Flexwork Policies on the Rise, Participation Lagging

By Roy Maurer Jan 30, 2015

About one-half (52 percent) of organizations provided employees the option of flexible work arrangements such as teleworking in 2014, however only one-third (33 percent) of those reported that the majority of their employees were actually allowed to use them.

This participation rate is a decrease from 2013 (45 percent), but is similar to 2012 (34 percent), according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2014 Strategic Benefits--Flexible Work Arrangements survey report, released Jan. 22, 2015. The report consists of the responses of a randomly selected sample of 380 U.S. SHRM members.

“More employees may feel comfortable using the [flexible work arrangements] they have access to if the job market continues to improve and concerns about job security diminish,” the report said. “In addition, technological barriers are also less of an obstacle, making it possible to seamlessly do one’s work from anywhere.”

About one-third (31 percent) of respondents from organizations that provided employees with the option to use flexible work arrangements indicated employee participation increased last year compared with the year before. Just 1 percent indicated employee participation had decreased.

The report indicated that the provision of flexible work arrangements may be a sign that “cultural barriers to such benefits are starting to erode.”

However, “it is important to understand the obstacles that may be impacting employee participation rates in flexible work arrangements,” said Evren Esen, SHRM director of survey programs. “There needs to be support from management and leadership in order for more employees to participate in flexible work arrangements.”

If this trend continues, a “have and have-nots” pattern of access to flexible work arrangements could develop, said Esen. “This could, in turn, have an impact on employee morale and engagement.”

Esen encouraged HR to work with line managers to “model flexibility in their own approaches to work and to demonstrate that those who do make use of flexible work arrangements are not penalized when it comes to promotions and career opportunities.”

Forty-five percent of respondents said their organization monitored employee participation rates for the flexwork offered. Monitoring was down slightly from 2013 (47 percent), but at an increase from 2012 (38 percent). This metric is likely to become a standard part of any organization reporting on workplace flexibility, said Esen.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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