A national forum of corporate executives, federal government and nonprofit leaders discuss the success and challenges of workplace flexibility
Oct. 6, 2015 â WASHINGTON, D.C. — Workplace flexibility is quickly evolving and dramatically changing the way Americans live and work. In honor of National Work & Family Month, on October 6, WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, hosted "Rethinking the Workweek," a roundtable discussion with leading business executives, federal government agencies, policy-makers and invited guests, to share new and best practices for workplace flexibility and discuss real-life challenges that threaten work-life effectiveness.
The distinguished panel of experts represents organizations consistently honored for their innovative flexibility programs. The panel, moderated by Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for National Public Radio, included Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse; Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder, FlexJobs; Michael J. Fenlon, US & Global Talent Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Emma Plumb, director, 1 Million for Work Flexibility; and Zina B. Sutch, Ph.D., director, Diversity, Recruitment and Work Life Division, USDA.
"In order to move the needle on workplace culture, we believe it is important to work together with individuals who can help make flexibility a core part of the 21st century workplace," said Anne Ruddy, president and chief executive officer of WorldatWork. "In the past few years, itâs apparent that flexibility positively contributes to lifestyle behaviors as well as increased participation in worksite productivity and loyalty. Organizations that value work flexibility are not only succeeding, they are positioning themselves to compete in the inevitable war on talent where workers will expect to be able to work from anywhere around the world. This is exciting but can create certain challenges that businesses need to prepare to tackle. Todayâs discussion shows us that workplace flexibility isnât a fad. Itâs truly changing the workplace."
"Todayâs workday is no longer confined to the traditional 9-5. Weâre working and checking devices round the clock, trying to tend to too many demands in what always seems like too little time, and finding it increasingly hard to juggle personal and professional priorities," said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse. "In trying to get it all done, people are making decisions that actually deplete their well-being â eating poorly, sitting more, sleeping less â and leave them disengaged and less productive. Our businesses feel those consequences, so itâs imperative we create more flexible ways to work that are not only in sync with modern life, but also sustain our employeesâ well-being and support them in focusing on what matters most, which ultimately helps our people and our companies thrive."
"We know that the vast majority of workers want and need work flexibility, and we know that flex is good for them and the bottom line. And yet -- there's still pushback," said Emma Plumb, director of 1MFWF. "We need to normalize flex so that it's no longer unknown or unfamiliar. Thatâs really the motivation behind the 1MFWF movement, and why we're asking everyone to raise their hands in support of this issue. By uniting the voices of both employers and employees on a broad scale, we can create the change we need."
During the forum, the panel examined the newly-released "Trends in Workplace Flexibility" survey conducted by WorldatWork and FlexJobs. According to the report, the majority of companies surveyed (80%) offer flexible work arrangements to employees. However, only 37% of those surveyed report they have a formal, written philosophy or policy to support employee flexibility options. Only 3% of organizations attempt to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of flexibility programs by measuring productivity, employee engagement and performance ratings. (See Figure 33.)
By far, the most prevalent flexibility programs offered are telework on an ad-hoc basis, flex time and compressed workweeks.
"The survey results show that a majority of companies are missing a win-win opportunity with work flexibility that's right within their reach," said Sara Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs. "There is a strong, positive connection between flexible work and the bottom line, with forward-thinking companies utilizing flexible work options such as telecommuting and flexible schedules to save money, recruit and retain workers, and increase productivity."
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