Employers admit to an ad-hoc approach to flexible working practices

Flexible attitudes to flexible working practicesOrganisations tend to take a flexible approach to the provision of flexible working a new global report into agile working trends claims. According to a study by WorldatWork and FlexJobs, while the majority of companies surveyed (80 percent) offer flexible work to employees, only 37 percent have a formal, written philosophy or policy to support employee flexibility options. From 2011 to 2015, flexibility programs have varied according to the type of programme offered and the organization’s demographics, industry and culture, with the most prevalent flexibility programmes being telework days on an ad-hoc basis, flex time and compressed workweeks. And according to the data, mastering a culture of workplace flexibility is not something that organizations do on the first or even second try. It’s an evolutionary process that occurs as employees tap into what they need to achieve work-life effectiveness.

The survey Trends in Workplace Flexibility, of US, Canadian and international WorldatWork members, found that 41 percent of those surveyed report 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. Only 3 percent of organizations attempt to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of flexibility programs by measuring productivity, employee engagement and performance ratings.

“Top employers today understand the valid reasons for creating new ways of working, however we’re still witnessing a lack of training and resistance from management,” said Anne C. Ruddy, CCP, CPCU, president and CEO of WorldatWork.

“Without a formal program in place, it’s difficult to measure flexibility’s effectiveness. Until that happens, companies will not see cost saving benefits, productivity gains and increased employee retention, which all comes from workplace flexibility.”

Other highlights from the 2015 survey were:

  • More than two-thirds of managers (67 percent) offer flexibility to all or most of their employees at their own discretion.
  • 66 percent of organizations cover the purchase of laptops for their teleworkers, by far the most provided expense.
  • While many managers still find it difficult to estimate the productivity of teleworking employees, 48 percent believe teleworkers are equally as productive as in-office employees. (See Figure 20.)
  • 44 percent of organizations do not feature or market flexibility as a key employee benefit when attempting to attract new employees.

“Allowing ‘ad hoc’ flexible work options without oversight or intention isn’t a smart, long-term strategy for companies,” said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.

“The 80 percent of companies that offer flexible work casually are missing some key strategic possibilities. By formalizing flex-work programs and putting structure around them, they can track metrics, measure progress and quantify goals and outcomes. The most important part is to realize that work flexibility shouldn’t compete or erode business goals, but should support a healthier more productive and stronger bottom line when implemented proactively and strategically.”

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