One of the most important aspects of any workplace is the overall happiness as well as its productivity, the two commonly go hand in hand. For this essay I will be writing about the topic of compressed or alternative work weeks, because I want to find out if it increases happiness, productivity, and overall job satisfaction, in order to help my reader understand whether or not it is a successful strategy to change the normal work week. I will do so by researching the topic itself and breaking it down into different sections that will best help me make a final decision. I will make said decision by using the facts presented, as well as my own knowledge of the industry. I will first go over what an altered or compressed work week could look like. Then the following sections will be; what does an altered 40 hour week look like, does an altered work week affect happiness, does it increase productivity, how does the integration of it matter, and what are the most important factors for integration, how will it affect me in my career, are there any laws linked to it, what are the advantages and disadvantages associated, then finally the conclusion with my opinion. The decision on whether to integrate a whole new schedule is a large and nerve-racking one to make. So being sure that you have the right option for your business is important.
There are many different types of work weeks encompassed within the thought of an alternative work schedule. The first one I would like to go over is called the Flexitour schedule, this allows employees to select their own arrival and departure times. The only requirement is to either work your 40 hours in each week or 80 hours in a biweekly setting. The next is a Gliding schedule which allows employees to pick from a set of two or three different schedules. For example, a regular 9-5 option, or an 8-4 option, and lastly a 10-6 workday. The company in this case creates the schedule and you as an employee get to choose which would work best for you. A Variable-Day schedule requires employees the same 40-hour work week, but lets the employee choose the hours work in any given day. Like 10 hours on Monday, 8 hours on Tuesday, another 10 on Wednesday, and then 6 on Thursday and Friday. The days can be setup in any way to your liking as long as you hit the requirement of 40 hours. Similar to the Variable-Day is the Variable-Week which permits the employee to vary both its workday and work week. Say your company pays in a bi-weekly engagement, if you work your 80 hours in 8 days straight then they will allow you to miss the other 6 days of the remaining week. The next option is the Maxiflex schedule is a gain like the last and allows the number of hours in a day to change as well as the week. Although the company may require core hours or days in which you need to be there like Monday-Thursday 10-4. The next option is known as Credit Hours schedule, and it offers an employee to work say 60 hours in one week and only 20 in the next to reach the 80 for the biweekly period. This option does not mean the employee is receiving overtime, they are just allowing the ‘credits’ to be carried over. The Three-Day Work Week schedule allows the employee to work a maximum of 13 hours and 20 minutes for three days, or in a bi-weekly schedule six 12-hour days and one 8-hour day. The Four-Day work week allows employees to work four 10-hour days. Lastly, the Five 4/9 plan permits the employee to work eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day within a bi-weekly pay period. There are many different setups for an alternative work week, but the common goal for all of them is to increase both happiness and productivity, as well as give an employee the means to best situate their life and work plans. While there are many options, I do believe that a few of them stand out above the rest (McCampbell).
Happiness is an emotional state that includes positive or pleasant behaviors. In a workplace happiness is one of the most important factors to being successful, for the worker themselves, their coworkers, managers, and the workplace as a whole. According to Kathy Barany and Mary Anne Ciccarelli there are multiple ways to increase happiness into the workplace. While many of them are unattainable due to a lack of budget, an altered work week is an option that does not cost a whole lot to implement and increases happiness in workers. “Alternative work schedules have also proven to lift employee morale as well as productivity. Instituted as a response to growing work/family issues, flexible compressed work weeks, telecommuting, and job sharing are effective low-cost practices” (Barany). Giving the option to employees motivates them and makes them feel like they are being valued for the work that they do.
Productivity is another important factor in every aspect of work. Once employees are happy their productivity and morale will increase, which will then cause satisfaction with managers and customers. While there are many ways to increase productivity, I believe that an altered or compressed work week is a prominent one. While some may think that either way 40 hours is 40 hours no matter which way you look at it, therefore productivity will not likely change at all. The thought behind the increased productivity is that with an extra full day to yourself and your family will radically change your happiness, morale, and ultimately productivity. In fact, “There are several reasons for increased productivity through the offering of flexible work programs. Not only are employees given more control over how they put their time in, they are also provided with an environment of trust and autonomy. With happier employees and a more trusting environment, productivity increases” (Howington). Also, in some job settings have a longer work days does instantly mean increased amount of work done, for instance “situations in which the work process requires significant start-up and shutdown periods, the four-day workweek can effect an increase in productivity even [with] the efficiency of labor remain[ing] unchanged” (Calvasina). There are many instances in which alternate or compressed workweeks will change the landscape of your professional life, and productivity is clearly included within.
Integration into compressed or altered workweeks is very important. Without do so properly it could become disastrous. First when switching to any sort of altered workweek you must be able to either comply with your workers or give them the ability ahead of time to decide their future with the business. You must also ensure you are not breaking any laws for over working employees, which is fairly easy to do. Once this portion is squared away you can start to update/create things like job analyses, core times, options for the workweek, how you recruit/select future employees, payroll processes, training, etcetera. The most important parts of the change are the job analyses, core times, options for workweek, and recruitment. Most everything else involved is a simple switch. Job analyses are important because they entail all the details and requirements for the job. While this may not be important for all jobs, it is still important to make sure that to ask yourself the following question to be sure; Will the distribution of work change? Will the tasks themselves change? Will concentration or density of skills used change?” (Hammer) These questions are important because they will answer the uncertainties you may have. Again, while it may not always affect the job, knowing is better than being unsure. Selecting the workweek that best suits you are really quite simple. You must look at your organization and connect whichever form fits best. For a general office space, the four 10-hour days work well. For jobs that require a lot of tedious work the 9 days within a two-week period works well. Different jobs require different sacrifices to keep employees at the best. While the concept is a simple one, picking the right choice is still very important. The notion behind the change is for a better the experience, so you want to guarantee that is exactly what you do. Recruitment and selection are arguably the most important aspects from the integration to an altered workweek. Altered work schedules are also a great way to attain more talent. Having the ability to give possible employees a choice in their schedule will give you as an employer more options in candidates. The integrations of an altered or compressed work week can be a great asset for any company, and the way it is introduced is the key to using it successfully.
I believe the future of our workplaces will have some sort of flexible scheduling. The ability to give your workers a way to create their own schedule as I have said before will make them a happier and more productive worker. So, it seems likely to me that in the future we will ultimately switch to this form of workweek. While the exact setup seems to be somewhat of a mystery, I believe that it could alter from workforce to workforce. Many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders believe the same as well. For instance, “Sir Richard Branson, billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, argued against the notion that we should view the five-day work week as set in stone. Branson [said] earlier this year: ‘There is no reason this can’t change. In fact, it would benefit everyone if it did’ (Anderson). While currently there is no immediate future for the change here in the United State, other Countries like New Zealand, Denmark, Netherlands and Japan have been adjusting to it. Denmark and the Netherlands already have had a four-day week for a while and even shorter than 40 hours. Productivity and happiness of employees has skyrocketed, and their average salaries falls around $50,000. To further that point the “six of the countries with the ten shortest work weeks are also among the top ten countries with the highest annual salaries (Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Austria, and Belgium)” (Ellis). I believe that the future does look more like this list. While in the U.S. it may take longer for it to start becoming the norm, especially when talking about fewer than 40 hours, it seems to make the most sense. The future of our professional workweeks is looking to change the way we work and play.
Any laws regarding working hours are covered under both the Fair Labor Standards Act or the FLSA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments” (FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT). While OSHA “ensure[s] safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance” (Department of Labor). While the FLSA is more of the standard given their specific target is wage administration, overtime, and other working standards, OSHA still has a vital role given their focus on health and working conditions. Both regulatory programs want to ensure the wellbeing and guarantee fairness to all workers. While most of the altered workweeks would fit under these programs there is one that needs an agreement to work. For the credit hours work schedule you must comply to the FLSA’s “8 and 80” system which states that “the employer and employee must have an agreement to use the “8 and 80” system before any work is performed… [the] system requires employers to pay overtime for every hour worked in excess of eight hours per day. For example, if an employee works a 12-hour shift, he/she is owed four hours of overtime regardless of how many total hours are worked during the 14-day work-period… [and lastly the] system requires the employer to pay overtime for every hour worked in excess of 80 hours during the 14-day work period. Credit can be taken for any overtime paid in excess of eight hours per day. For example, if an employee works 84 hours in the work period, he/she would be due four hours of overtime. If that same employee had worked a 12-hour shift during that work period and the employer paid overtime on the four hours in excess of eight per day, then no additional overtime would be due for that work period” (Hall). There is a lot to unpack in that statement, but the overarching theme is that an alternate system is a possibility. The only caveats are that the overtime requirements are in some ways harsher than others. Other than the FLSA standards and the small amount of OSHA standards that relate only to working hours in excess, than there are no other large laws affecting altered work weeks. Of course, you should check State laws to ensure you are complying at all times. For NH the only law that takes some sort of stance is a pretty common law across the U.S., that of course being that “employers cannot require that an employee work more than five (5) consecutive hours without granting a thirty (30) minute lunch or eating period. If the employer cannot allow thirty (30) minutes, the employee must be paid if they are eating and working at the same time” (New Hampshire Labor Laws). Overall the laws regarding alternate workweeks are mostly relaxed, and you can easily comply to them.
There are many advantages to an altered workweek, many of which I have already gone over. The hope for an alternate workweek is to have a better lifestyle and happier employees, so having many advantages is the goal. A few of them include a “greater emphasis on leisure time, changes in the composition of the workforce to include a proportionately larger representation of women, minorities, and the elderly – groups that may be particularly amenable to alternative work schedules, a shift towards the service industry, where atypical patterns of work arc more common, and skill obsolescence, which might be combated by providing employees with flexibility to pursue educational and retraining opportunities while remaining on the job” (Hammer). Also, the integration of altered workweeks also includes “Arrangements that give workers more freedom with their time and location also enable them to take better care of themselves” (Villarcia). There are even more advantages to this style of work but listing them all out would be an overload. Overall, the advantages are clear, and changing the perception of a workweek is very beneficial to your workers and ultimately your company.
While there are many advantages, there are also some disadvantages. For some workers the normal workweek is the best option. With the addition of altered workweeks, there is the possibility for some workers to be involved while others work normal hours. Nonetheless for some, mainly “Older employees may become tired and be unable to work effectively for 10 or 12 hours… Compressed work weeks can also cause problems for people with young children; a 10-hour workday added to a long commute can make child care arrangements difficult” (Bencivenga). Older workers will not always be able to productively work more than 8 hours a day, which makes complete sense. While parents do sometimes need the extra time in order to take care of their children. Another disadvantage can be the drop off of morale. It is said that the addition of this workweek will increase morale, but “In the long run, as the novelty of the system begins to wear off, it is doubtful that employee morale will stay at a high level. If the majority of workers in the United States operated on a 4-day schedule, its motivational impact would be seriously lessened, since it would then be viewed as a right rather than as a privilege” (Gannon). Some also believe the same can be said for productivity, the longer and with more companies using this method of workweek the more productivity will flatten out. Lastly, fatigue is cited as the biggest disadvantage, “the American Management Association Report is based on a study of the attitudes of employers. When employees are allowed to express their opinions concerning the major disadvantages of the 4/40 approach, fatigue ranks highest” (Gannon). It is easy to believe that fatigue would be the largest issue, especially with older workers. While there are some disadvantages, I firmly believe they do not outweigh the advantages.
I wrote about the topic of compressed or alternative work weeks, because I wanted to find out if it increases happiness, productivity, and overall job satisfaction, in order to help my reader understand whether or not it is a successful strategy to change the normal work week. Given all of the facts I presume that the use of an altered workweek can be quite successful in increasing happiness and productivity. I believe the caveat to this is that every industry is different, and you must take that into account when deciding how you want your workweek to look like. The purpose of this topic was to find out if managers, and HR representatives should take the risk of integrating a new system, and for most I think the risk is worth it in the long run. The audience is also for HR and other business managers, so that they can understand some of the facts, and effectively make their own decision. While some aspects like fatigue or endured morale may take a decrease. I still believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Especially when something like fatigue eventually will dissipate given the need to get used to a longer day for an ultimate shorter week. Overall, I believe there are many positive aspects of an altered workweek, and many industries could easily take advantage of.
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