Mixed views on flexible working

Mar 25 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Managers are among those most likely to ask to work flexibly, despite the fact that a fifth find such working arrangements a hassle to manage because they potentially create division and accusations of favouritism.

A poll of some 560 employers by the U.S Institute for Corporate Productivity has found that nearly three quarters of workers who request to work flexibly are working in professional roles.

Flexible working was also considered to be the most conducive for workers in such roles, followed by those in technical or clerical roles.

Nearly two thirds of the firms polled now offered flexible start and end times, while six out of 10 offered part-time work and a third the option of working a compressed week.

Two thirds felt such flexible working arrangements boosted employee morale and improved retention rates.

And nearly half expected such options to become more commonplace grow during the next year, with just seven per cent forecasting a reduction in flexible working programmes.

Yet for many managers, managing flexible working was something they did through gritted teeth, the survey also found.

A fifth complained that they found flexible working arrangements frustrating to manage, while a third reported such arrangements frustrated those employee groups that were not eligible for them, so potentially creating division and accusations of lack of fairness.

More than two thirds had had to establish deadlines for flexible workers, with 64 per cent pointing out that they needed to keep close tabs on flexible workers working to specific project deadlines.

More than four out of 10 said they required daily or weekly project status reports and more than a quarter required periodic status meetings.

Younger employees were in general more likely to request such arrangements, and women were seen as more likely to request them than men, the poll also concluded.

"It's little wonder that companies offer flex work," said institute vice-president of research Mark Vickers.

"If they don't, they're probably more likely to lose out to their more limber competitors when wooing professional talent," he added.