at 6 P M. All employees are required to be at their jobs during the common core period, but they are allowed to accumulate their other two hours before and/or after the core time. Some flextime programs allow extra hours to be accumulated and turned into a free day off each month.

Flextime has become an extremely popular scheduling option. The proportion of full time US employees on flextime more than doubled between the late 1980s and 2005. Approximately 43 percent of the US full time workforce now has flexibility in their daily arrival and departure times. And this is not just a US phenomenon. In Germany for instance, 29 percent of businesses have flextime for their employees.

Job sharing:

A recent work scheduling innovation is job sharing. It allows two or more individuals to split a traditional 40 hour a week job. So, for example, one person might perform the job from 8 A M to noon, while another performs the same job from 1 P M to 5 P M; or the two could work full, but alternate, days. As a case in point, SM and CS share the title of vice president of employee communication in the Philadelphia office. SM works Monday and Tuesday; CS works Thursday and Friday; and they alternate Wednesday. The two women have a job shared for 10 years, acquiring promotions, numerous bonuses, and a 20 person staff along the way. With each having children at home this arrangement allows them the flexibility, balance their work and family responsibilities.

Approximately 31 percent of large organizations now offer their employees job sharing. However, in spite of its availability, it doesn’t seem to be widely adopted by employees. This probably because of the difficulty of finding compatible partners to share a job and the negative perceptions historically held of individuals not completely to their job and employer.

Job sharing allows the organization to draw on the talents of more than one individual in a given job. A bank manager who oversees two job sharers describes it as an opportunity to get two heads but ‘pay for one’. It also opens up the opportunity to acquire skilled workers – For instance, women with young children and retirees – who might not be available on a full time basis. Many Japanese firms are increasingly considering job sharing but for a very different reasons because Japanese executives are extremely reluctant to fire people, job sharing is seen as a potentially humanitarian means for avoiding layoffs due to overstaffing.

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