Following a lingering national recession and the highest unemployment rates in decades, U.S. employers appear much more flexible when it comes to when and where employees work.
A new study by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute found that many employers have radically changed how their workplaces function in the past five years.
Telecommuting, where employees work remotely, has increased substantially. The study found that 67% of employers now allow workers to work from home occasionally, up from 50% in 2008. The number of companies that allow employees to work from home regularly also has increased, from 23% to 38%, during the same period.
Researchers noted that employees in flexible workplaces tend to be more engaged in and satisfied with their jobs, and also more committed to their employers. They also tend to be healthier and less stressed.
The 2014 National Study of Employers surveyed 1,051 employers about 18 flex-time options ranging from telecommuting to maternity leave to paid time off to tend to personal matters.
The study’s lead author said the findings illustrate “how the personal and the professional are connected.” In addition, the research shows “how business is reinventing workplaces for a continually changing workforce,” driven by the evolution of technology and demographic shifts, Kenneth Matos, senior research director at the Families and Work Institute, said in an April statement.
Among the study’s other findings:
However, the study also found that some flex-options, such as job sharing and extended career breaks for personal reasons, have dropped sharply in recent years.
Matos told The Wall Street Journal that employers may be showing more flexibility with employees’ day-to-day needs because smaller staffs mean workers are being asked to do more. At the same time, the recession’s impact on the bottom line may mean those companies can’t afford to let employees take sabbaticals.
Some workplace changes appear to be directly related to changing demographics. For example, more adults now care for older family members. The study found that 90% of employers offer at least 12 weeks of leave to employees who must care for a seriously ill relative, up from 84% in 2008.
According to the AARP, there were seven potential caregivers for every person age 80 or older as of 2010. By 2030, the organization notes, there will be just four potential caregivers for every elderly adult, meaning more workplace flexibility will be required.