New SHRM Survey: HR Professionals Make Strong Case for Use of Flexible Work Arrangements

Telecommuting, flex time, job sharing and other arrangements make positive impact on employee retention, productivity, morale and quality of work

Oct 15, 2014
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NEW ORLEANS — Most flexible work arrangements are successful, and human resource professionals predict that telecommuting and other employer-offered flex options will increase substantially during the next five years, according to new survey findings from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Three-quarters or more (73 to 92 percent) of human resource professionals from organizations that offer flexible work say 16 types of flexible arrangements are somewhat or very successful, according to 2014 Workplace Flexibility—Overview of Flexible Work Arrangements.

Flexible work arrangements range from compressed workweeks, flex time and phased retirement to job sharing, break arrangements and shift flexibility.

​Sabbaticals, an additional type of flex arrangement, were defined as somewhat or very successful by fewer (66 percent) of respondents.

Of the two-fifths (39 percent) of respondents who offer telecommuting, one-quarter (26 percent) said the practice increased productivity of employees and one-third (32 percent) said the absenteeism rates of those who telecommute decreased.

Employee requests for flexible work arrangements increased in the past year, one-third (32 percent) of HR professionals said. Respondents were most likely to report that less than 26 percent of their workforce currently uses each of the flexible arrangements offered.

The vast majority of respondents said telecommuting (83 percent) and other flexible work arrangements (89 percent) would be more prevalent in the next five years. But less than one-half said a larger portion of their workforce would be likely or very likely to telecommute (39 percent) or become eligible for flexible options (48 percent) in the next five years.

“Flexible work arrangements are an important part of an effective workplace and contribute to employee job satisfaction, retention and health. But workforce culture could be a barrier preventing employees from taking advantage of these arrangements,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “The role of managers is central to the success of flexible work arrangements. Managers need to work with HR to communicate to employees what options are available and how they benefit the goals of both employees and the organization.”

The survey, which polled 525 HR professionals from April through June 2014, and its two sets of findings were released at SHRM’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference & Exposition in New Orleans. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

HR professionals also reported that flexible work arrangements have a positive impact on their organizations. More than one-half of respondents said in 2014 Workplace Flexibility—Strategic Use of Flexible Work Arrangements that flexibility had a positive impact on attracting and retaining employees, turnover, absenteeism rates, productivity, quality of employees’ work, quality of employee’s personal life, employee health, company culture, company public image, and employee morale and job satisfaction.

When asked what makes flexible arrangements work, HR professionals ranked buy-in from top management, commitment from employees, and a supportive organizational culture as very important.

“HR professionals in these findings made a strong case for the use of flexible work arrangements,” said Lisa Horn, director of SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility Initiative. “The positive impacts to recruitment, retention, productivity, morale and the quality of work suggest that adopting these practices could benefit many employees and employers.”

The full survey report is available at
http://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/articles/pages/2014-workplace-flexibility-survey.aspx.

Media: A representative of SHRM’s Survey Research Center is available to answer questions about the survey. For interview requests, please contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and Kate.kennedy@shrm.org or Vanessa Gray at 703-535-6072 and Vanessa.gray@shrm.org.

Follow the Research Department on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

About the Society for Human Resource Management
Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.

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