Academic journal article Military Review

Afternoon PT: Key for an Army Flextime Battle Rhythm

Academic journal article Military Review

Afternoon PT: Key for an Army Flextime Battle Rhythm

Article excerpt


WITH MULTIPLE COMBAT TOURS putting Army families under great stress, commanders are seeking better ways to help. They encourage Soldiers to spend time with their loved ones, but they must balance the requirements of reintegration with compressed pre-deployment training. This is a notoriously tight rope to walk. Morning physical training (PT) determines when Soldiers report for work. Close of business comes when--as a member of a team, squad, or platoon--all the work is finished. There is a more productive way to approach this routine and preserve the cohesion of the unit: make PT an afternoon ritual. If commanders simply shift the physical training time from morning to afternoon and empower company-grade leaders to send Soldiers home when the work is done, the Army will have a flextime schedule that works with regimentation. Soldiers will get the opportunity to spend more time with their families, pursue personal interests, and generally improve their quality of life, with reduced stress, less commute times, and better health.

The Golden Standard

Physical training is a golden standard, and for good reason; it is one of the most critical standards the Army enforces. Its numerous benefits include--

* Camaraderie.

* Leadership training.

* Improved health.

* Physical conditioning.

* Mental and physical toughness.

The problem with morning PT isn't the program--it's the timing. Soldiers lose time and productivity as a result of an additional round-trip commute that splinters the morning between commutes and personal hygiene. The Army's current garrison "battle rhythm" prevents a time-flexible work schedule and all its empirically demonstrated benefits.

In an effort to provide employees more family time, decrease commute times, increase worker productivity, improve retention, and adapt to sweeping societal changes in family structure over the past four decades, companies and state organizations are increasingly implementing time-flexible work schedules. Referred to as flextime, these schedules are agreements allowing employees to adjust when and for how long they work, as long they accomplish the total number of hours required for the work. These kinds of schedules are designed to help employees cope with work-family pressures. (1)

Current Research

One of most important changes to family structure has been the number of working women who are also mothers of children under the age of two. In 2002 this number was 66 percent, up from just 18 percent throughout the sixties. Families caring for an ailing parent will range from 30 to 50 percent by 2010 as the baby-boomer generation retires. (2) This number will inevitably affect the military. Military families are more diverse now than they were before, but the military workplace still functions based on a family model where only one family member works. The Army has tried to adjust to these demographic shifts over the years, but its garrison battle rhythm is for "stay-at-home" moms representing an increasingly rare family structure. Research conducted by the Military Family Research Institute reports that in 2005, among active duty enlisted members, 46 percent of spouses were employed in the civilian labor force and another 14 percent are service members. Ten percent of those spouses who were not employed were seeking employment. These numbers mirror totals from the civilian sector. (3)

There is extensive literature among occupational health researchers concerning flextime schedules and the data is compelling--flextime betters productivity, reduces stress, improves employee morale and retention, and lowers absenteeism. (4) Employers are taking notice. In 2005, 44 percent of companies offered employees a time-flexible work policy, a seven percent increase from 1998. (5)

Recent data from the U.S. National Study of the Changing Workforce show that flexible work schedules help employees deal with fissures between work and home life by reducing their stress levels. …

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