Flexible working arrangements have different impacts in different countries

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As more and more companies and organisation across the world embrace flexible working arrangements for their employees new research  has found that the benefits of such practices is not the same in every culture and that organisations would be wise to think carefully about just taking on flexible working.

(This research briefing was sent to members in March 2017)

 

 

Flexible working arrangements

More and more organisations are turning towards flexible working arrangements in order to increase their flexibility and competitiveness and to retain key personnel . Flexible working arrangements commonly include job sharing, flexitime (whereby the employee decides their working hours to some degree or other), work week compression (where people work longer days, but a reduced number of days in the week), remote working, teleworking, home-based working, for example.

 

working out of the office

 

These practices are becoming more commonplace around the world and have been found to have a range of benefits, including reducing absenteeism, reducing turnover and increasing work performance and organisational outcomes. However, the research in this area is not entirely aligned in terms of the impact that flexible working arrangements have. For example, some studies have suggested the flexible working arrangements can have a negative impact in terms of absenteeism, turnover intentions and organisational outcomes.

 

New flexible working research

A new study looked at whether national culture changes the impact of flexible working arrangements. The study looked at the impact of flexible working arrangements across 4,790 organisations in 21 countries around the world.

 

flexible working arrangements

 

Big Data

Big data was collected from CRANET – the Cranfield Network on Comparative Human Resource Management project data set from the following number of organisations: Australia (104), Austria (174), Canada (297), Denmark (356), Ger- many (407), Greece (208), Hungary (136), Israel (108), Italy (152), Japan (362), Finland (135), France (155), The Netherlands (92), Russia (56), Slovenia (219), South Africa (189), Sweden (264), Switzerland (94), Taiwan (227), the United States (844), and the UK (211).

 

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Cultural indicators 

Additionally, data was called from the GLOBE database to look at the nine main national cultural indicators:

  1. Institutional collectivism
  2. In-group collectivism
  3. Power distance
  4. Uncertainty avoidance
  5. Future orientation
  6. Gender egalitarianism
  7. Humane orientation
  8. Assertiveness
  9. Performance orientation.

 

Organisational characteristics

Further, data was collected about a range of organisational characteristics including:

 

  1. Organisational size
  2. Industry
  3. Sector
  4. Technology level
  5. Market
  6. Female proportion/gender proportions
  7. Worker age distribution
  8. Level of unionisation.

 

working flexibly

 

Findings about flexible working arrangements 

The first finding was that national cultures that value:

  1. High individualism
  2. Low power distance
  3. Low uncertainty avoidance
  4. High future orientation
  5. High gender egalitarianism
  6. High assertiveness
  7. High humane orientation
  8. High performance orientation,

characteristics that are typical of modern economically advanced, post-industrial cultures that are engaged in competitive and global practices, tend to see significantly positive outcomes from the use of flexible working arrangements.

 

Time banditry: How to get away with wasting time at work – new research

 

More traditional national cultures, however, tend to see a range of negative effects when implementing flexible working arrangements, particularly in terms of absenteeism and increased turnover rates. The researchers found that organisations that promote flexible working arrangements are signalling that they assume their employees are responsible, autonomous and conscientious in terms of their orientation towards work. More traditional national cultures tend to be permissory, in that their citizens tend to be more rule-based and are used to doing what they are told, often without being consulted. This lack of autonomy, the researchers suggest, may be responsible for these results.

 

sleeping at work

 

Additionally, the researchers found that in some cultures some of the flexible working arrangements, such as working from home, for example, are actively socially disapproved and viewed as suspicious. It is, therefore, important that any flexible working arrangement fits with the national culture.

 

Conclusions about flexible working in different cultures

The main point of this study is that flexible working arrangements tend to work best in modern economically advanced post-industrial cultures, with mixed to negative results in other cultures. Further, that any flexible working arrangements designed by an organisation is sensitive to the values of the culture that the organisation sits in, if the desired positive outcomes are to be realised.

 

Reference – available to members only

 

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page

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