Flexible work arrangements are generallyfairly successful, and they will likely become more prevalent.Individual human resource professionals assume that companies thatoffer FWAs to some workers will make them available to more.However, most of them don’t see FWAs being offered to moreemployees at their own workplace.

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These are among the findings of the Society for Human ResourceManagement’s survey, 2014 Workplace Flexibility—Overview of FlexibleWork Arrangements.

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This disconnect between what employers actually offer and whatHR people think everyone else offers were among the relatively fewanomalies of a survey the results of which otherwise supportedincreasingly ramped up FWAs as a way to increase productivity andemployee engagement.

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The idea that “Everyone else is offering flexibility except theplace where I work” emerged when SHRM posed two scenarios forrespondents:

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“In the next five years, FWAs will be more commonplace fororganizations in general than they are today.” Eighty-nine percentsaid that was very or somewhat likely.

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“In the next five years, a larger proportion of the workforce atmy organization will have FWA options available to them.”Forty-eight percent said this was very or somewhat likely.

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When asked about the most successful FWAs in their ownworkplace, here were the types that received a more-than-50-percent endorsement from those among the 500-plus surveyed who saidtheir companies offered flexibility:

  • Compressed workweek (61 percent very successful)
  • Flex time during “core” hours: 61 percent
  • Phased retirement: 59 percent
  • Paid time off to volunteer: 56 percent
  • Telecommuting as needed: 55 percent
  • Transition period part-time: 55 percent
  • Flex time no core hours: 53 percent
  • Regular telecommuting: 53 percent

Sabbaticals, shift arrangements and shift flexibility receivedthe lowest “very successful” ratings, although shift flexibilityreceived a much higher “somewhat successful” than any othercategory. Similarly, while phased retirement received among the topthree “very successful” ratings, its “somewhat successful” was thelowest by far of those options measured.

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Read: Some of the hardest workers around

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Other survey highlights:

  • 39 percent offered telecommuting;
  • 26 percent of those that offered telecommuting said itincreased productivity (or, read the other way, three quarters saidit didn't);
  • 32 percent said the absenteeism rates of those who telecommutedecreased;
  • 32 percent said employee requests for FWAs rose in the pastyear;
  • About a quarter of employees take advantage of each of the FWAsoffered;
  • 26 percent of their workforce currently uses each of theflexible arrangements offered.

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

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.