Guest Blog - Working wisely by Dr. Roxane Gervais - British Psychological Society

Working wisely, such as through flexible working, is now a reality for many individuals and is one of the ways to manage the many different challenges that occur as part of the working day.

Flexible working offers the opportunity to take your children to school, get a load of washing done, engage in your favourite sport or check on elderly parents. It provides, therefore, a very good way to keep on top of the many different things that manifest themselves or have to be done within any one day.

Work Wise Week supports the use of good practices that support workers in managing more effectively how they are able to function in the workplace.

We all know that work is an essential component of our daily routine. Research has shown that people who work have better wellbeing than those who do not. However, despite the benefit that work brings to individuals, any good practice that allows individuals to balance work with the various facets of their lives provides an additional support system for them and consequently for the organisation in which they work.

Flexible working, at the end of the day, is about supporting the workers. Support is a key component of improving or increasing on performance as well as wellbeing, as research for the past 30 years has shown. Therefore, flexible working supports the worker in managing what they can reasonably be expect to achieve within any timeframe.

Working wise ensures that individuals are better able to address the stressors and strains within (and outside) the work environment. When workers work wisely, they are able to adjust their work patterns.

Recent articles by Kirsten Weir and Arnold Bakker in the area of ‘job crafting’ – which means  allowing employees to independently modify aspects of their jobs to improve the fit between the characteristics of the job and their own needs, abilities and preferences – have shown that workers who can adjust their jobs have higher levels of life satisfaction and work engagement. And this then translates into performance and productivity for the organisation.

As Arnold Bakker concluded:

Employees who stated that they engaged in job crafting effectively increased their job resources over time, which was positively associated with increased wellbeing. These results obviously suggest that employees can optimise their own well-being when allowed to do so.

Therefore, organisations should not only facilitate employee wellbeing by providing sufficient job resources and an optimal level of job demands, but they should also offer opportunities for employee job crafting.

It must be noted, though, that individuals are different and jobs are different. So, while certain jobs require fixed patterns that could reduce the ability to work flexibly, the ability to have flexibility in some aspect of such work could improve or maintain workers’ wellbeing.

As the Chair of one of the larger Divisions within the British Psychological Society, I have to be aware of the pressures on the volunteers who generously give of their time to advance the field of occupational psychology. This time is usually in addition to a full time job, to family commitments, to educational studies and to non-work activities.

For this reason, we use as many smart working practices as possible. These include teleconferencing for many of our meetings, which reduces travel time and the need for physical attendance. Various decisions are made also through rounds of e-mail discussions, while telephone calls are used to talk through any issues not easily settled in this way.

Of course, it is necessary to meet face to face sometimes to maintain connections, facilitate networking and to allow the volunteers to make stronger connections that are at times restricted through working virtually.

Flexible working is a good work practice that benefits worker and employer, and in Work Wise Week it is very useful to highlight it.

Dr Roxane L. Gervais
Chair, Division of Occupational Psychology, British Psychological Society