Although most employers claim to be committed to workplace flexibility, the majority of companies are still failing to offer the formalized workplace flexibility programs and the part-time, telework, and job-sharing opportunities that are linked to higher employee engagement and satisfaction levels, according to the findings of an annual report on workplace flexibility released in October 2017 by human resources association WorldatWork.

Based on 295 survey responses from WorldatWork members collected between May 17 and June 14, 2017, the report found that large majorities of respondents believe flexibility has a positive or extremely positive effect on employee engagement (64%), motivation (65%), and satisfaction (71%). Nonetheless, just 19% of the employers surveyed said they offer flexibility options to their whole workforce, while 36% said they only offer flexibility on a case-by-case basis with no widespread access.

Researchers observed that while flexibility practices vary by organization, the overall prevalence of these programs has remained fairly consistent since 2013, when a similar survey was taken. The results of the 2017 survey showed that the majority of organizations offer telework on an ad-hoc basis (89%), flexible start and stop times (86%), part-time schedules (79%), phased return from leave (62%), telework on a regular weekly (61%) or a monthly basis (61%), and shift flexibility (51%). Smaller, but still sizable shares of respondents reported that they offer a compressed workweek (45%), full-time telework (38%), and phased retirement (32%). By contrast, relatively few respondents indicated that they offer career on/off ramps (16%) or job sharing (12%).

When respondents were asked what technologies they use with teleworking employees, more than half said they use a virtual private network (VPN) (64%), communication and collaboration software (60%), and instant messaging programs (54%). The results also showed that significant shares of employers cover employee expenses associated with telework, including the cost of laptops (57%), smartphones (31%), mobile device data/voice plans (31%), and software (30%) for teleworking employees.

While a plurality of respondents (41%) said they find it difficult to estimate the productivity of teleworking employees, 57% said they believe that teleworkers are at least as productive as employees working in the office. However, the results also showed that relatively few of the employers surveyed offer specific training on how to be successful while teleworking (11%) or on managing teleworkers (21%).

The findings also indicated that both the guiding principles and the administration of flexibility programs are informal in the vast majority of organizations: 52% of respondents said they have a flexibility strategy or philosophy with few or no written policies that relies primarily on the discretion of managers, while only 14% said they have a formal, written document.

In addition, the survey found that just 16% of respondents reported that they consistently promote their flexibility programs when recruiting new talent, even though more than half (51%) agreed that being informed of flexible work options has a positive impact on the likelihood that a candidate will accept an offer.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 60, Issue 11

The information contained in this newsletter is for general use, and while we believe all information to be reliable and accurate, it is important to remember individual situations may be entirely different. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. This newsletter is written and published by Liberty Publishing, Inc., Beverly, MA. Copyright © 2017 Liberty Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.