Earlier I was reading a Huffington Post article that talked about a study by Randstad US showing that women believe Flexibility at workflexibility and adaptability are the two skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Also, a couple of months back there was an article about a study conducted by staffing firm Mom Corps in US that found that nearly half of workers were willing to part with as much as 10 percent of their salaries in exchange for a more flexible work routine.

This reminded me of the long running debate about flexibility in the work place. Whether it is good or bad would be hard to say without giving it some consideration.

Scenario I – The Advent of Information Age

Until a few year’s back employers didn’t have to deal with this dilemma. There were regular 9 – 5 jobs that employees were happy to work in. There was enough for everybody to go around and people enjoyed what they did. There were no computers in the work place and employees came in the morning and buried their heads into piles of files. There was enough time to chitter-chatter as they went about the day’s work. The office was not only a place to work, but also a social spot to meet and talk with like-minded individuals.

However, with the advent of an age where information holds the power and any workplace is incomplete without the necessary hardware and Internet, paperwork has become redundant. Employees have to come in day after day, sit and stare in their screens, with regular jail-breaks for lunch and an odd trip to the toilet. The office chatter has been reduced to professionally addressed e-mails with file attachments, addressed to someone sitting at an arm’s length from you. As if that weren’t enough, there is software designed to clock your actual hours in front of the screen, which takes random snapshots to make note of your work ethics. Every thing you do is under scrutiny, from your peers, from your compatriots and from your boss!

Is it too much too crave for a personal space?

Scenario II – The World in an Economic Crisis

If we were still in 1980s and someone were to say that they were working two jobs, the first reaction you would get would be that of pity. People will wonder how hard it may be for them to make it work.

However, in today’s times and especially after the global melt-down, it seems almost every other person is working more than one job. Sometimes it may be out of necessity for money, at others it may be because they had ended up in a wrong place because they needed to grab onto something, even if it were a rotten plank to save them from sinking. But now, they want to expand their horizons and reach the shore, even if it means swimming a tide. After all what defines us humans is our audacity!

Is it too much to follow your dreams?

Scenario III – Changing priorities

Priorities are changing rapidly for both the organisations and the workers. This is a time when work is no longer limited to a single office and emphasis is on efficiency and optimum utilization of all possible resources. Offices are working round the clock as new setups come into play that let people hire office spaces on an hourly basis! Is this not flexibility?

For employees, there has been a vast increase in the nature of opportunities as graduate courses have diversified exponentially. With more emphasis on skills and experience, students plan out their life 20 years ahead into the future and work towards it. It’s like a Hollywood romance where the protagonist would go through 2 whole hours to get to his love. But what happens after the 2 hours of struggle? What’s going on inside the young minds after they have done all they had wanted to, reached their place, got that job….what next? This is a time when they realize the importance of family and friends and start craving for a little more time with them.

At a time when even the Government has come a full circle from a regulated maternity leave to a shared leave between parents, allowing them to take six months off work each, we can see the World changing around us with passing time.

The question whether flexibility at work is good or bad has already been answered. The real question is whether we are willing to accept the answers or will we, as employers, continue to act like a jealous teenage girlfriend who wants to keep her lover just to herself?

We are all adults and perhaps if we treat our employees like one and trust their judgment, we may not only succeed in increasing their productivity but also win them over!

As Kahlil Gibran once said – “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours”.

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