The contemporary workplace has witnessed many revolutions over the years. People have tried and tested many different ways to increase their productivity and retain their work-life balance at the same time. With the development in Information Technology and the sudden increase in the number of jobs in the same field, there have been many changes in the way people work. In the current day and age, the workforce consists largely of millennials, who want to be instantly gratified. They believe in balancing their career and personal life so that they can gain new experiences every day. Gone are the days of the baby boomers who chose to slog until the ripe old age of 60 or 70 before retiring.
Millennials have a completely different approach towards life. We live in a time when travel loans are popular. People are seen taking a hiatus from work to travel the world. We can see that there is a strong desire to experience new things and live in the moment. This of course translates easily into the workplace. Employees demand a comfortable and balanced work environment. It is now the employer who has to improve his game. We can discern a large increase in the number of employees choosing to work from home. This includes both men and women, ever since the boom in the IT sector across the world.
Contrary to popular belief, men prefer to work from home way more often than it is known. We have a pre-conceived notion that women are the only part of the workforce that would want to balance work and home due to the various responsibilities they shoulder. When flexible working was introduced as a concept, only women were expected to take time off work in order to take care of her children etc. but that was not the case. The first roots of flexible working were noticed way in the past. People were seen opting out of conventional work methods as early as in the 1970s.
The trend of flexible work is penetrating possibly all industries and sectors of the workforce today. Flexible working, often known as flexitime, is nothing but a way of working that suits the employee’s needs. This could include having different start and finish times, working from home or even taking a couple of days off every week. Flexitime is usually a combination of all these things together according to the employee’s convenience. Each country has different laws regarding flexitimes. For example, according to the UK law, parents with children under 6 or those with disabled children under the age of 18 can legally request flexible working arrangements.
What was initially considered only by women for the sake of balancing their career and family became popular for other reasons as well. Flexible working is now known for providing better results for the employers. It has improved employee efficiency by reducing stress, leading to a better work-life balance, and lower levels of absence. As both employers and employees started to discover the unexplored potential of flexible working, the vastly underutilised arrangement known as Job Sharing, penetrated the market. The concept of two employees sharing one job role is yet another key to maintaining a good work-life balance, while at the same time, remaining in a position that would appropriately match the employees’ experience and qualifications.
The first time it possibly garnered public attention was when Forbes Magazine published an article on “How Job Sharing May Be the Secret to Work-Life Balance” in October 2011. This article highlighted some of the most basic benefits that Job Sharing had to offer to the employees who chose to adopt it in spite of its many disadvantages. Job sharing involves two people doing the work of one. This essentially requires both the employees to be compatible and possess impeccable communication skills. There are studies that show that in a successful job sharing environment, the client will not even realise that they are interacting with two different personnel.
This is the principal disadvantage for job sharers as well. It is often very difficult to find a compatible person to share your job position with. Job sharing isn’t a viable option if there aren’t two competent people who would like to take up the same opportunity. However, it has become comparatively easier to find job sharers in the market as all sectors from military to retail have acknowledged its potential. There are many websites that are solely meant for finding your partner. This has made many lives easier as job sharing has some significant advantages that would make the effort of finding a compatible partner, a worthwhile one.
Job sharers ideally have the same profession but a shorter work week. They are required to finish a certain amount of work in roughly half a week, as opposed to a regular employee. This enables the employee to finish his work efficiently in a shorter span of time thereby increasing his productivity. There are many ways job sharing could work, ‘employee A’ works during first half of the week and ‘employee B’ works during the second, or employee A works for the first half of the day and employee B works for the second. This arrangement is made according to the convenience of the two employees. The only mandate is that there needs to be accurate communication between the two. This is a work set up that is being tried and tested by many countries off late.
Job sharing has consistently displayed constructive results due to the positive effects it has on these employees. Job sharers have a healthy work-life balance that helps maintain a high morale. This in turn increases their productivity by almost 30% according to many reports. There is a certain stereotype that prevents men from opting to work part time. But job sharing allows them the freedom to choose to take time off work for their convenience. A very pertinent advantage can be highlighted here, in that there is a lower risk of losing one’s career when one shares their job, and this makes it one of the most promising methods of flexible sharing. There are however, certain disadvantages of opting to the flexitime work ethic or part time jobs that make the job sharing market open to many professionals today.
Flexible working may seem attractive to the employees at first, but reports show that it is in fact more detrimental to the work-life balance one wishes to maintain, due to all the digital tools made available to them. Simply put, working from home or working a few hours a day does not reduce the workload per say. Deadlines still have to be met by the employee and this increases the work-life conflict. Moreover, this would not be a long-term solution for employees with childcare responsibilities. Similarly, part-time work is less effective and definitely not an option for employees with many years of experience.
Apart from it being an attractive career choice to the employees, there are certain benefits to the employers as well. There is more than one benefit to adopting this new work ethic. Many employers have recognised more advantageous uses for the same. Top sharing is one such concept where an employee from the top level management shares his job with someone who would eventually take his/her job after retirement. This has two-fold benefits as the senior employee gets time off work before he is completely ready to retire and the junior employee gets adequate training to ensure a seamless transition of jobs. Forbes believes with substantial evidence that this could be the future for the current workforce.
There are many countries that are facing an acute shortage of skilled employees and workers. These countries have been persuaded into reducing many legal barriers that would help promote flexible working and job sharing. People in the UK, Australia and New Zealand take their work-life balance very seriously, which is why the government has embraced the shift in the workforce and is constantly trying to improve the job market for this sake. The several matchmaking platforms that aid in finding a compatible work partner also function as insightful knowledge centres that help in successfully implementing this method. Many countries have come to terms with the same. India may not be very far away from incorporating this global trend as well.
Picture Courtesy- gicancer.org