Study: Employers Have Become More Flexible—Sort Of

Companies are giving employees more control over when and where they work, but they’ve become less accommodating in other types of flexible work arrangements, according to a new study. How do association policies stack up?

Amid all the talk about the pros and cons of telecommuting and a widely criticized decision by a major tech company to get rid of remote work, employers are doing more to accommodate their employees’ work schedules than ever before—with a few caveats, according to a new study.

The 2014 National Study of Employers [PDF], released jointly last week by the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), looked at changes in the workplace since 2008 and uncovered dramatic increases in the number of organizations that provide flexibility for full-time employees: 67 percent of the 1,051 for-profit and nonprofit employers surveyed said they offer employees the option to telecommute, up from 50 percent in 2008. Further, 41 percent of employers allow employees to choose when they start and stop work each day, up from 32 percent.

“Technological advances and demographic shifts in the workforce are impacting where, when, and how works gets done,” Lisa Horn, co-leader of SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility Initiative, said in a statement. “Organizations must adapt to remain competitive. Creating an effective and flexible workplace can help organizations meet the business needs of today and adjust to rapidly changing needs.”

While availability of short-term flexibility options increased, the study found that long-term schedule adjustments were on the decline. In 2008, 29 percent of employers allowed at least some employees to share jobs. That dropped to 18 percent in 2014. Also, 64 percent granted employees the option to take a career break for personal or family responsibilities in 2008, compared to 52 percent in 2014.

The study noted that the forms of flexibility that declined all result in the employee spending less time working for the organization. The flexible options that grew “allow employees to work longer hours or adjust their work times to take care of daily concerns while still getting their work done.”

Associations, for their part, saw similar trends in workplace flexibility, including a tendency to be less accommodating with long-term solutions, according to past ASAE research.

Data from the 2006 and 2012 versions of the Benchmarking in Association Management report shows that telecommuting was offered at 68 percent of organizations in 2012, up from 55 percent in 2006. Also, 92 percent of associations allowed employees to set their own start and stop times in 2012, down 1 percent from 2006.

However, only 6 percent of associations offered job-sharing in 2012, a slight increase from the 4 percent that offered it in 2006. The report does not include data for organizations that offer career breaks.

What kind of workplace flexibility options does your organization offer to staff? Let us know in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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