Employees with flexible work arrangements have been found to have greater job satisfaction, less negativity when balancing work and home life, and better mental health.
But how commonplace are these workplace options?
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 52% of employers are offering flexible work arrangements (FWAs), an indication that the lowering of cultural and technological hurdles means face time in the office is becoming less necessary. Nearly one-third of employers said worker participation in FWAs had increased in the previous year, 68% said it had stayed the same and only 1% said it had fallen.
Among survey respondents, 33% said more than half of their employees were allowed to use the flexible options, compared with 45% of employers in 2013 and 34% in 2012.
In order to boost participation, “HR professionals need to work with line managers and organizational leaders to model flexibility in their own approaches to work,” according to the 2014 Strategic Benefits Survey. Additionally, human resources administrators must convince employers that their opportunities for career advancement will not be hindered by using FWAs.
The annual survey is designed to determine which employer benefits are leveraged to recruit and retain top talent. It was based on the responses of 380 human resources professionals from a randomly selected group of Society for Human Resource Management members.
The survey is the latest review of the prevalence of flexible work environments. The Families and Work Institute’s 2014 National Study of Employers found that 38% of companies allow employees to work from home on a regular basis, up from 23% in 2008. About 82% of employers said they allow workers to deal with personal matters during their regular hours without losing pay, and about two-thirds of respondents allow employees to occasionally work from home.
However, the Families and Work Institute survey found fewer companies are open to more creative arrangements, such as job sharing and sabbaticals. Just 18% let workers share jobs, down from 29% in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of employers allowing sabbaticals dropped from 38% to 28% during the same period.
Although 52% of companies allowed workers to take a leave of absence to deal with family and/or personal responsibilities, that represented a decrease from 2008, when 64% of employers provided such flexibility.
A 2014 study published in the American Sociological Review found that employees whose companies created a more flexible environment had fewer struggles balancing work and family duties. They also believed they had enough time to be with their families and greater control over their schedules.
The study, which was conducted by University of Minnesota sociologists and funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that increased flexibility particularly benefitted working parents.