Flexi-Timings and Family Life

Sometime back, I’d read this great piece somewhere on how employees these recession-ridden days are hesitant to take their consolidated annual leave. They fear they may come back after a suspenseful vacation to learn the obvious: the fact that they no longer have a job.

By Sushmita Bose (FREEWHEELING)

Published: Fri 10 Apr 2009, 11:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:43 AM

It happened to someone I know. He was on a kayaking break in Seattle (being fired was the last thing on his mind), when a colleague back in Boston emailed him saying his job was probably on the line as their company was, suddenly, on a right-sizing spree.

My friend cut short his vacation and rushed back. But it was too late. He hadn’t seen his lay-off coming simply because he wasn’t around to see it coming. One human resource expert I was talking to told me that a lot of people are, in these troubled times, not only cutting back on their leaves but even making it a point to put in those extra hours and working on weekends. Just so that their company management knows they were keen to go the extra mile. Bang in the middle of this new-fangled set of “working order”, a curious new legislation has been passed in Britain. Earlier this week, it was announced that (and I’m quoting a media report), “...all employees with children aged 16 and under and who have worked for a company for more than six months (have) the right to ask for flexible hours -- which could mean anything from working from home, working part-time, working agreed hours over fewer days, term-time working to job-sharing.”

What the new law implies it’s not just mothers who need to spend time away from the workplace in order to spend more time with their under-16 progenies; fathers too can have their days out (of office). Effectively, both parents can work flexi-hours – and get away with it.

Wow, I thought, this must be the new world’s concept of a flying kick to the financial downturn, and thumbs up to family life. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t really know – I mean, I don’t want to value-judge the previous order where parents (or at least one parent) did an honest day’s job to earn the sobriquet of ‘breadwinner’, and nobody thought any less of them (or him or her individually).

But it does seem rather odd that at a period when a country — and the world at large — is grappling with spiralling unemployment, the privileged ‘employed’ lot can suddenly work out of home, that too at hours that suit them. Yes, right, there are some murmurs about how the option of flexi-hours can be rejected (by employers) on grounds of “detrimental business impact” – but that’s really far too subjective.

The industrial circuit in Britain has been taken aback at this (more so because the legislation couldn’t have come at a more inappropriate time) but, obviously, they dare not loudly criticise a move directed towards family welfare (family comes first, remember?). The Guardian reported one Damion Queva, founder and publisher of a magazine called Fathers Quarterly, gushing about how he has “evolved” as a person by introducing flexible working for his team. “When I started out, I wanted my employees to be absolutely dedicated, to get in half an hour early, to leave half an hour late, and I’d be checking over my shoulder to make sure that they were sitting there at their desks,” Queva told the paper. “But I have evolved and I now believe it genuinely makes more sense to allow people to work flexibly.”

If nothing, he’s been rewarded with greater loyalty from his staff.

My boss was not checking over his shoulder while I was sitting on my desk and writing this, but I hope he reads this and agrees that working flexi-hours is the way forward. Life would be so much easier. My only problem isI don’t have children aged 16 and under.

Sushmita Bose is KT’s Features Editor and can be reached atsushmita@khaleejtimes.com

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