Flexibility in the workplace is a considerable factor in making a business successful. The essential definition to workplace flexibility is a concept that is advantageous for both the individual worker and the business. This can entail anything from flexible work hours to company policies regarding employee leave.
A report recently released, Workplace Flexibility in the United States: A Status Report, concentrated its findings on unfounded presumptions about flexibility, as well as what was deemed “emerging trends.” The report was directed by When Work Works, sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute, and sourced two additional studies, the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce and the 2008 National Study of Employees.
One such assumption that the report discredited was the idea that employees with flexibility will take full advantage of it, so that an employer might attempt to tighten a work schedule to ensure that workers do not leave early. This was contracted by the study, as the majority of employees used a short notice monthly or less often, while only a small minority used it more frequently. There was a similar result for sick leave, as many employees utilized sick days to care for an ailing child as opposed to personal use.
Some believe that smaller businesses may reduce potential flexibility, as they would have neither the finances nor adequate staff to handle greater costs or diminished employee attendance. However, the report indicates that less than 40 percent of large businesses cited financial concerns as a hindrance to flexibility, while a lesser percentage of small businesses agreed. Less than four percent of the small businesses believed that reduced employees could limit flexibility. (For this study, large businesses were defined as employing 500 or more workers, and small businesses employing 50-499.)
Another assumption was that employees with lower wages are “less deserving” of flexibility options than those with higher wages. The results revealed that employees with less flexibility are not content with their jobs, while greater workplace flexibility would increase employees’ job satisfaction, regardless of wage.
Two additional unsubstantiated conjectures included flexibility viewed as beneficial only for the individual worker and the futility of flexibility for employees in “high turnover” jobs such as retail, hospitality, restaurants and tourism. The study shows that the majority of business managers considered flexibility as a business strategy and not a “favor” for employees. To negate the belief regarding high turnover jobs, the report indicated that nearly half of the employees in the study did not plan on searching for new employment next year, while some asserted that they would remain at their current job for numerous years.
The trends that the report uncovered included employees believing that they did not have sufficient personal time (mostly the workers with children), workers who believe that flexibility can be better (e.g., employers frowning upon the application of flexibility invalidates its purpose), and young professionals are less likely to want a job with more responsibility than non-professionals due to longer hours and less flexibility.