International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

employers of greater workforce productivity. There are several variations of work hours in the alternative work schedules, including job sharing, part-time work, compressed work weeks, and flextime. Probably the most popular of these is flextime.

Flextime, dating from the 1960s, has been a constantly increasing trend for American workers. The federal workforce was introduced to flextime on a large-scale basis by the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedule Act of 1978. Although flextime can be implemented with some variations, there are usually some consistent features. First, the "band width" of the workday -- the time between the beginning of the workday -- and the end of the workday -- will usually increase for the organization. The typical hours of operation may change from 8:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. (with an hour for lunch) to 6:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. Some employees will come to work earlier and leave earlier -- for instance 6:00 A.M to 3:00 P.M. Some employees will choose to come to work later, around 10:00 A.M., and stay later, to about 7:00 P.M. There are some other slight variations possible, such as 7:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., and half hour variations if 30 minutes rather than an hour is allowed for lunch.

Second, there is commonly a period of time during each workday, called "core time," when all employees under this flextime system are expected to be at work. This allows supervisors time for needed coordination of tasks, time for meetings, and time for general tending to the details of work. The typical core time would be 10:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M.

Two other features of flextime systems are common. There should be someone designated as the overall coordinator who will be responsible as a contact person and as a problem-solver. Finally, some decisions must be made regarding how often employees are allowed to change their selection of flexible hours. Can this be done daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly?

Studies indicate that flextime has much to offer both the employee and the organization. Improved employees' morale, decreased tardiness, more "family friendliness," decreased absenteeism, less traffic congestion, and decreased employee turnover are commonly cited benefits.

Flextime does have some drawbacks. Some managers complain about the increasing difficulty in coordinating group activities, work scheduling, and the unavailability of employees at certain times. Some managers also perceive a decreased level of productivity among employees during hours when supervisors are not present at work. Finally, increased paperwork problems arise when keeping track of employee work hours.

Despite these problems, flextime appears to be an option that will be a permanent fixture of workplaces for decades to come. Given the increase in working women, dual-career couples, and the advantages to organizations of better accommodating workers' family needs, flextime appears to offer great potential in the workplace of today and the future.

ROBERT H. ELLIOTT


BIBLIOGRAPHY

McGuire, Jean B., and Joseph R. Liro, 1986. "Flexible Work Schedules, Work Attitudes, and Perceptions of Productivity". Public Personnel Management, vol. 15 (Spring): 65-72.

Rubin, Richard S., 1979. "Flextime Implementation in the Publie Sector". Public Administration Review, vol. 39 (May): 277- 282.

FOG OF WAR. The condition of administrative confusion experienced in battle, arising from the conflicting information and unplanned developments intrinsic to the conduct of war. Although originally a military concept, it now has much wider application.

As the early- nineteenth-century military philosopher, Carl von Clausewitz wrote, "Information . . . is the foundation of all our ideas and actions." For those given command and leadership in war, Clausewitz ( 1962) believed that the problem was "a greater part of the information obtained in War is contradictory, a still great part is false, and by far the greatest part is of a doubtful character" (p. 75). Accordingly, instead of operating in a clear-cut situation in which all salient information was observable and known, military commanders would normally expect to find themselves in a permanent fog of uncertainty, and would have to accommodate themselves to that unavoidable fact.

Even though some of the responsibility for this uncertainty can be directly found in deficiencies in the collection, transmission, processing, and exploitation of information, Clausewitz believed that much derives from the nature of war itself. War is the province of danger, fear, fatigue, exertion, and privation; in such circumstances, it was considered natural for those involved to make mistakes, and in particular, human timidity being what it is, to exaggerate the extent of the surrounding dangers. As such, information problems play a major part in creating that friction, which means that "everything is very simple in War, but the simplest thing is difficult" ( Clausewitz 1962, p. 77).

The experience of the Royal Navy in its conduct of the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 illustrates Clausewitz's point exactly. During that battle, the British fleet under Admiral John Jellicoe had a significant advantage in quantitative terms, comprised excellent equipment and first-rate personnel, and for some hours was barely 10 miles from its German adversary. Sometimes, in fact, it was between the German fleet and the base to which Admiral Rheinhard Scheer, its commander in chief, wanted quite desperately to return.

Nonetheless, Admiral Jellicoe's capacity to inflict a decisive defeat on the Germans was ruined, first, by inaccu

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