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Out Of the Office Doesn’t Mean Away From Work

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Roger N. McIntyre, Jr.

Organizations have historically been challenged to find avenues to increase worker productivity while also reducing the degree of employee absenteeism. Although complex, these goals can be achieved through the implementation of innovative concepts, such as teleworking and flextime, which drastically change our traditional understanding of what constitutes a normal workday. Through the implementation of these programs, organizations can create a “win-win” environment for both the organization and the employee.

Many individuals have a difficult time achieving balance in their lives. This is especially true in the case of individuals with children. For these individuals, the duties required of them at work often compete against the duties that are required of them in the roles they fill at home (i.e., spouse, mother/father, etc.). Charles Handy, in his book Understanding Organizations: How Understanding the Ways Organizations Actually Work Can Be Used to Manage Them Better, discusses the issue of role conflict while also pointing out the detrimental impact this conflict has on the performance of the individual as they struggle to maintain balance in their life.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established the 40-hour workweek, which has become generally recognized in most professions as being synonymous to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week job. As organizations altered their work schedules to conform to the standards set within the FLSA, American workers began to spend more time at work and less time at home.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the typical American family was normally a one-income family with the male figure being the one to work a full-time job to support his family while the female figure remained at home to handle household duties which included caring for their children. Since that time, this norm has changed to where the average American family is supported by two incomes with both the male and female figures working outside the home to support their family. Even with the increased duties required of both household figures in their professional lives, their role expectations within their personal life have remained the same.

mcintyre aprilWhile our society has generally been classified as a materialistic, which necessitated the need to work more, and more in order to support our spending habits, this focus seems to be changing. Some people are beginning to place more value on intangible items (such as relationships and freedom of time) that assists them in establishing and maintaining strong ties to family members. These individuals often have to make a decision as to what they want to be – a mother or father that has the time to spend with their family and children or a successful employee – as balance can’t be maintained with both under the traditional mindset of the 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., five days a week job.

Organizations must be responsive and flexible to meet the demands of their customers in order for success to be achieved. Being responsive and flexible to our employees is another avenue to achieve organizational success, although this component is often overlooked. Implementing telework and flex time programs are a way for organizations to demonstrate this while also reinforcing the notion that they are committed to their employees by assisting them in maintaining the personal-professional life balance.

Having the ability to complete their work in locations other than the traditional office or by enabling the employees to work in flexible, non-traditional hours enables the employee to be able to attend functions in
their personal life that are meaningful to them and their family (such as activities their children take part in). Even in this arrangement, the employee still has the responsibility to complete certain job duties and projects within a specified time. By this, the employee is still held accountable for their work responsibilities while greater trust is shown to the employee in the completion of these tasks.

Being able to have this flexibility also creates a greater sense of loyalty to the job in addition to an increased sense of meaningfulness of their work. Lars G. Tummers and Eva Knies, in a 2013 Public Administration Review article titled “Leadership and Meaningful Work in the Public Sector,” noted that the perceived meaningfulness of work was a key component to increased worker productivity and lower turnover. Tummers and Knies further stated that meaningful work was positively influenced by organizational commitment to assisting in greater work-to-family crossover among employees. When employees perceive their work as being meaningful and in sync with other aspects of their lives, they are better able to focus on their job duties and to become more productive while simultaneously being absent from the job less frequently.

Many organizations may hesitate to develop and implement telework or flex time programs as it does require a higher degree of trust being placed on the employee. These programs will enable the higher motivated and dependable employees to rise to the top while uncovering those employees that are marginal at best. While these initiatives challenge our traditional sense of work schedules and the supervision of employees, the programs ultimately have a tremendous benefit to organizations through the retention of more productive employees while simultaneously providing an equal benefit to the employee by assisting in a more balanced lifestyle.


Author: Roger N. McIntyre, Jr., D.P.A., is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Ga. Dr. McIntyre can be reached at [email protected].

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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