Flexibility: Essential to the Work-life Balance

Most employees rank work flexibility as their top benefit yet company executives tend to underestimate its value for employee satisfaction and productivity.

Work flexibility can take many forms, ranging from formal teleworking arrangements to schedules with modified start and end times, and occasional time off programs. While some arrangements may be formal, others are temporary or customized for particular employees.

Roughly 75 percent of employees ranked work flexibility as their top benefit, according to WorkplaceTrends.com, an advisory group for human resources professionals.

Work life balance

Early this year the group released a national survey of 1,087 professionals and 116 human resource people.

The survey found that formal workplace flexibility programs benefit employees and employers through employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and recruiting and retaining talent. It also showed that work flexibility matters more to Generation X and Millennial workers than to Baby Boomers.

Yet there are concerns. Some employers expressed fears that workers may abuse the system and others might complain the programs aren’t being evenly applied.

On the other end of the spectrum, the survey noted that one in five employees spent over 20 hours working outside of the office on their personal time each week – “a clear indicator of suboptimal work-life balance.”

Part of the problem is that many employees aren’t trained on how to manage work/life flexibility, said Calli Williams Yost, in a Society for Human Resource Management article.

“Training is important because the boundaries between work and personal life have essentially disappeared,” said Yost, CEO and the author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor offers a Workplace Flexibility Toolkit with multiple resources and case studies.

Here are some work flexibility suggestions:

  • Define rules, policies, and procedures when setting up the program.
  • Clarify expectations regarding availability, schedules, and communication.
  • Help employees understand how the program benefits the company, customers and themselves.
  • Teleworkers must be open and “transparent” about their work arrangements, otherwise it makes the program look bad.
  • Employees, managers and coworkers need to know teleworkers’ schedules and how they can be reached.

Caren Burmeister is a retired newspaper reporter turned freelance writer who enjoys yoga and caring for her two fat cats.