Businesses Warm to Flexible Work Schedules, but Hurdles Remain

The most common flexibility programs offered are telework days on an ad-hoc basis, flex time and compressed work weeks.

worldatwork and flexible work

Flexible work schedules are becoming more prevalent among businesses, but still don’t apply to all jobs, according to research by WorldatWork and FlexJobs. The majority of companies surveyed (80 percent) offer flexible work arrangements to some employees.

The survey of 375 U.S., Canadian and international WorldatWork members found that slightly over half of organizations have jobs that are not conducive to flex time or a part-time schedule.

Also, just 37 percent of those surveyed report they have a formal, written philosophy or policy to support employee flexibility options.

A lack of expressed interest in a flexible schedule is an obstacle to greater acceptance, as this was seen as detrimental to career on/off ramps and phased retirement, the survey found.

According to the survey, mastering a culture of workplace flexibility is not something that organizations do on the first or even second try, but rather it is an evolutionary process that occurs as employees tap into what they need to achieve work-life effectiveness.

The most common flexibility programs offered are telework days on an ad-hoc basis, flex time and compressed work weeks.

The report noted that from 2011 to 2015, flexibility programs have varied according to the type of program offered and organizations’ demographics, industry and culture.

Additionally, 41 percent of those surveyed report that access to flexible work arrangements is not widespread to all employees.

Frequently, only a small portion of managers (42 percent) accept the idea that flexibility is an essential element to organizational success, and only 3 percent of organizations attempt to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of flexibility programs by measuring productivity, employee engagement and performance ratings.

The survey also revealed more than two-thirds of managers (67 percent) offer flexibility to all or most of their employees at their own discretion. Two-thirds of organizations cover the purchase of laptops for their teleworkers.

While many managers still find it difficult to estimate the productivity of teleworking employees, nearly half (48 percent) said they believe teleworkers are equally as productive as in-office employees.

This trend has shifted since 2013 when only 36 percent of organizations agreed teleworking employees were equally as productive, and 53 percent of managers found it difficult to estimate teleworker productivity.

Still, 44 percent of organizations surveyed said they do not feature or market flexibility as a key employee benefit when attempting to attract new employees.

In addition, the survey revealed training about flexible work arrangements is not specifically provided for employees or managers. More than three-quarters of organizations (82 percent) have a written business continuity plan that involves flexible work arrangements in response to a disaster or circumstances that may prevent operations as normal.

Not nearly as many organizations have, or are considering the use of flexibility as a strategy for real estate issues (24 percent) or green or corporate sustainability initiatives (20 percent).