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Workplace Flexibility: Neither for the Weak at Heart nor the Uncreative

What do you think when you hear the term "workplace flexibility"? Is it a single program? Would it surprise you to know that, on average, companies offer six different types of flexible work options?
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What do you think when you hear the term "workplace flexibility"? Is it a single program? Would it surprise you to know that, on average, companies offer six different types of flexible work options? WorldatWork's recent Trends in Workplace Flexibility survey explores some of these work options. As we close out National Work and Family Month, quiz yourself on the top 5 and see how many you know off the top of your head ... and how many you've overlooked:

Telework on an Ad-Hoc Basis

Allowing employees to telework to meet a repair person or tend to a sick child has been in the top three of WorldatWork's flexibility survey since its inception back in 2011. It's a fairly informal program -- if you can even call it something as formal as a "program" -- because managers have the discretion to make the call on whether to give an employee time to deal with these kinds of personal issues.

Do I consider this a flexible work option? Darn right I do. It moves in the right direction of managers and employees working together to solve personal issues that could otherwise impede work. By the way, it's also the 2nd-most used flex work option by employees, according to the survey. Eligibility seems to fall primarily to exempt employees (99%), with only about 60% of nonexempt employees being eligible. 15% of organizations don't offer this type of program. Given the ease of this type of program, I challenge those 15% to look for a little flexibility of their own.

Flex Time

The option to alter the start and end time of work is the 2nd-most prevalent flexible work option offered by employers and also has been in the top 3 since 2011. Again, this is a pretty easy program to administer and manage. Most organizations maintain core hours, most commonly between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and it's the most commonly used program among employees.

Interesting note: More working mothers use this form of flexibility than any other (you won't find this detail in the report -- it's just something I know from my research in the area) because it gives them the most flexibility when it comes to dropping off and picking up kids from daycare and school.

Anyway, 97% of exempt employees have access to this option, while only 74% of nonexempts get this form of flexibility. Again, I would challenge organizations to consider this option for nonexempt employees if the need is there. 18% of companies don't offer it at all, which is somewhat surprising to me since, again, this is a fairly easy form of flexibility.

Part-Time Work

Rounding out the top three flexible work options, part-time is also the 6th-most used form of flexible work option for employees. It might be surprising to consider part-time work to be a flexible work option, but consider: There are potentially great candidates in the world that need this type of flexibility. My friends over at Life Meets Work put together a great video a few years ago that partly asked the question, "What if your best employee could only work 25 hours a week, lived in Des Moines, spent winters in Florida, and had an elderly parent at home?" Would you opt for 2nd best? The survey found that more nonexempt employees are offered this type of work option (94%) versus exempt workers (82%).

Job Sharing

Here's another not-so-obvious option on the list, and it's a perfect fit for part-time work as well. When a full-time job is required, why not consider job sharing as a way to shore up those great part-time candidates? Right now, only 21% of companies offer this program ... but those 21% offer the program to both exempt and nonexempt almost equally -- and a bit more to exempt employees. Interesting. One more note on this type of work option to think about is the possibility of coordinating these two types of work options for those women who might be thinking of "stepping out" of the workforce for a period of time because they want to spend more time with their small children. Some, in fact probably more than we realize, might be happy working part-time in a job-sharing capacity. That can be a real win for those employers who are especially challenged when they lose an employee altogether to this type of situation. Certainly something to think about.

Phased Return from Leave

Again, I'm guessing a lot of you out there may not have considered this a form of flexibility. But when you're trying to help solve for a personal issue while keeping the job and the work moving along, this is a great form of flexibility. In my prior life as an employee benefits manager, we were always looking for ways for employees who were on any kind of leave to be able to come back to work as soon as possible, even knowing that it might not be on a full-time basis. We knew we had a better chance of getting someone to ultimately return to full-time work if we allowed them to initially ease back. 56% of organizations must be thinking the same way, because they're offering this type of work arrangement.

Again, these are just the 5 that rose to the top in the research. The flexibility survey actually addresses 13 different types of flexibility. So? How'd you do?

Want to learn more about additional flexibility options that create a win-win for your organization and employees? Look for my next two blogs that dive into the remainder of the programs and the added bonus of a flexible culture and how that can set you ahead of the pack!

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