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Women Rejoice - 4Ps of flexi time work options on American Chronicle

A new baby, a sabbatical, then the desire to get back to work .that's what really set me thinking about the much hyped concept of flexi time work - is it possible for me/ will I be able to land one given my specialization/ does it allow me sufficient remuneration to make it worth my while.

Taking certain liberties with the famous elements of the marketing mix, I too analyzed the flexi-time scenario using a "4 'P's" framework:

Product:

A good delineation of the scope of flexi jobs is "consulting, home businesses, projects, retainerships or part-time assignments". Flexitime could really be of many varieties:

Flexi Clock Time: The incoming/ outgoing hours are up to the employee, as long as full time is served and deadlines are met. Remuneration and career progression remain on track.

Core Flexi Time: A variation, it requires the employee to work a core period, say 12.00 noon to 4.00 pm every day .the timing of the rest is up to the employee.

Flexi week: Compressed work week.

Part / reduced time: Remuneration gets reduced according to amount of time served.

Job Sharing : A concept not yet popular in India - involves two people doing the same job either on rotating shifts or for projects etc.typically goes along with contract type of employment.

People:

A look at a cross section of women interested in flexi time work showed that they could be analyzed and slotted into clear demographic and psychographic segments. The big demographic factor behind a desire for flexi work is motherhood. But not all flexi timers are mothers. Basis needs, the types that emerged were:

Mother and More: People who had full time jobs, quit due to the baby, and now want to get back to working.however, do NOT want the old 12 hour routine which a regular corporate job demands.

Wannabe DIWKs (Double Income With Kid): Same as above, but the motivation behind getting back to work is money, and the difficulty of managing the demands of three or more people within a single salary.

Rubber Bands: Women who are currently trying to do it all - manage a full time job and a kid, with the result that they're stretched tighter than a rubber band. In an almost superhuman fashion, they work at their 9 to 9 jobs, then come back and spend quality time with kid and husband, only then getting time for themselves - one wonders how long this will last, or even if they will want it to !

Old Mother Hens: Housewives and mothers all their lives, now they want more! With the kids grown up, and an empty nest feeling pervading their lives, they suddenly find time on their hands - they also want the independence and importance of contributing to the household kitty. With no formal orientation towards a job, this is the genre which is Amway's/ Oriflame's and, in India , Modicare's foundation - also the cooking class/ boutique owners and other entrepreneurs.

Socrates: These are the mothers who already tread the path of the golden mean - those fortunates who are currently working flexi time. These women realize that to balance their juggling act, they will have to let their careers take a back seat - and have reconciled to it; also they have employers savvy enough to want to retain them at any cost.

The Lucky Have it alls: Very few in number, these are the women who were already into working on their own or part time work even before the baby arrived.

The Detached Observers: The singletons, or married but not yet mothers.they have the luxury of being totally academic about the whole concept - and by and large, react to the concept basis the industry they work in, or the skill set they posses. Purely theoretically, the idea is appealing (all of them identify the Full Time Flexi Option as the one for them) as it gives them time to themselves and allows them to work at their pace.

In summary, a few common reasons run across all the above types for wanting flexi work. These include allowing people to work when they are most productive and allowing fulfillment of family commitments (strike a decent work - home balance). Interestingly, one theory -that people opt for flexi time work when they are looking for more time to themselves as they reach higher and higher levels of Maslow's hierarchy.

Place:

So in which industries is flexi time feasible, what do employers see as advantages, and how many actually work out flexi time options? In a survey carried out by a business magazine on India 's most admired companies a few years ago, amongst the top 25 organizations, 11 were infotech companies, where work environment is conducive to flexi time work. Infact, among the prime reasons for those 25 companies ranking high is employers taking care of personal needs through flexibility in hours.

As per a June 2007 cnn.com article, three-quarters of big organizations in the U.S. now offer flexible-work benefits, according to Hewitt Associates. Watson Wyatt in its survey of mid- and large-sized companies found that flexible work schedules was the most commonly offered benefit, followed by telecommuting and compressed work weeks.

Flexi time started in IT, when business boomed resulting in shortage of manpower. Even now, much of the trend is technology driven - it's easy to work ' remote'. Dotcoms gave rise to content providers. Now it is seen in other knowledge based services e.g. financial sector , garment and textiles, consultancy, account planning, creative, HR, retailing, insurance, research, media, entertainment, design, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, travel and tourism, back office ops, medical transcriptions and the biggest one of all - call centres or teleworking. The wave of outsourcing has really also driven up shares of all kinds of flex time options.

However, it is not true that all IT companies can afford flexi time for their employees. Wherever jobs require continuity and relationships with customers, clients or suppliers, the only variation of flexi time allowable is Core Flexi Time - even here, for those poor souls who put in 12 - 14 hours a day, 'flexi' becomes almost laughable! Flexi is really possible only when deliverables are content and the 'end hour' of output.

The reasons why employers opt for flexi time are many. Firms get equivalent work at less pay, they attract and retain talented people who might otherwise leave due to family constraints, they can hire basis projects or depending on load of work, they get the image of a progressive organization. Flexi time workers are normally more committed and self motivated, they do not have to be trained, overheads like space/ real estate and support staff can also be saved. Examples include retailers like (in India ) Shopper's Stop and Westside, that have a cyclical business.

In the U.S. , the scenario is a little different. There are many "Great Places to Work/ Best Employer" type surveys (including one sponsored by Fortune) that list the high rankers - and very often, a large parameter for success is flexibility options given to employees.

Price:

Flexi time does have some issues:

No retirement benefits

Timing of assignments is not always in your hands

Often effort required is more, as there is increase in stress due to "compressed" jobs

No established/ legal framework for flexi time work

Career progression wise, one takes the back seat

Attitude of co workers and organization - only an experiment/ doing you a favor

Deadlines in case of non committed people

Makes it complicated to manage / work in a team

Another important factor in making flexi time work well is serious discipline - flexi workers need a high degree of certainty and commitment; and the corporates need to be highly process oriented to monitor the administration aspect.

But one can only end with the hope that flexi time prospers more - may its shadow never grow less - after all, much as many of us enjoy writing, for those bitten by the corporate bug, its far more fulfilling to go back.on your own terms.

EmPower Research
Sangita Joshi
July 26, 2007

Courtesy : American Chronicle

 
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