Flexible Workplace Arrangements: Can It Work for You?
The 2014 Workplace Flexibility Survey of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) presents significant data about the use of work-flex programs and its benefits for the organization. These include: improvements in recruitment and retention, employees’ health, job satisfaction (Families & Work Institute, 2008), work engagement and reduction in turnover and levels of psychological strain (Timms, et al., 2015).
Nevertheless, only 27 percent of the participant organizations reported offering at least one kind of flexible work arrangement (FWA), and of those who have them, only half offered some information to their employees during the recruitment (30 percent) or onboarding process (19 percent). This suggests that organizations may not have been taking full advantage of this benefit. Maybe this explains why so few of them (1 to 25 percent) use it.
Shockley and Allen (2012) found that employees were more motivated to use FWAs for work-related motives than for life management motives. Why don't some employees use this benefit? Stigma may be a powerful reason. Brescoll, Glass and Sedlovskaya (2013) found that managers were most likely to grant these requests to high status men seeking flexible schedules to advance their careers; requests from female employees were unlikely to be granted, irrespective of their work status or the reason for their request.
Vancello, et al. (2013) reported that even though men and women valued work flexibility equally, women had greater intentions to use it. Nevertheless, they seemed reluctant because of the perceived impact on their careers, as they thought their careers might be negatively affected in terms of salary, performance evaluations and promotion opportunities if they used the FWA (Crowley & Kolenikov, 2014). Men identified some consequences too -- they thought that they would be perceived as less masculine and receive lower ratings on masculine traits and higher on feminine traits. Cech and Blair-Loy (2014) referred to this as a flexibility stigma, or the devaluation of workers who seek or are presumed to need FWAs. Employees who report this stigma have lower intentions to continue, poorer work-life balance and lower job satisfaction.
The number of employees working under FWAs has increased and this tendency should continue, as employees need time to take care of their families. There is evidence of the benefits of FWAs for employees and the organization, but they are not using it to its fullest potential. Nevertheless, it seems to be an inconsistency in the way this benefit is communicated, which suggests the need for adequate policies and procedures to address FWAs. This might include, among others: adequate, timely and consistent communication of this alternative through the organizational channels; criteria to determine in which positions and under which circumstances it might be possible to have this kind of arrangement; what infrastructure the employee and the organization need to have in place to grant a request to work from home; how the communication will be maintained though virtual channels or in person, and how the performance and outcomes will be evaluated.
Brescoll, V. L., Glass, J., & Sedlovskaya, A. (2013). Ask and Ye Shall Receive? The Dynamics of Employer-Provided Flexible Work Options and the Need for Public Policy. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 367-388. doi:10.1111/josi.12019
Cech, E. A., & Blair-Loy, M. (2014). Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers. Work & Occupations, 41(1), 86-110. doi:10.1177/0730888413515497
Crowley, J. E., & Kolenikov, S. (2014). Flexible Work Options and Mothers' Perceptions of Career Harm. Sociological Quarterly, 55(1), 168-195. doi:10.1111/tsq.12050
Shockley, K. M., & Allen, T. D. (2012). Motives for flexible work arrangement use. Community, Work & Family, 15(2), 217-231. doi:10.1080/13668803.2011.609661
Timms, C., Brough, P., O'Driscoll, M., Kalliath, T., Siu, O. L., Sit, C., & Lo, D. (2015). Flexible work arrangements, work engagement, turnover intentions and psychological health. Asia Pacific Journal Of Human Resources, 53(1), 83-103. doi:10.1111/1744-7941.12030
Vandello, J. A., Hettinger, V. E., Bosson, J. K., & Siddiqi, J. (2013). When Equal Isn't Really Equal: The Masculine Dilemma of Seeking Work Flexibility. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 303-321. doi:10.1111/josi.12016
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