The world is changing at an incredible pace and this has necessitated the need for businesses to continuously evolve. There is an increasing change of trends due to technological advancement, consumer behavior and societal adjustments. For instance, the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill but most importantly changed the way work is done. Government lockdowns were eminent and this led to businesses losing revenue. This phenomenon and others led to retrenchments on a global scale and cost cutting strategy by employers. Working from home became the norm in 2020. But working from home as well as other forms of flexible working practices is not new. Businesses have been considering the concept of flexible working policies for years as part of their human resource planning phase because of the consistent changes of business environment. New and emerging business models such as the shared economy, gig-economy and 24-hour economy as well as new working patterns of employees across the globe created the necessary attention for flexible working practices. In the labour market, people are consistently avoiding traditional way of working because of its rigidity and stiff control and are gearing towards an environment that promotes trust and leadership. Furthermore, this notwithstanding, increasing number of the working class are becoming more concerned about having a balance between work and life itself hence creating a situation where employees are keen on removing the rigidity of work schedule thereby allowing for a more fluid or flexible work pattern. The current macro business environmental threats as well as growing trends of work life balance has necessitated the need to have a discussion on flexible working therefore this article discusses the types of flexibility at the workplace with focus on their potential benefits to employers, employees, the environment and society as well as challenges and what to expect in future using Ghana as a case study.


As a contemporary area, flexibility in human resource management has been vaguely defined. This is because some scholars attribute flexibility to time, while others associate flexibility to job function and even location. But there are four primary areas where companies can implement flexible working policies, namely; apportioning competencies and knowhow to job responsibility also known as functional; flexibility in terms of regulating workplace input to match output also known as numerical; flexibility in terms of switching from company hired employee to using contractors; and using motivation and reward scheme to actualize flexible working policies also known as financial flexibility.  The aforementioned clearly demonstrates the multidimensional form of flexibility within the work place. Some scholars categorize flexibility into job functional specialization and firm based flexibility and further posits that the concept of flexible specialization is blurry and unpractical. But other scholars however juxtaposes the fact that this type of flexibility, thus flexible specialization, is underlined by unique skillset or competence needed to complete specific or specialized task at the work place such as tasks performed by consultants.

2.1 Types of flexibility

Existing literature discusses two main types of flexibility, thus, flexible arrangements which mainly is at the advantage of employers, and flexible working practice which benefits both hiring entities and the workforce. Both types of work flexibility are common globally however, in the United Kingdom, flexible working arrangement is more popular with zero-working contracts topping the list. Flexible working practices include part-time working, flexi-time, job-sharing, term-time, home working and flexibility that has to do with time such as regulating working hours beyond the traditional eight hours daily. Workers who are employed to perform task within a stipulated time can be referred to as temporary workers. Generally, an employee is said to be a home or remote worker when they perform their jobs at their private residence. Additionally, freelancers, people that work at call centres and mobile workers constitute home workers. Job-sharing is where two or more people are hired on temporary or part-time basis to collectively perform the same role that equals a fulltime position. Flexibility that constitutes time or hours to perform a job function can be segmented into various forms such as allowing an employee to perform duties within a year rather than weekly also known as annualized hours. There are instances where workers perform their duties within a compressed period hence workers perform their duties over a shorter duration. Another type of flexible working practice is when workers are given the opportunity to adjust the time they start work and the time they finish work.


3.1 Employers Perspective

Workers are of the view that flexibility brings about improvement in job quality in terms of “control, autonomy and work-life balance” when employers implements workplace flexibility in a company. From an employer’s perspective, benefits of flexible working practices are enormous. It improves work culture as a result of improved trust, loyalty, motivation and communication. In addition, flexible working practices improve brand image and reputation of employers because they are perceived to be employee focused and care about their workers. Flexible working practices also help employers to reduce cost. When employees work from home it leads to reduced overheads. For instance, British Telecommunications saved over eighty million British Pounds annually in accommodation cost for fifteen thousand employees working from home. Also the company reduced its expenditure on office accommodation by seven hundred million British Pounds over 8 years as a result of having over eighty thousand flexible workers in total with fifteen thousand working from home.  

Furthermore, competent personnel are attracted to companies that offer flexible working therefore employers that do not join the flexible working bandwagon risk their best staff to companies that offer flexible working. Also, research has shown that employers witness higher employee retention when they offer flexible working. Companies that offer flexible working are able to recruit and retain more clients because of how attractive they become in their industry.  Higher retention leads to less recruitment cost hence saving needed capital.  Flexible working practices also afford employers the opportunity to manage demand and also offer round-the-clock service.

Businesses aim to achieve higher performance at a reduced cost hence productivity is critical in the flexible working practice discourse. It is argued that home workers achieve higher productivity compared to their colleagues in the office. However this is entirely not the case because employees have different temperaments. An employee with a melancholic or choleric temperament will be more productive than an employee with a phlegmatic temperament. This is because a melancholic is a perfectionist and pays attention to details, a choleric has good leadership traits and a phlegmatic requires a lot of supervision to get work done. According to British Telecommunications Plc, the company witnessed higher productivity of more than thirty percent in remote workers compared to staff stationed at the office. Additionally, home workers take lesser sick leave compared to their colleagues working at the office which is an advantage for employers.

The issue of improved job quality and productivity as a result of implementing flexible work practices is not straightforward and is debatable. While some people are of the view that flexible working practice leads to higher productivity, others are also of the view that it leads to less productivity, control, commitment and job quality. Schein, Maurer and Novak (1977) conducted a study in the financial sector to investigate the impact flexible working has on productivity and concluded that there is no direct link between flexibility and productivity although employees favour flexible working hours. This means that, the fact that employees work flexible hours does not necessarily result in higher productivity because productivity is achieved based on several organizational factors and not only hours worked. Factors such as transparency in the workplace, effective communications, knowledge transfer and continuous capacity building contributes to workplace productivity. Productivity can be categorized into two, which is, actual labour productivity and perceived productivity. However, some HRM practitioners are emphatic about the fact that flexibility leads to increase in productivity although they have failed to back this argument with empirical evidence. A candid view is that productivity can be ensured when labour outputs are measured based on key performance areas and targets instead of time duration used to perform tasks.

3.2 Employees Perspective

From an employee viewpoint, flexible working has made it possible for people to have a balanced life hence are able to integrate working with other important life activities. Flexible working offers people the opportunity to take care of their needs while working at the same time. For instance, people with home responsibilities such as taking care of dependents or people with disability are now able to comfortably manage work and personal life. Flexible working reduces work pressure and improves health of employees. For instance, workers who are working from home do not go through the stress of early morning and after work traffic jams. Workers are also able to take frequent breaks in between work while working at home which helps them to manage their stress level. Home workers are able to have time to exercise as well. This phenomenon makes home workers to be happier, healthier, motivated and satisfied. From a different perspective, employee satisfaction and motivation is also linked to rewards hence without competitive remuneration, employees working flexible hours might still not be satisfied and motivated.

3.3 Social and Environmental Perspective

Flexible working practice also benefits the society. As indicated above, flexible working helps companies to save space which leads to lesser energy usage. Globally, electricity is mostly produced largely from fossil fuel sources and these have detrimental effects on the environment because of carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing office space results in less carbon dioxide emissions. Similarly, because home workers do not travel to their workplace, greenhouse gases emissions are reduced because of fewer cars on the road.


Recently, legislations by both national and regional authorities have given more emphasis on flexibility at the work place. Current policies by the United Kingdom and European Union have prioritized balancing work and general life of workers and this has resulted in varied kinds of flexible working practices as stated above. These regulations have also made it possible for a subset of the workforce population, particularly women, to have more authority with regards to their work schedule hence are able to take up more flexible work schedule when needed. On the African continent, Ghana’s labour law recognizes and allows flexible working in the country. The law stipulates that employers can recruit temporary and part-time workers, and also work can be undertaken with a high degree of flexibility. Similarly, the United Kingdom and other European countries have enacted laws to streamline workplace flexibility. With regards to Ghana, the country’s labour law protects the interest of workers. For instance, employers are to ensure that employees working flexible hours are not paid less and are given full work entitlement such as leave days, pension, paid holidays and minimum working hours. Ghana’s law also stipulates that there must be a written agreement between a hiring entity and a worker who is being engaged for more than six months. Albeit Ghana’s labour law stipulates that regular working hours should not exceed eight hours daily and forty hours weekly, the same law allows for flexible scheduling of work hence employees are able to work flexible hours and not go contrary to the law. Interestingly Ghana’s labour law permits for additional working hours beyond the abovementioned maximum of forty hours but classifies it as overtime work. This situation makes the Ghana’s labour law blurry, vague and limited. To buttress the aforementioned statement, it is interesting to note that Ghana’s labour law does not give clear categorization of workplace flexibility. Furthermore, there is no clear section or clause in the law that tackles flexible working practice. This makes is difficult for both employers and employees to interpret the law appropriately and requires knowledge about workplace flexibility to be able to interpret the law.


Without a doubt, flexible working practice is on the rise in Ghana. In Ghana’s 2020 general election, some aspiring presidential candidates promised to make room for more flexible working practice when voted into office with maternal leave dominating the discourse. Although it can be argued that extending maternal leave does not directly constitute flexibility, it is imperative to note that it enhances the workplace flexibility agenda and discourse as well as affirms why women favour flexible workplace. It also affords women the opportunity to have a balanced life by having more flexible hours.

The common type of flexible working practice in Ghana is where the start and end times are amended for employees to suite their specific situation. The outbreak of COVID-19 forced most Ghanaian companies to practice flexibility at the workplace with some companies running a hybrid system – merging both office and remote work.


Although flexible working practice is beneficial to employers, employees and the society at large, it is not without challenges. A key challenge that human resource managers face with workplace flexibility is the mindset of some decision making executives that, employees seeking flexible hours lacks commitment and are less loyal to the company. Generally, senior management perceive that more time spent at work increase productivity and this impedes the progress of flexible working practices in the workplace. This can be mitigated through continuous education and communicating the statistical benefits to these executives. Also employers should measure productivity through target setting instead of number of hours work. Some people suggest that one reason that makes women unable to climb the corporate ladder to attain higher roles is lack of flexibility in traditional corporations. This is due to the fact that most women have family responsibilities which becomes challenging when managing both work and family. This may be a reason why women subscribe more to flexible working practice compared to men although both genders benefits. Furthermore, low adaptation of technology due to reasons such as high acquisition cost is another challenge that hinders adaptation of flexible working practices. This is because remote workers need technological tools to work with such as teleconferencing, team sharing and remote access software which require investment. Another challenge is loneliness. Remote workers are at the risk of being lonely which is as a result of isolation. Being isolated might lead to ineffective communication, lower visibility, less interaction with colleagues and reduced inclusivity. The problem of isolation can be curtailed by encouraging engagement sessions that ensures inclusivity, team bonding and recognition. Another challenge with flexible working is that, most employees working flexible hours are disenfranchised with regards to remuneration. Employers must recognize the benefits of flexible working and reward workers accordingly. This can be achieved through continuous education and by enacting laws to force employers to do the right thing.


In conclusion, flexible working practice is beneficial to both employers and employees. Employers that are yet to adopt workplace flexibility policies can start gradually, for instance by adopting a hybrid system where employees work from home and the office concurrently and then gradually shift to hundred percent flexible working. Employers must however be mindful that flexibility should not be generalized and must be tailored to suite specific needs of the organization.

About the writer: King A. Wellington is a business strategist with expertise in executing projects and helping companies achieve their goals in diverse industries. King has a proven track record of solving problems using innovation as well as possesses excellent knowledge and experience of managing organizational change and building capacity of companies. King holds an MBA, MSc Energy & Sustainable Management and MSc Computing from University of Birmingham UK, KNUST Ghana and Robert Gordon University UK respectively. King can be contacted via www.linkedin.com/in/kingwellington


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