Communiqué January 2006

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Flexible working time options: a win-win situation for all

Almost half of all companies and organisations in Europe, with ten or more employees, have put in place flexible working time arrangements, although there are substantial differences across EU Member States in the type of options available.

The Foundation’s recently completed survey on working time and work–life balance reveals that managers and employee representatives alike view flexible working time arrangements positively. The benefits include a higher degree of job satisfaction, better adaptation of working hours to the workload, and lower absenteeism rates.

The representative sample survey of 21 European countries set out to question both employers and workers about the use of working time arrangements. The survey found that less than one in three companies or organisations in Cyprus, Greece and Portugal offers any flexibility with regard to working hours, while about two-thirds of companies in Finland, Latvia and Sweden do so. The survey also found considerable variation in the degree of flexibility. In companies and organisations in the Scandinavian countries, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany, a flexible working time arrangement generally means the opportunity to accumulate hours in a ‘working time account’. However, in many southern European countries, flexibility is often limited to a variation in the start and end times of work on a daily basis.

Comprehensive survey

The large-scale representative sample survey, covering the former 15 Member States, and the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Slovenia, elicited the views of personnel managers and employees in over 21,000 private and public companies and organisations on their working time arrangements and strategies for work–life balance at the workplace.
‘This survey provides unique knowledge about working time arrangements in Europe. It paints a representative picture of practices at the workplace, and gives the views of both managers and worker representatives,’ says Jorma Karppinen, the Foundation’s Director. A comprehensive descriptive report on the findings of the survey will be published in April 2006.

Increased job satisfaction

Some 61% of all managers reported that higher job satisfaction was a key effect of the introduction of flexible working time. Other reported benefits of flexible working time include enhanced adaptation of working hours to workload, reduction in paid overtime and lower absenteeism rates. Employee representatives regard the introduction or extension of flexible working time arrangements as the most desirable initiative for improving work–life balance.

Part-time work, overtime and parental leave

The survey also looked at the incidence of part-time work, overtime, parental leave and the availability of on-site childcare facilities. It found part-time work prevalent in middle and northern European countries but much less widespread among southern European countries. Career prospects for part-timers were seen as worse in more than a quarter of the companies and organisations surveyed. Almost four out of five managers saw no difference in the motivation of part-time employees compared to full-time workers, while one in ten regarded part-timers as being more motivated.

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