Innovative working time arrangements, such as those introduced during the COVID-19 crisis, can bring benefits for economies, businesses and workers, including greater productivity and improved work-life balance, suggests a new report from the International Labour Organization.
ILO’s latest report, titled Working Time and Work-Life Balance Around the World, focuses on working-time arrangements and their implications for work–life balance and also reviews prominent types of working time arrangements that currently exist and how they may impact personal well-being and more.
“Working hours and the organization of work and rest periods can have a profound influence on the physical and mental health and well-being of workers, their safety at work and during the transit from their homes, and their earnings,” writes Philippe Marcadent, who is Chief of the “Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions” Branch of the International Labour Office, in the report.
Given the timing of the report, there is no wonder it reviews and analyses working time-related crisis response measures deployed by governments and enterprises to keep organizations functioning and workers employed during the COVID-19 pandemic—the most salient of which was a massive shift to remote work, especially within tech fields.
But it’s not just employees who benefit from flexible working arrangements, argues Marcadent.
Working time and arrangements also have “significant implications for enterprises in terms of their performance, productivity, and competitiveness,” he posits, as well as “repercussions for the broader health of the economy, the competitiveness of industry, [and] levels of employment and unemployment.”
Flexible working hours represent a “key tool” that can be used to “counter the threats posed by economic crises,” suggests Marcadent, “while telework can reduce the social and economic impact of pandemics such as COVID-19.”
The world’s digital transformation is having “a profound influence on working time and work organization,” according to Marcadent.
“Hybrid work has changed the nature of our workplaces more than anything else since the invention of the internet,” Ryan Wong, CEO of Vancouver-based tech unicorn Visier, stated last year.
“For the second year in a row, flexibility in one’s work schedule topped anything else for tech talent,” Hired reported in the fall.
Being prolific in the digital realm will pay dividends moving forward, believes Jeremy Shaki, CEO of Lighthouse Labs, a skills development accelerator for the digital age.
“In order to retain employees in digital roles … there needs to be greater resources available for employees to be able to continually progress,” Darian Kovacs of Jelly Academy agreed.
The ILO report concurs that organizations are wise to leverage “flexibility instruments”—such as tailored working arrangements—especially in uncertain times.
For example, a German study found that, when given the opportunity to work different hours or days than normal during the country’s initial Covid lockdown, more than one quarter of workers did so. This could mean that companies with rigid schedules may be alienating a quarter of their staff.
The report also cites a Eurofound survey in which 77% of respondents were satisfied with the quality of their remote work and 70% expressed a preference to continue working at home at least occasionally after the pandemic was over.
“Better work-life balance is associated with a multitude of benefits for employees,” the report concluded, affirming increases in mental and physical health as well as improved feelings of job satisfaction and security.