Survey Finds Workplace Flexibility Is Increasing

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NASHVILLE, TENN.—A tepid U.S. economy and sputtering job market have not kept employers from implementing more-effective flexible workplace policies, according to a report released on April 29, 2014, by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) at the 2014 Talent Management Conference & Exposition.
The 2014 National Study of Employers examined workplace changes since the depths of the recession in 2008 and found that policies offering workers more flexibility on when and where they can work are increasing. For example, two-thirds of survey respondents (67 percent) reported that they offered employees options to work remotely (also referred to as telecommuting), which is an increase of 17 percentage points when compared to a similar survey conducted six years earlier.
However, the survey’s researchers discovered that policies providing workers extended leaves of absence declined during the same period. Practices such as job-sharing dropped to 18 percent of respondents from 29 percent since 2008. In addition, slightly more than half of employers (52 percent) reported that they offered employees extended career breaks for personal and family responsibilities, a decrease from 64 percent of respondents to the 2008 survey.
“This study is a reflection of the changes occurring in our nation,” said Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at the FWI, which is based in New York City. “More than just data on policies and paychecks, this research shows us how personal and professional lives are connected, and how business is reinventing workplaces for a continually changing workforce.”
More than 1,000 human resource professionals from organizations with 50 or more employees participated in the survey between Sept. 13, 2013, and Jan. 31, 2014. 
The survey results revealed the following trends in workplace flexibility: 
  • Smaller-sized employers are emerging from the recession as leaders in flexible work policies.
  • More employers are offering leave for maternity, adoption and caregiving for seriously ill family members; however, paternity leave is lagging.
  • Employers are attempting to provide more information to employees about support options for elder care.
  • Fewer organizations are covering the full cost of maternity leave.
  • Organizations are continuing to push medical benefit costs to employees, such as increasing co-pays for health insurance plans. 
The survey also revealed how government regulations and changes in employment laws are affecting workplace flexibility. Mandates under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have changed the workplace landscape by providing 12 weeks of unpaid family leave and offering nursing mothers a time and place to express breast milk, the survey states.
“Technological advances and demographic shifts in the workforce are changing where, when and how work gets done,” said Lisa Horn, director of congressional affairs at SHRM. “By sharing this research, SHRM hopes to equip organizations with the information they need to design innovative solutions to meet their individual business needs and the needs of their employees.”
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.


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