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Flex Work Literature Review
Gone are the days of single-income households being the norm. The costs and other economics of today basically mandate that many families have both parents working and this leads to the need for day care, school transportation plans and other arrangements for things like doctor visits and school events. This can present a challenge if neither parent has a workplace situation has a job that is forgiving and understanding and allows for somewhat frequent (if not very frequent) quick breaks and extended lunch periods to deal with family affairs. Combine that with the fact that many employers are actively or hostilely resistant to flexible work arrangements under the auspices that it allows for or even encourages waste and misuse of time, then the problem is exacerbated even more. However, the author of this paper would assert that employers should be as understanding as they reasonably can be given the familial and other social obligations of their workers and a flexible work arrangement that is constructed and regulated properly allows for both working getting done on time and correctly while also allowing the parent/employee to fulfill their parental and societal obligations thus rendering satisfaction and security for all parties involved.
Statement of the Problem
The problem at hand is the sometimes adversarial relationship that exists between employees with parental or other familial obligations and employers who have major concerns about potential productivity losses through lack of continuity and work getting done in a haphazard or incomplete manner due to employees either having to leave and come back to the office a lot and/or the worker not being present and thus directly supervised in the office. Many employers try and fail to strike a balance while other employers go to one extreme or the other. An example of a policy and setup that is too lenient and too free-form was the recent Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) that was used by Best Buy. The basic premise was that work could be done at any time and from any place and leave was unlimited with the implicit understanding that work would still get done and that results were really the only thing that mattered. The program was shuttered in 2013 when it became clear that the program's flexibility was not being used for its intended purpose, that being the allowance for people to spend more time on family functions and requirements. Instead, the policies were being appropriated to different motives and activities (Wong, 2013).
The other end of the spectrum was the recent decision by Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer to completely ban telecommuting across the board because she said it was a major loss in productivity and corporate camaraderie to not have people on-site and thus have their progress and actions visible to the reporting parties. Given that technology firms are quite easily associated with work flexibility and the general practice of being able to be productive anywhere whether it be a remote office in general or out of one's home, this came as quite a shock to Yahoo employees as well as many corners of the United States and international media (Kolhatkar, 2013).
The problem to be solved is to have a balanced and reasonable policy that allows for home or remote-based workers and/or flexible work arrangements that allow for discretion and flexibility while at the same time not allow people to actively abuse the system and use the framework in a way that is clearly wasteful and pointless. Agency theory run amok leads to a near dictatorial approach from management at times. However, being too lax and pliable form a business policy and practice standpoint is practically begging for people to abuse and misuse the system. The idea that employees cannot go too far and take advantage of the family-friendly policies of businesses is a fallacy and this is literally proven every day by employees who have extremely misguided priorities and values. To say that corporations alone are guilty of over-reach and improper standards and behaviors in the flexible work dynamic is simply false on its face.
This research paper should be receive and evaluated by anyone who is curious as what has been tried, what tends to work and what tends to blow up in one's face as it relates to flexible work arrangements. This would be useful to employees who, either now or in the future, would prefer to be able to have a flexible work arrangement and/or are curious as to how this would manifest itself. It would also be useful for anyone that thinks that corporations are heartless entities that care not about anything other than working getting done and within the desired frameworks. Corporations are made of people and those people have families and children of their own the vast majority of the time. Even so, when the aforementioned Yahoo CEO Mayer bans telecommuting but also has an in-office nursery, it is perhaps perceived by many (and probably rightfully so) that she is having her cake and eating it too. Some would argue that rank has its privilege and that Ms. Mayer has the right to expect the flexibility while others in a lower and less trusted position do not (Kolhatkar, 2013). However, many people that are at the lower levels of industry and corporate stature have families too and/or do not have the intentions or dreams to ever reach the upper echelons of corporate power yet they still want the ability to be the best family member they can be in terms of both providing and "being there." This report is tailored to those that believe in that and want to know what they will face in terms of options and challenges in meeting that goal. Of course, personal accountability is important when speaking people that work in a work-from-home or otherwise flexible work arrangement but employers absolutely have a burden as well.
Scope of the Investigation
The scope of what will be looked at in this report will be fairly basic. In short, what has worked and what has not worked in terms of corporate results will be assessed with a focus and goal of fixating on what is best for all parties involved. Solutions that allow for the necessary productivity while at the same time allowing parents to meet requirements like taking children for doctor or dentist appointments, dropping them off or picking them up from daycare or dealing with sicknesses or other emergencies should be the ones selected. Parents should not be punished for engaging in reasonable and ethical obligations but employees who are clearly abusing the system or are even just disruptive due to the flex work provisions being overused should be reined and made to comply with the same general standards as everyone else.
Value to the Audience
The value to the audience is an understanding and an embracing of the fact that while many jobs out there require physical presence in some manner or form, many other jobs including many service and professional sector positions can be done from just about anywhere with an internet connection and a computer. Other jobs still can be done at discretionary times and do not necessarily have to be done during a normal "9 to 5" shift. However, this flexibility, when offered, has to be accepted with at least some basic strings attached and allowing the proverbial inmates to run the asylum is just begging for abuse. People reading this work will be asked to understand that the employer/employee relationship relative to work obligations and arrangements should be a partnership and not based on being adversarial or acrimonious.
Focus on the Authors
Vanessa Wong's treatise about the failed Best Buy ROWE program was fairly illuminating. She stated that while there was a good perception of the program from the employees, there was no net effect in the amount of time that was spent with the children of the affected employees. This was verified by a study that found that both mothers and fathers spent the same amount of time, with no increase, than they did before the inception of the program. In addition, while the mothers in the study clearly felt good about the options afforded by the program, the same was not true for the fathers involved in the ROWE program. The amount of turnover was less than before and other activities were allowed for such as exercise and other fruitful pursuits were allowed for. However, the program was eliminated because it was not increasing family time and that was the original intent (Wong, 2013).
Another article reviewed for this literature review also focused on Best Buy's ROWE program and it also had a lot of good things to say about it. It found a clear reduction in turnover for employees that were participating in the ROWE program as compared to from before the program was offered and that his was true regardless of the gender, age or family life stage of the employee involved.…[continue]
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