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General Motors

It appears that there is a long-term and short-term impact of the shorter workweek (Ivancevich & Lyon, 1977). When first implemented, the shorter workweek achieves many of the results claimed by its advocates: improved morale, reduced dissatisfaction, and reduced absenteeism and turnover figures. However, after approximately one year, many of these advantages disappear. Employees then begin to complain about increased fatigue and the difficulty of coordinating their jobs with their personal lives – the latter a particular problem for working mothers. Managers also find drawbacks.

More scheduling of work is involved, overtime rates must frequently be paid for the hours worked over eight during the workday, and general difficulties arise in coordinating work. Additionally, managers still tell employees when to arrive and when to leave, so the shorter workweek does little to increase the workers’ freedom, specifically in selecting the work hours that suit them best. Flex-Time Another approach toward increasing workers’ freedom and their motivation is flex-time. Flex-time is a system whereby employees’ contract to work a specific number of hours a week but are free to vary the hours of work within certain limits.

Each day consists of a common core, usually six hours, with a flexibility band surrounding the

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core. For example, the core may be 10:00 A. M. to 4:00 P. M. , with the office actually opening at 7:30 A. M. and closing at 6:00 P. M. All employees are required to be at their jobs during the common core period, but they are allowed to accumulate their other two hours from before and/or after the core time. Some flex-time programs allow extra hours to be accumulated and turned into a free day off each month.

Under flex-time, employees assume responsibility for completing a specific job, and that increases their feeling of self-worth. It is con¬sistent with the view that people are paid for producing work, not for being at their job stations for a set period of hours; hence its motivational aspects. Flex-time has been implemented in a number of diverse organi¬zations, and the response has generally been favorable. In the United States, approximately 13 percent of all organizations use some variant of flex-time-amounting to between 3 and 4 million workers, mostly white-collar (Nollen, 1979).

More specifically, we find an evaluation of Mutual of New York’s flex-time program rated it very successful. There was an increase in employee productivity, fewer errors, improved employee morale, and a significant reduction in lateness and absenteeism (Fields, 1974). A flex-time program initiated in several administrative departments at a large General Motors of Canada plant received similarly favorable notices (Personnel, 1978). Workers liked the program, and the company found that lateness and absences were reduced, offices were staffed for a longer period each day, and overtime costs were reduced.

The State of New York’s Commerce Department has also given its flex-time experiment high ratings (Ivins, 1977). Based on use by over 150 employees, the program has been described as “an astounding success,” with improvements in de¬partmental productivity and worker morale. An executive said, “The idea is to treat state employees like civilized adult people instead of like kindergarteners”. It’s very simple: If you treat people with matu¬rity, they respond with maturity. But if you treat them like children, then the game becomes how to cheat the system (Ivins, 1977).

On the plus side, flex-time appears to contribute toward de¬creased tardiness, reduced absenteeism, less job fatigue, increased organizational loyalty, and improved recruitment. However, it produces problems for managers in directing subordinates outside the core time period, causes confusion where there is shift work or interdependencies between functions, increases difficulties when someone with a particular skill or knowledge is not available, and makes planning and controlling of work more cumbersome and costly for managers (Swart, 1974).

In summary, flex-time has been a popular technique that has been instituted easily and at a relatively low cost. It has offered strong mo¬tivational potential by increasing worker freedom and allowing work¬ers to assume greater responsibility through creating opportunities for them to make decisions about their work schedule. Note, however, that while flex-time has offered greater flexibility, many of the work¬ers continue to arrive and depart according to their pre-flex-time pat¬terns (Ronen, 1981).

But, by the same token, later arrivals are eliminated. New Trends in Work Scheduling Until the 1980s, most of the changes that we have described occurred inside the organization and deviated very little from the traditional work patterns that had existed since the 1930s. However, with the changes that have taken place in both the organization and the home, we are finding new alternatives to the classic working day. The two that appear to be the most drastic are home work and job sharing.

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