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NATIONAL WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY STUDY

Overview 

Boston College Center for Work and Family’s Overcoming the Implementation Gap was the first study of its kind to identify the best practices of companies who were successfully implementing flex on a broad scale.  The best practices highlighted in that report laid the foundation, but the role of managers in supporting flexibility and the best methods for building their support remain an opportunity for further study.

Life Meets Work, Career Life Alliance and Boston College Center for Work & Family have come together to conduct the first research of its kind to identify managers’ concerns about workplace flexibility, propose solutions for overcoming their resistance, and implement successful flex pilots.  The result of this research will be a blueprint for organizations to sustain a truly flexible work culture.

Why Now?

Over the past decade, a significant portion of work/life research has been dedicated to identifying and measuring the bottom-line benefits of workplace flexibility on an organization and its workforce.  There’s been little attention paid, however, to the challenges companies face trying to integrate flexible work into their culture. 

Consequently, many companies find themselves with pockets of flexibility where innovative managers are making it work.  Full-scale implementation remains elusive.  Flexible work programs fall short of meeting the goals set by the organization.  HR, Diversity and Work/Life professionals responsible for these programs are left to speculate why flex has not been fully embraced by, or adopted into, their corporate culture. 

Background

In World at Work’s 2013 Survey on Workplace Flexibility, only 36% of respondents rated themselves high enough to earn an established flex culture rating.  The average company rated their flex program as informal, yet aspired to more strategic about flex over the next two years.

Three studies in the last year have identified the source of the problem.  A study called Alternative Workplace Strategies in the Current Economy:  Results from New Ways of Working’s Benchmarking Study conducted by New Ways of Working, LLC cited executive buy-in and manager resistance as two of the top three barriers to wider implementation of workplace flexibility. 

The Booz Allen study, On Demand Government: Deploying Flexibilities to Ensure Service Continuity, reviewed the implementation of flexible work programs by federal governmental agencies.  In it, they attributed the lackluster implementation records of most agencies to manager resistance. The most recent data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management show that although 62% of federal employees are eligible to work remotely, less than 6% of all full-time federal workers telework even one day a month.

Finally, a joint study by the Sloan Foundation and AARP that found managers overwhelmingly supported flexibility, but most admitted that they don’t know how to make it work.

  Purpose

We believed that managers held the keys to successful, full-scale implementation of workplace flexibility, but that most of them were ill-prepared or unable to manage in a way that supports a flexible culture.  We identified and addressed managers’ concerns and provided solutions that helped them become champions for workplace flexibility, so that companies could better achieve their strategic workforce goals.