In the Working Mother Research Institute survey How We Flex, 80% of the 1,500 respondents said flexibility made them more productive and 75% said it boosted their morale and motivation – raising their commitment to their employer. The research has been released ahead of National Flex Day on 15 October.
However, the report expressed concern that several large US companies – Yahoo, Best Buy and Bank of America – have scaled back their flexibility programmes in the last year, and that flexibility is still seen as a perk rather than a normal part of working life.
Survey respondents who worked for a manager who worked flexibly themselves (72%) reported increased benefits, said the report. Dubbed ‘double-layer flex workers’ they are more likely to report that flexibility helps them develop their skills, improves team communication and helps them advance.
The report added that these workers “seem to have a results-oriented view of work rather than one bound by set hours”. They were happier to take work calls outside working hours, but also reported greater satisfaction with their balance – 64% viewed their life as in balance compared with 36% of those not working flexibly.
There are downsides to working flexibly – 41% of flexible workers reported feeling isolated. While a quarter (24%) of respondents said working from home full-time would be ideal, 40% said a mix of days at home and days in the office every week would be preferable. In addition, 44% of those working flexibly said their commitment to work is challenged and more than a quarter said part-time work is looked down on in their company.
A concern for employers is that parents working from home may be trying to juggle childcare with work. However, the survey said 68% of those working from home have their children in childcare while they work. Of the remaining 32%, 73% have children of school age who are more independent.
The report challenges employers to implement flexibility more widely, pointing to research that shows only 53% of US companies offer flexibility. “That leaves tens of thousands of employees using flex furtively – sneaking out early to pick up a child, coming in late, taking their own sick day (often unpaid) to look after an ill child. It’s stressful and yet they have no choice,” it said.
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