Seven Workplace Flexibility Myths – How Many Do You Believe?

A report from the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management uncovered seven myths about how workers respond when offered things like short-notice schedule flexibility, time off to care for sick children, or tailored approaches in moving between part-time and full-time work.

How many of the seven myths in Workplace Flexibility in the United States: A Status Report do you believe?

  1. Small employers are less flexible than big employers because flexibility costs so much. Turns out 38 percent of large employers (500 or more employees) find the costs of flexibility or limited funds were an obstacle, but only 32 percent of small organizations say the same thing. Small firms do tend to have more informal flex policies compared to large firms.
  2. Most people would rather move up the corporate ladder than have flexibility. Gen X (28-42 years old) professionals are less likely to want jobs with more responsibility (37 percent) than non-professional Gen X employees (47 percent). The reasons for their hesitation include long hours (14 percent versus 6 percent) and insufficient flexibility to manage their work and personal lives (14 percent versus 7 percent), the study found.
  3. If you offer flexibility, employees will use it. If your organization offers flexibility, but those who use it are unofficially penalized, you might as well not offer it at all. “Our data show that a culture of flexibility is as, if not more, important than simply having access to flexibility options,” the study found.
  4. If you offer flexibility, employees will over-use it. “The assumption is that if you give employees an inch, they take a mile,” says Ellen Galinsky, FWI’s president and co-author of the report. “But that’s not the case. Overall, 11 percent of employees with access to daily schedule flexibility use it several times a month or more, 70 percent use it once a month or less and the remaining 19 percent never use it.”
  5. Offering flexibility to low-wage employees isn’t worth the investment. Thinking of your low-wage staff as being prone to turnover, less engaged and therefore not deserving of flexibility can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low-wage workers offered moderate flexibility are just as engaged and satisfied as high-wage employees–and it makes them even happier about their home life/work balance than it makes high-wage employees, the study found.
  6. Managers see flexibility as a favor for individuals rather than a company-wide HR tool. Between 60 percent and 77 percent of HR professionals say their company’s managers see flexibility as a business strategy.
  7. Flexibility is wasted in high-turnover industries like retail, hospitality, restaurants and tourism. While turnover is indeed high in such businesses, a sizable proportion of employees see their jobs there as long-term career options. Those who plan to stick around say flexibility is extremely important.