Flexible Workplaces

How Flexible is Your Workplace?

Employers are more flexible than we sometimes give them credit. A new WorldatWork study, Survey on Workplace Flexibility, revealed that there are 12 types of flexibility programs in use in the workplace today, and while a vast majority – 98 percent — of employers offer at least one, the average number of programs offered at one time is six.

The most prevalent programs are flex-time, or flexible start/stop times; part-time schedules, which are with or without benefits; and teleworking on an ad hoc basis, or working from home to meet a repair person, sick child, etc. Each of these programs is offered to some or all employees in more than 80 percent of surveyed companies. When offered, they are also the most commonly used by employees, with flex-time the highest ranked.

Different flexibility programs are popular in different sectors — part-time schedules are more common among non-profit organizations; ad hoc telework is more frequently offered by publicly traded companies; and compressed workweeks are more prevalent among public sector organizations.

There are two types of compressed workweeks:
1.    4/10: work four 10-hour days each week
2.    9/80: work nine 9-hour days over a two-week period, with one day off every other week

The WorldatWork survey noted that most of these workplace flexibility programs are offered informally, i.e., no written policies or forms, up to manager discretion, no training, etc.

The study also found that companies with a culture of flexibility experience lower voluntary turnover rates, which is not surprising because a majority of employers report flexibility programs have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement. However, the study did uncover several obstacles to the adoption of flexibility programs including lack of training, top management resistance — more so than middle management, and lack of employee interest in programs such as phased retirement.

“When it comes to workplace flexibility programs, culture trumps policy,” says Rose Stanley, a practice leader for WorldatWork. “It’s not about the quantity or formality of programs offered; it’s about how well-supported and implemented the programs are across the organization.”