Flexible Hours Aren't Working As Well As Companies Say

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Photo: Flickr / Mr. Thomas

Flexible work hours are the new sought-after benefit in the workplace, but the only professionals it’s really helping are those in law, medicine, academia and technology. Aside from these people, flexible work hours aren’t helping the people who need it the most — the lower-skilled workers who work long hours for a paycheck — and these workers are often overworked and become unproductive from stress and exhaustion.  

Stephen Sweet, an organisation studies expert from Boston College’s Sloan centre on ageing & Work, examined numerous surveys of U.S. companies of all sectors and concluded that flexible work hours aren’t working the way they say they do and many employees are afraid of taking advantage of their benefit: 

There’s a difference between an option that’s on the books and one that employees can choose without adverse consequences. All too many flexible work arrangements impose significant career costs. Years ago, when my twins were babies, my employer would have let me scale back my hours. I didn’t do it, because my career would have died as a result. My experience marks the difference between an option that’s available and one that’s usable, with no catch-22s. 

By this standard, a company can appear to be a shining example of workplace flexibility even though the vast majority of its employees aren’t eligible for the options it offers.

Sweet focused on these three areas:

  • Pause work: 58 per cent of companies say their employees can take time off if they need to, but only 16 per cent actually offer this benefit to more than half their staffers.
  • Reduce work: 78 per cent of companies say their employees are can choose to work part-time, but only 16 per cent makes this available to more than half their staffers. 
  • Mobile work: 94 per cent of companies say their employees can work off site, but only 40 per cent make it available to more than half their staffers. 
work flexibility

Photo: Boston College

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