New Study: Majority of U.S. Employers Offer Workplace Flexibility
Informal Approach Most Common
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Feb. 15, 2011 – Washington – A new WorldatWork study, Survey on Workplace Flexibility, provides an inside look at employers’ views on flexibility. The study was designed to gauge the impact of flexibility programs on employee attraction, motivation and retention and also examine the manner in which these programs are managed. The study revealed that while a vast majority (98%) of U.S. employers offer at least one workplace flexibility program, most (nearly 60%) use an informal approach, i.e., no written policies or forms, up to manager discretion, etc., and four out of 10 say flexibility is culturally embedded. The study found that a stronger culture of flexibility is correlated with a lower voluntary turnover rate.
“When it comes to workplace flexibility programs, culture trumps policy,” said 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.”
The survey covered 12 flexibility programs and found that, on average, organizations offer six different types at one time. Different sectors emphasize flexibility programs with varying degrees: compressed workweeks are more prevalent in the public sector (68%); part-time schedules are more common among non-profit organizations (90%); and ad hoc telework is more frequently offered by publicly traded companies (89%). Surprisingly, the study found no correlation between the number of programs offered and turnover rates.
Companies tailor flexibility programs to fit the needs of their workforces as well as their organizational priorities. The most prevalent programs are flex-time (flexible start/stop times), part-time schedules (with or without benefits), and teleworking on an ad hoc basis (meet a repair person, sick child, etc.). Each of these programs are offered to some or all employees in more than 80% of surveyed companies; when offered they are also the most commonly used by employees, with flex-time the highest ranked.
Organizations that have a stronger culture of flexibility also have a lower voluntary turnover rate. In addition, a majority of employers report a positive impact on employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement.
The study revealed several obstacles to the adoption of flexibility programs, which included: lack of training; top management resistance (more so than middle management); and lack of employee interest in programs such as phased return from leave, phased retirement and career on/off ramps.
About the Survey
WorldatWork collected survey data from October 20 to November 2, 2010. There were 537 responses in the final dataset. Survey respondents were WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of mostly U.S. organizations; 69% from private sector and 31% from public sector and not-for-profit. The full report, along with additional free resources such as an educational video and e-book, is available here.