Flexible workplaces can be defined in terms of places of work, time of work and the amount of work performed by an individual. Under the system of flexible workplaces, employees can work while still attending other responsibilities such as schooling and parental care among others. Sharing of jobs especially during low seasons has become a common feature. In the modern world, it has become necessary for organizations to adopt better strategies of human resources management. Flexibility at work places has been one of the most recent systems of improving competitiveness in the turbulent markets (Skorstad & Ramsdal, 2009). In this paper I will discuss the concept of flexible workplaces by exploring literature from different authors about the topic. The importance and drawbacks of flexible workplaces will also be discussed while providing an example of an organization which applies these concepts. Lastly, I will explain how organisations can encourage the development of flexible workplaces.
Rubin (1996) explained that as economies become more flexible, many organizations become flexible in their management of workplaces. The labour market has been segmented to accommodate the changes in the global economies due to the rapid change in nature of economies. Outsourcing labour overseas has become a common thing in the modern labour market especially during labour intensive seasons. Flexibility in workplaces has reduced bureaucracies which were being used in the traditional workplaces. Traditionally workplaces were controlled by the internal labour markets but today many firms have started seeking labour markets from other countries due to effects of globalization (Rubin, 1996).
The use of technology has become a major aspect in the modern workplaces. The development of internet has enhanced flexibility at the place of work since people can work at any place. Internet has encouraged employers and employees to seek better strategies of operating from different geographical regions. Innovations at workplaces have become possible due to the rapid change in technologies. New technologies have enabled employees come up with better strategies of improving production. Inventions and innovations have been done in the modern workplace environments to create competitive products in the market. As competition increases in the global markets, more product varieties are being developed to attract customers. Innovation has not only been experienced in the production systems but also in the marketing programs. As such, better strategies of developing products which match consumer demand have been developed and this has increased the level of satisfaction to customers. On the other hand, technology in production systems has reduced the number of people working in many production systems (Skorstad & Ramsdal, 2009).
The number of women entering the labour market has increased in the recent past. Dickens (2005) explains that the number of women seeking employment has doubled over the last one decade. Smith (2010) further explains that women have responsibilities of caring for their children and families more than men. This condition requires employers to create flexible work environments for women. In another statement, Dickens (2005) explains that graduates are seeking workplaces which allow them to balance their work-life, family and social activities. He suggests that stress management can be done by creating flexibility at the place of work. All these aspects improve employee morale, create more profits to a business as well as improve the image of a company in the society (Dickens, 2005).
Flexible workplaces are considered important in today’s business environments in that they reduce the rate of unemployment in a country especially during low seasons or when there is poor economic performance. As such, employers distribute the available jobs to all employees instead of retrenching them. In the modern world, flexible workplaces have become very important in reducing unemployment since organizations can retain their workers even when there are no adequate jobs for all employees. Employees can share the available work. This system has reduced poverty levels in many economies as well as improving the living standards of people. Outsourcing has brought about many advantages to economies. Companies can obtain professional workers from other countries to perform special jobs. Outsourcing improves quality of work done by employees since a company selects the most qualified workers to perform specific duties. In addition, recruitment costs are reduced when an organization outsource services and products from other organizations. The outsourced firm recruits its own employees and the outsourcing has no obligation of recruiting or maintaining the workforce (Skorstad & Ramsdal, 2009).
Rubin (1996) is of the opinion that specialization at the workplaces creates advantages to the workers and the employers. Specialization at the place of work has become possible with the introduction of flexible workplaces. Workers can specialise in the areas of production which they are best suited. Division of labour has been used to allow employees share duties for ease in production. Specialization and division of labour improve the productivity of employees and provides better opportunities for exploring more opportunities at the place of work. More profits are accrued under flexible workplace system since employees are motivated and efficiency in production is achieved. Flexibility at work places has been said to improve employee morale, loyalty, productivity and performance. Flexible workplaces reduce employee turnover since workers are motivated to work according to schedules which fit their programs. The overall image of the company is improved since an organization is perceived to care about the welfare of its employees as well as that of the general public (Dickens 2005).
Apple Inc. is a company in the personal computing industry that has used flexibility at the workplace as a tool for developing innovative and competitive products. The management of the company has introduced leadership in managing employees as a strategy of creating better work environment. The company has encouraged the use of modern technologies to produce and market its products. Apple has been able to come up with innovative products, such as the iPod, and iMovie among others. The company has improved its profitability in the recent past due to the high demand for its products. Apple has been able to increase its market share in the global markets by applying different strategies in their production and marketing system. Customer loyalty for Apple products has intensified since the company has been able to identify the needs of customers. Apple Inc. has been able to overcome intense competition in the industry, especially from Microsoft, IBM and other established companies in the industry. The management of the company has encouraged the use of modern technologies to come up with differentiated products (O’Grady, 2008).
Flexible workplaces have negative aspects in that they reduce incomes earned by employees, create complex systems among others. According to Rubin (1996), part-time jobs are not suitable since employees earn low incomes which are not sustainable. There are no benefits accrued from part-time employment. For example, workers may not receive healthcare insurance from employers and there are no paid leaves or disability allowances among other benefits obtained by full-time employees. A flexible workplace creates a complicated system of operating activities in an organization since all aspects must be integrated into all processes of a company. A complex network of activities may be cumbersome and may cause conflicts among the concerned stakeholders. For example, having different categories of employee groups leads to some activities being poorly performed (Skorstad & Ramsdal, 2009).
To encourage the development of flexible workplaces, organizations should understand different aspects of working in a diversified work environment. According to Dickens (2005), adoption of appropriate culture is a very important aspect when an organization wants to create a flexible workplace. Operating in a multicultural environment requires an organization to understand different cultures. Globalization has brought about the concept of operating in multicultural environments. This requires managers to learn better strategies of understanding cultures of all geographical regions they operate in. Leadership strategies should be encouraged at the place of work to provide workers with the ability to create innovative products which are competitive in the market (Dickens, 2005).
In conclusion, flexible workplaces are environments of work where employers and employees have the opportunity to change the time, place and conditions of work. There are various advantages associated with flexible workplaces such as innovation about competitive products, reduced employee turnover, and improved living standards among others. However, flexible workplaces have the bottleneck of reducing the incomes earned by part-time employees as well as creating complex work systems. Apple Company has been able to overcome stiff competition by the use of flexibility at the work place. It is my opinion that organizations should abandon traditional bureaucratic systems and adopt flexible workplaces to improve their systems of production. It is also important that some controls be put in place to reduce the adverse impacts of flexible workplaces.