Labour flexibility, is a win-win situation for workers and companies.

Jan 12, 2023 | Current affairs, Featured, Post, Thursday Daily Bulletin, Tradition

The UN labour agency points out that measures taken during the pandemic showed that giving workers more flexibility in how, where and when they work can yield positive results for both sides. By contrast, restricting flexibility results in substantial costs, such as increased staff turnover.

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Labour flexibility

Reducing the number of hours in the working day and making work-time arrangements more flexible, such as those implemented during the COVID-19 crisis, can benefit economies, enterprises and workers, and lay the foundation for a better and healthier work-life balance, says a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The study examines the two main aspects of working time: the hours and organisation of working time and their effects on business performance and people’s work-life balance.

The analysis reveals that a significant proportion of the world’s workforce works approximately a standard eight-hour day and 40-hour week. However, more than one-third of these workers are found to work more than 48 hours per week, while one-fifth of the global workforce works less than 35 hours per week. Workers in the informal economy are more likely to work long or short hours.

The report also analyses different working time arrangements and their effects on work-life balance, such as shift work systems, on-call work, compressed schedules and annual hours computations.

At the same time, it warns that the positive aspects of some of these systems, such as improved family life, can be accompanied by other costs, such as increased gender imbalances and health risks.

Shorter working hours and teleworking change the rules of the game
Another aspect analysed was government measures for businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped businesses to continue operating and workers to remain in employment.

The study finds that the increase in the number of short-time workers helped prevent job losses. Long-term changes are also evident: “The large-scale implementation of telework in almost all parts of the world where it was possible to do so changed… the nature of employment, and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future,” the report argues.

Measures taken during the pandemic demonstrated that giving workers more flexibility in how, where and when they work can yield positive results for both workers and companies, for example by improving productivity. By contrast, restricting flexibility carries substantial costs, such as increased staff turnover.

“There is a considerable amount of evidence that work-life balance policies provide important benefits to companies, supporting the argument that such policies are beneficial for both employers and employees,” the report says.

The report’s recommendations
Working time laws and regulations on maximum daily working hours and statutory rest periods are achievements that can contribute to the long-term health and well-being of a society and should not be compromised.
Longer working hours are generally associated with lower productivity, while shorter hours are associated with higher productivity.
Countries should build on the experiences gained with COVID-19 and include part-time employment arrangements with the highest possible benefits, not only to maintain employment but also to sustain purchasing power and create the possibility of cushioning the effects of economic downturns.
In many countries, public measures to reduce working hours are needed to promote both an appropriate work-life balance and improved productivity.
Telework contributes to maintaining employment and creates a new space for employee autonomy. However, this and other forms of flexible working arrangements need to be regulated to contain their possible negative effects, through policies such as the often referred to as the “right to disconnect” from work.