On the Flexible-Work Bandwagon

flex workCompanies that cut telecommuting options may grab the headlines, but it’s safe to say that most of the corporate world has gotten on board with the flexible work concept.

A 2013 WorldatWork survey of 566 organizations, for example, found 88 percent of employers offering some form of telework options to employees, with just 3 percent of companies canceling telework programs within the last two years.

A more recent study from SHRM and the Families and Work Institute seems to confirm the rise of flexible work, at least in terms of when and where employees get the job done. The same survey, however, also finds provisions that afford employees extended time away from work on the wane.

SHRM and FWI’s 2014 National Study of Employers polled 1,051 employers of varying sizes in an analysis of changes occurring in the workplace since 2008. The number of employers reporting they offer options such as occasional remote work was 67 percent in this year’s poll, compared to 50 percent who said they did the same in 2008.

Further, 92 percent of respondents said they permit at least some groups of workers to have control over when they have breaks, up from 84 percent in ’08. Eighty-one percent of employers reported they let workers periodically change their starting and quitting times within some range of hours, while 82 percent indicated they allow employees to take time off during the workday for important family and personal needs without loss of pay.

The survey finds employers becoming less flexible, however, with regard to options that involve employees spending significant time away from work. For example, the number of companies providing job-sharing situations dipped from 29 percent in 2008 to 18 percent today.

In addition, fewer firms offer sabbaticals now compared to four years ago (28 percent this year, versus 38 percent in 2008), with career breaks for family or personal responsibilities less common as well (52 percent today, versus 64 percent in 2008). Providing the 12 weeks of leave mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act remains the norm for most categories of employees.

“This study is a reflection of the changes occurring in our nation,” said Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at the New York-based Families and Work Institute and lead study author, in a statement. “More than just data on policies and paychecks, this research shows us how the personal and the professional are connected, and how business is reinventing workplaces for a continually changing workforce.”

With rapid technological and demographic shifts taking place, organizations must adapt, said Matos.

“Creating an effective and flexible workplace can help organizations meet the business needs of today and adjust to rapidly changing needs.”