Weekly Wrap: Study Finds That Flex Work is Finally Going Mainstream

Here’s something you probably knew was coming, but now you have the data to back that feeling up.

This week, SHRM released a survey that shows that flexible work arrangements have not only gone mainstream, but seem to be both successful and growing.

Here are the key findings:

  • Most flexible work arrangements (and SHRM identified 16 different types) are successful with 73 to 92 percent of HR professionals reporting that they were somewhat or very successful.
  • HR professionals believe that the number of organizations that offer flex work or telecommuting will increase dramatically over the next five years. The vast majority feel that telecommuting (83 percent) and flexible work arrangements (89 percent) would likely/very likely be more prevalent in five years than they are today.
  • Organizations that offer telecommuting say that it has had a positive impact on productivity and absenteeism.

“An important part of an effective workplace”

“Flexible work arrangements are an important part of an effective workplace and contribute to employee job satisfaction, retention and health. But workforce culture could be a barrier preventing employees from taking advantage of these arrangements,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs, in a press release about the survey.

He added:  “The role of managers is central to the success of flexible work arrangements. Managers need to work with HR to communicate to employees what options are available and how they benefit the goals of both employees and the organization.”

SHRM’s survey — 2014 Workplace Flexibility — Overview of Flexible Work Arrangementscomes from information taken from 525 HR professionals surveyed from April through June 2014. Two sets of findings were released at SHRM’s annual Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition, held this past week in New Orleans. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

It’s information like this that makes decisions by Yahoo and Reddit, two companies that famously decided to eliminate remote or telework arrangements, so puzzling. Yes, both of them had very pragmatic reasons for doing so, but their decision to make all employees work on site seems to fly in the face of the willingness of the larger working world to accept flexible work arrangements as part of the “new normal” in our post-recession workforce.

“These (flex work) practices could benefit many”

As workplace flexibility expert (and frequent TLNT contributor) Paul Rupert put it last year:

The movement for broad employee-engaging and business-beneficial flexibility has made great advances, and is in a position to transform the way we work, building on demographics, technology and business gains.”

And Lisa Horn, the director of the Society for Human Resource Management,  seems to agree, saying: in the press release that:

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HR professionals in these findings made a strong case for the use of flexible work arrangement. The positive impacts to recruitment, retention, productivity, morale and the quality of work suggest that adopting these practices could benefit many employees and employers.”

It’s clear to me that although flexible work arrangements don’t work in all situations, more and more companies are figuring out that they make sense for a good number of their workers.

The days of managers demanding “face time” with employees has come and gone. If you’re a manager who isn’t using flex work to your advantage, you are behind the curve and probably reaching the point where your own lack of flexibility on this matter is going to impact your ability to hire and retain the best people.

Adapt or die, they used to say. As this SHRM survey clearly shows, adapting to flex time is a workforce policy you need to embrace.

Fired for running for political office

Of course, there’s more than the rise in flexible work arrangements  in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Fighting over a conference room. The battle over office conference rooms isn’t new — I remember having skirmishes over them while working at a dot-com in San Francisco during the 1999-2001 boom — but it is becoming a bigger deal as more and more organizations get rid of personal space for employees.  As The Wall Street Journal notes (and this ESPN commercial pokes fun at below), “A mundane fixture of office life — the conference room — has become a flash point for tension and conflict. Meetings are multiplying while private office space shrinks. Booking systems break down under dueling meetings. Employees reserve conference rooms far in advance — just in case they need them. Colleagues fume when a previous meeting drags on, leaving them standing in the hallway.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oczn0vmP_lM

  • Fired for running for office. From Bloomberg BusinessWeek: “A political candidate’s firing in Florida offers a reminder of a little-understood fact of American life: Companies have sweeping discretion to effectively regulate what their workers do outside of work, including running for elected office. … (It may be) controversial, but there’s nothing obviously illegal about it. In fact … U.S. workers can be fired for all kinds of activities outside of work: volunteering for the AIDS Foundation, using medical marijuana, even just driving around with a John Kerry bumper sticker. There are some clear exceptions. Firing someone for practicing a religion or organizing a union during his or her time off is illegal. But aside from Montana, neither state nor federal laws require that private sector companies have a good reason for firing people.”
  • The worst jobs for sexual harassment. According to The Daily Beast, “A new report on sexual harassment and the restaurant industry from Restaurant Opportunities Center, a national workers’ organization that advocates for an increase to the federal industry minimum wage. … (found that) sexual harassment is endemic in the industry. … Three quarters (74 percent) of women complained of at least monthly sexual harassment from co-workers; two-thirds reported similar harassment from (66 percent) from management. For men, 58 percent reported sexual harassment from both co-workers and management.”
  • In defense of HR. This article from Slate gives a qualified endorsement of the need for good HR — just in case you didn’t know that already. They write, ” HR might seem like a necessary evil — the department can be tasked with sifting through piles of government regulations at the federal, state, and local level that could cause real problems if ignored. … (but) HR is not just a logistically necessary department, but also an important tactical arm that helps a small business grow into a medium or even big one.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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