We explain what flexible working is, its purpose and characteristics. In addition, we explore its advantages, disadvantages and more.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working is a work model or work arrangement consisting of an agreement between the company and the employee to establish a relationship that adapts to the needs and objectives of both parties. Flexible work arrangements may be specified in the employment contract.
For example: a company might offer hybrid work, where the employee works remotely three days a week and two days in the physical office.
Companies that understand organizational behavior, that is, that analyze the climate among their employees, are better able to achieve positive results.
Nowadays, the term “flexible working” might seem somewhat limited as work conditions and agreements must continuously adapt to new technologies and market changes. It is not just about being flexible; it is about a company's willingness to change or transform its production process.
- See also: Peer production
Purpose of flexible working
The aim of flexible working is to help a company manage its human resources effectively as well as reduce costs and investment. Furthermore, it allows employees to achieve a better work-life balance.
Flexible work arrangements may change from one company to another. These arrangements might be part of the core organizational culture or they may be exceptions that companies implement for specific periods of time.
Characteristics of flexible working
The main characteristics of flexible working are:
- It comprises different strategies offering benefits and incentives to employees.
- It enables employees to strike a more positive balance between work hours and personal life.
- It encourages an understanding of organizational behavior to provide suitable incentives for employees.
- It enhances employee performance, positively affecting business productivity.
- It is a typical methodology in intelligent organizations (those that make the most of their experiences) through continuous learning.
- It values performance and work quality over the number of hours worked per day.
- It may encourage labor exploitation. For example: in remote areas where working hours are exceeded on a daily basis.
- It prioritizes human resources, recognizing them as the main productive factor.
Advantages and disadvantages of flexible working
Main advantages of flexible working
- Improves work-life balance.
- Bolsters commitment between the company and the employee.
- Reduces absenteeism and unjustified absences.
- Enhances the employee's quality of life.
- Boosts organizational effectiveness, making it more competitive.
Main disadvantages of flexible working
- Increases workload in demanding organizational climates, overloading employees with tasks.
- Favors distraction among workers unable to self-manage their time outside the office.
- 100% remote work can lead to the employee's emotional detachment from the company.
- Might be counterproductive if the flexibility strategy is not applied equally among all employees.
- Might incur additional costs for the organization. For example: remote work implies that a company should provide all necessary supplies, equipment, and telecommunication services. However, not all expenses might be covered, which the employee may end up paying.
Importance of flexible working
Flexible working helps achieve a better balance between personal and professional life. This is in contrast to the traditional work system, where employees must adapt their personal life to the strict conditions set by the company and the labor laws in force in the country.
Several strategies are part of the flexible working methodology, providing benefits for workers, such as offering remote work options, adapting work hours to employees’ needs, accessing better health plans, and offering economic incentives based on achieved goals, among other advantages.
On the other hand, certain flexible work arrangements might violate employees’ rights through low payment, or working hours that exceed legal conventions.
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- Alaimo, V. & Noel Chaves, M. (2020). ¿Llegó la era de la flexibilización laboral?. IADB.
- Weller, J. (2007). La flexibilidad del mercado de trabajo en América Latina y el Caribe. Aspectos del debate, alguna evidencia y políticas. CEPAL. Cepal.
- Kenton, W. (2022). Labor market flexibility. Investopedia.