Intensive work can absorb the whole of an employee’s life, barely leaving any time for them to live their personal life. Evidence shows that employees have been working more intensively. According to a survey, “around 40% of employees in 1997 strongly agreed that they were in a job that required them to work hard, compared with less than a third in 1992. ” Similarly, Bunting’s (2004) interview with a Microsoft employee provided a vivid illustration of such work pressures. The interview revealed that Microsoft views their workers as a commodity as the company wants to extort their current workforce.
Also, workers have been found in tears in the toilets feeling that they have been worked too hard. As a solution, employees must be informed of their rights to defend themselves from being taken advantage of. Employees would have a more stable work-life balance if they were conscious of the employer policies. For instance, the working time regulations of 1998 highlighted that ’55. 7%’ knew the maximum working week was 48 hours and ’50. 9’%’ knew that regulations provided holiday entitlement.
Employees not satisfied with their careers are in need of flexibility: “Flexibility is seen to contribute to an approach to create, for example, more fulfilling jobs through the acquisition of a broader range of competences and responsibilities, or more convenient jobs through the development of more flexible working time arrangements” (Blyton et. al, 1992). Employees can have access to rights by joining trade unions, leading to more flexibility in their lives. Trade unions can provide members with more flexible working and give employees support to conflicts they may have with their work and personal life.
This is as revealed by the Trade Union Congress: ‘Trade unions have sought to influence both European and National Policy. They are actively campaigning for improved statutory regulation over working time and pattern (TUC, 2005). As a result, they have helped make an impact on the work-life balance for employees and the policies they have to abide by. The working structures too have shifted. Organisations are becoming what are known as ‘The Flexible Firm’ (Atkinson, 1984). This involves fostering various forms of flexibility to help meet needs of the workplace.
Female workers are now more prominent in the modern workplace. However, it appears that husbands and wives have swapped roles with women now working as breadwinners for their families (Blyton et. al, 1992). Nevertheless, men still see themselves as breadwinners: “Men still see their main role as fathers as protectors and providers and not house-husbands” (Blyton et. al, 1992). However, it has always been tradition for the women to be housewives and the men to be the breadwinners or ‘hunters’ to provide food for the family.
Glass et.al (1997) highlights that women are needed at home more then men are: “the need for housewives have husband without housewives at home to attend to the organisation and provision of care to children, fathers are also experiencing tensions between their work and family obligations, although not necessarily the same kind, nor to the same degree as mothers. ” It appears that women may be sucked up into this work-life culture as much as men are. Thus both parents are trapped in this overwork culture. The more these employees work, the less time they will have to attend to the provision and care for their families.
This is emphasized by Hochschild (1997) who has argued that: “parents in the United States are working longer and longer hours and are therefore, increasingly caught in a ‘time bind’ with progressively less time for family life. ” Alternatively, females may consider working options to help their employee flexibility and work-life balance reconcile. British companies have seen Japanese companies flourish in efficiency and competitiveness with their systems of flexibility, as revealed by Turnbull et. al (1991), and as a result have adopted these methods for their companies.
Some of these methods include task-related flexibility such as teleworking. For instance, Hill et. al (2003) study supports the idea that teleworking, specifically from home, can lead to a better work-life integration. On the other hand, the disadvantage of teleworking is that employees may neglect work and focus on home matters more. Hill et. al (1998) emphasizes that: ” there are some negative consequences of home/teleworking for employees, however, including greater professional isolation, reduced promotional opportunities and lack of social integration”.
Although alternative working methods such as teleworking can help reconcile employee flexibility and work-life balance, but diminish employee prospects. Therefore if parents do not work a certain number of hours, they can forfeit opportunities to be promoted and earn more money. This is as revealed by Judge et. al (1995) who highlights that there is an incentive behind working in the in workplace as opposed to mobile work: ” It has been shown that promotions at managerial level are associated with working hours”. So employees are driven to give more ‘facetime’ at their workplaces to get these promotions.
Furthermore, mobility work can reduce the quality control and productivity of employees. It can be economical as it means them not having to commute to work. Ultimately, firms can make a loss as it means lower employee efficiency without them being stimulated in the professional workplace environment with supervision. One other aspect of the Japanese system of workforce flexibility is numerical flexibility. This involves periphery work and hiring temporary employees, who work part-time. Core workers who work full-time can only work to a certain extent.
Consider the example of a business that is going to be open seven days a week, and perhaps twelve hours instead of ten. This is because to overwork employees would be illegal and exhausting. Therefore peripheral employees are hired during periods such as Christmas. Hiring temporary employees helps to secure the jobs of permanent employees. It also helps the human resource managers in adapting to the seasonal fluctuations in change in market demand of products and services. However, it is argued that not hiring peripheral staff brings more stability and flexibility to firms.
This is as revealed by Geary (1992) who emphasizes that: “a policy of large scale employment of temporaries resulted in a new rigidity rather than flexibility”. In conclusion, it is apparent for the employer that there is no tangible definition for workforce flexibility. It can take the form of being functional relating to versatility of employees, and numerical relating to managers adapting labour to meet market demand by hiring peripheral workers to support core workers. What sure is definite for the employee is that flexibility is determined by their commitment shown as either a ‘core’ or ‘peripheral’ worker.
The labour workforce has indeed had a makeover including job enlargement with teleworking being an alternative working option. Despite firms’ efforts to optimise their workforce to solve problems in the workplace and revolutionise it for good, it appears to have rather aggravated the situation with problems existing mainly as employees struggling to effectively reconcile flexibility with their work-life balance, creating burdens for them. The finger could be pointed at this ‘overwork’ culture that now exists. It is debatable whether the workplace should revert to Taylorist and Fordist working patterns.