On 24 March, the Government will launch an initiative encouraging employersto address the work-life balance of its employees. But while it may wheel outexamples of organisations which have experienced increased productivity andhappier workforces through flexible working, what practical steps can it taketo persuade employers that this is the way ahead?The first step is, of course, to demonstrate the approach rather than simplytalking about it. As Joanna Foster, chair of the National Work-Life Forumnotes, it is all very well for the Government to promote these concepts butthey will be challenged to demonstrate that they are following this way ofworking in their own day-to-day operations. “Where is flexibility in thepublic sector?” asks Foster. “What flexibility do civil servantsreceive and what kind of flexible work is available for the leaders ofgovernment? Can they be flexible while operating in this traditionallylong-hours culture?”Foster wants to see the Government encouraging dialogue between employersand staff in the creation of flexible working agreements. The feeling existsthat, so far, it is the employers which have gained all the benefits of aflexible workforce while employees have continued to work without security orrecognition. An effective dialogue would mean benefits are shared by bothsides.Technology is often key to flexible working – the most obvious example beingthe use of PCs and high-speed communications to support home working – but itis imperative that the emphasis on IT does not make flexible workingunattainable for those who cannot afford the technology or whose work does notnaturally offer itself to these techniques. The Government must work to ensurethe necessary resources are accessible to as many organisations as possible.”Flexibility of mind is extremely important,” states Foster.”Many middle managers find it difficult to get their thinking around thechanges needed to manage flexibility. The Government needs to place these kindof skills on the learning agenda. What are the skills required for managingflexibly and where can they be learned?” One opportunity for meeting this challenge may lie in the new Learning andSkills Councils as they emerge from the Training and Enterprise Councils. TheGovernment needs to ensure such skills sets are visible on national andregional levels.Flexible working impinges on many areas of legislation, from the WorkingTime directive through to the employment rights of part-timers, and it isimportant that the Government studies all relevant areas to ensure theyencourage this way of working rather than posing obstacles to implementation. But perhaps most important, the Government needs to focus on reversing thenegative image which often surrounds flexible work. Part-timers and flexibleworkers are entitled to the same respect as full-timers and consequently shouldbe given the same benefits, rights and recognition. “The world is full of part-timers and people working differentpatterns, and yet our attitude remains anchored in the idea that part-timestaff are not as committed or hard-working as full-timers,” says Foster.With that increased recognition, the psychological contract between employerand employee can start to change. The employment relationship will not simplybe about paying someone for their time but about valuing their contribution inthe workplace and supporting their lives outside it.”If people are happy with their personal lives, their communityresponsibilities and themselves, they will be able to concentrate fully ontheir work,” Foster says. “At the end of the day, flexibility isabout creating the right mindset – it is not just an employment tool.” What the Government needs to doOn 14 Mar 2000 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.