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May 9, 2012

The Families and Work Institute released their 2012 National Study of Employers. This study examines trends related to workplace flexibility, health care and economic security benefits, caregiving leave and elder care assistance.

Their 2012 study looks specifically at the prevalence of practices, programs and benefits in all participating companies, the difference in approach and availability between small and large employers, and the change over time in what’s offered.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Employers are offering more flexible work options, such as flexible hours, telecommuting and daily time off to take care of issues as they arise.
  • Employers are reducing the opportunities for anything less than full-time work, including change in status (full-time to part-time) and career breaks/sabbaticals.
  • More employers are offering dependent and elder care assistance plans (flexible spending accounts), but fewer are offering backup or emergency care options. (this syncs with the findings from the Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare.)
  • More employers are also offering, and relying on, employee assistance programs and wellness programs to help employees deal with life’s pressures and problems.
  • The majority of companies expect supervisors to provide a supportive environment and to reward for accomplishment, not face time, but few reward supervisors for either.

Finally, in one of the more interesting findings, companies were asked for the first time to answer whether “their other policies interfere with their ability to provide workplace flexibility.” The answer isn’t the interesting part: 45 percent answered that it’s very or somewhat true.

What IS interesting is that this line of questioning is regularly appearing in studies such as this one from Towers Watson and others. Perhaps we’re ready to dig into some of the real derailers for workplace flexibility.

As the report states:

The forms of flexibility that have increased allow employees to work longer hours or adjust their work times to take care of daily concerns while still getting their work done. The forms of flexibility that have declined all represent time that an employee is not actively working for the organization or has reduced his or her overall work hours (moving to part-time). Considering that these changes have occurred over the course of the recession, they may be a result of employers attempting to make the most of smaller workforces and a reduced focus on long-term retention of employees interested in periods away from work.”

You can download the full 2012 National Study of Employers report here.

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s free-range communication blog.