Culture, Engagement, Branding, HR Policies & Procedures

Adding Flexibility to Your Organization: Trends to Watch

Creating work/life balance for employees, enhancing worker morale, and attracting a talented workforce are just a few reasons why the majority of employers across the country are creating and utilizing flexible work arrangements in their organization. According to Flexible Work Arrangements, a survey report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 94% of employers said that they offer some type of flexible work arrangement to their workers.

The report addresses the current status, approach, impact, and policies of organizational flexible work arrangements, including flexible work hours, job sharing, part-time hours, telecommuting, working remotely, seasonal work, compressed workweeks, and summer hours.

The most popular flexible work arrangements offered include:

  • Flexible work hours to accommodate special circumstances (92%),
  • Flexible work hours with alternative starting and quitting times (87%), and
  • Telecommuting on an ad hoc basis (80%)

The least popular flexible work arrangements offered are seasonal work (32%), summer hours (32%), and job sharing (19%).

Work/life balance was the most frequently (68%) cited reason for offering flexible work arrangements to workers. Secondary reasons include enhancing worker morale (27%), attracting a talented workforce (26%), and retaining high-performing workers (25%).

Part-Time Hours

A slight uptick in flexible work arrangements has been occurring over the past  2 years and benefit offerings for part-time workers will likely expand into 2019.

More than three-quarters (78%) of responding organizations employ part-time workers. Of those organizations that employ part-time workers, more than 90% of respondents defined full-time as working 30 hours or more per week.

Almost four in five (79%) responding organizations offer health insurance benefits to part-time workers who work 30 or fewer hours per week. For part-time workers, the healthcare-related benefits most commonly offered include:

  • Prescription drug coverage (53%),
  • Dental insurance (52%),
  • Vision insurance (52%),
  • Flexible spending accounts (47%), and
  • Health savings accounts (33%).

U.S. organizations are not required to provide paid leave to part-time workers. Yet, more than one-half of responding organizations provide the following paid leaves to their part-time workers on a full-coverage or prorated basis: paid holidays (68%), paid bereavement leave (63%), paid vacation (54%), paid sick leave (52%), and paid time off (51%).

In this tight job market, benefit offerings and other workplace perks are essential for growing any high-performing organization, regardless of the number of hours employees are working. Every organization is structured differently, but if offering part-time work arrangements and benefits is appropriate, it’s another vehicle for attracting top-tier talent while providing additional flexibility for current employees.

Telecommuting/Working Remotely

Telecommuting and remote work options appear to be on the rise. More than seven in ten (74%) responding organizations currently employ telecommuters and/or those who work remotely. Forty-five percent of respondents reported more  telecommuting/remote workers than 2 years ago.

Organizations that employ telecommuters were asked to reveal their primary motivation for offering these arrangements. Nearly one-half (48%) of organizations said they offer telecommuting and/or working remotely as a benefit to workers. A similar percentage (45%) of respondents are driven instead by business factors.

Child care is a challenging issue for organizations and workers, including those who telecommute or work remotely. A majority (64%) of responding organizations that employ telecommuters or remote workers do not have a childcare policy. Fewer than one in four (24%) require telecommuters to arrange for child care during work hours. Only 2% reported having a policy allowing telecommuters to work around their children’s schedules.

Of those responding organizations that employ telecommuters, guidelines in practice include:

  • 46% require that work be performed during specific hours.
  • 35% reported telecommuting employees may choose to work their own schedules if their work is completed.
  • 28% of telecommuters are required to track their working hours.
  • 17% of telecommuters are required to work in the office a minimum number of days per week or month.

Six in ten (62%) employers described the organizational impact of offering telecommuting/working remotely as significantly (23%) or somewhat (39%) positive for their organization.

Implementing Your Flexible Work Arrangement Policy

Like most workplace policies, flexible work arrangements are offered either on a case-by-case basis or through a formal policy.

Flexible work arrangement benefits offered on a case-by-case basis are more likely to include:

  • Telecommuting (82%)
  • Flexible work hours to accommodate special circumstances (80%)
  • Reduced hours to accommodate work requests (79%)
  • Flexible hours with alternative starting and quitting times (64%)

Arrangements more likely to have a formal policy include summer hours (59%), part-time hours (51%), and telecommuting/working remotely on a regular basis (49%).

The ad hoc nature of many of these flexible arrangements may contribute to the hesitancy by some organizations to provide them. The top barrier to providing workplace flexible arrangements is the concern that they may not be achieving fairness for all staff (35%). Other reasons reported include the fact that portions of a job cannot be done remotely, lack of upper management support, and more difficulty monitoring/managing workers.

Flexible work policies are positive for most organizations and rank high among employees as a sought-after benefit. Because every organization’s workforce is unique, however, it’s difficult to create overall company policies that will be fair for all employees. To view the full Flexible Work Arrangements report, visit www.ifebp.org/flexiblework.

Julie Stich, CEBS, serves as Associate Vice President of Content for the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. In this role, she oversees the International Foundation’s educational programs, including online learning courses, webcasts, and more than 100 annual face-to-face educational events.  As an employee benefits expert, Stich closely follows emerging employee benefits issues and trends, ensuring that the Foundation’s 31,500 members, who represent more than 25 million employees, are informed.