Flexible working arrangements
CATHERINE PECK ARIF
Who isn’t interested in having a more balanced professional and personal life… ?
The current Flexible Working Arrangements (FWA) policy was introduced in Geneva on 1 June 2003 (ST/SGB/2003/4, IC/Geneva/ 2003/28), with the aim of providing staff with possibilities to improve the balance between their professional and personal lives. However, since its introduction, very few staff have availed themselves of one of the available options: telecommuting, staggered working hours, compressed work schedule (10 days in 9), scheduled break for external learning, or 50 and 80 percent part-time work.
But FWA are essential in today’s world. The region is becoming more congested with vehicles, weather conditions are often increasingly adverse and the forthcoming Palais renovations will necessitate relocating many staff to temporary offices for considerable periods. Working parents also need help in juggling professional and family life. Full-time staff in Geneva are required to work a 40-hour week. However, work loads change; some days are heavier than others, yet neither the current system of FWA nor the compressed work schedule allows for this. Staff are required to commit to a fixed time schedule in advance, stating in writing their daily starting and finishing times (and for the compressed work schedule their chosen day off). From the feedback received, these two options appeal to very few staff and managers due to their rigidity. Staff should be able to record their start and finishing times, settling the balance at regular intervals, either through additional hours or compensatory time off. Staff could then be present when the workload was heaviest but also have the flexibility they would like for their personal reasons. Staff that are part-time are not allowed to work overtime, but by relaxing the rules slightly, these staff could also possibly adapt their hours around the workload of the service.
The few staff that have been able to avail themselves of the option of telecommuting have reported improvements in their productivity. They have benefitted from having more time to dedicate to their work by avoiding long commutes, heavy traffic, suffering fewer distractions. However, it appears that there has been a lack of confidence by some managers thinking that staff will not work their full hours or that certain functions can not be performed outside of the office i.e administrative. But staff need to be able to prove that they can perform their functions responsibly without constant supervision. Most functions can be undertaken from home, as the technology exists that allows access to shared drives, IMIS, etc., but there has been an objection to the cost of this software by managers. But staff should be allowed the option of financing this software themselves. (IC/Geneva/ 2003/28 para.27).