Why Companies Are Investing More in Workplace Flexibility Programs in 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.42.25 AMWe’ve been hearing a lot about workplace flexibility because work/life balance is much more complicated in today’s always-connected technology world. The idea of disconnecting from work after you head home to be with your family is not realistic anymore since business is 24/7 instead of 9-to-5.

In order to learn more about how both HR professionals and employees feel about workplace flexibility, and how companies are reacting, we partnered with CareerArc, a global recruitment and outplacement firm, to conduct a new study. We found that nearly half (45 percent) of employees feel that they don’t have enough time each week to do personal activities and 20 percent spend over 20 hours working outside the office per week. This is a major red flag since employees who don’t have personal time tend to be less motivated and unhappy.

As mentioned, technology is part of the problem, not the solution to work-life balance. It has forced everyone to “always be on-call” regardless of date or time. Previous surveys have found that employees are answering email on vacations and after 11 p.m., when they used to have off-time during those periods. We found that 65 percent of employees say that their manager expects them to be reachable outside of the office by either email or phone. Nearly the same amount (54 percent) of HR professionals say that they expect their employee to be reachable then as well. There’s more pressure on HR today, than ever before, to have workplace flexibility programs in place in order to support employees who are dealing with these balance concerns, and job seekers who are starting to select companies that have these programs.

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Last year, of the companies that knew how much they invested in their work-life benefits programs, 60 percent spent under $20,000 and 29 percent spent more than $40,000. More than half (53 percent) of these companies plan to invest more in their programs in 2015. In our survey, employees even ranked workplace flexibility as the most important benefit that they desire. Those companies that have strong flexibility programs in place  are already seeing real tangible benefits. The top benefits organizations saw in their programs were improved employee satisfaction (87 percent), increased productivity (71 percent), and that they retained current talent (65 percent). 69 percent use their programs as a recruiting tool and 54 percent said that they have positively impacted their recruiting efforts.

In order to be a relevant employer in 2015 and beyond, companies have to get serious about workplace flexibility. Managers should be more lenient and supportive of employees who want personal lives outside of work. Employees who speak up if their work is infringing on their personal life. Both employees and employers should come together to create programs that are mutually beneficial for each other.

Dan Schawbel is the founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for forward-thinking HR professionals. As a career and workplace expert, Schawbel is the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. He has worked with numerous companies including American Express, IBM, Time Warner, Ericsson, CitiGroup, McGraw-Hill, and Siemens.


7 Comments on “Why Companies Are Investing More in Workplace Flexibility Programs in 2015

  1. Why don’t u publish the real unemployment rates..11%+ vs 5.6. Does this reflect on data without whole truth..Or are u just regular media? Ken

  2. “The idea of disconnecting from work after you head home to be with your family is not realistic anymore since business is 24/7 instead of 9-to-5.”

    And once more an Ere,net article goes off the rails in the first paragraph, as the author begins his article on work life balance by essentially saying it no longer exists and never will again.

    Technology has not forced everyone to be always on call, their managers have; it is all on the managers, and their corporate higher-ups who are glad to have people burn out and be replaced rather than retained. This is a fundamentally wrong and wrong-headed attempt to shift the blame for the 24/7 schedule, and proclaim it’s somehow inevitable, or those darn worker bees who just can’t put down their laptops. Phones existed long before computers, and yet, somehow managers knew they should only call off hours for emergencies. REAL emergencies. If a manger wants their employees to have down time, they have down time; they don’t let them work too much. It is not technology that has caused or even contributed to this trend, it is the pervasive devaluation of labor, the increasing unemployment which if you include long term unemployed people gets close to 25%, and the persistently falling wage levels despite increases in productivity, that has made labor more easily replaceable and lower cost, which leads to companies and managers not caring if they burn out, and leads to labor being less likely to object to over flowing work.

    And while there may be a few large corporations investing in workplace flexibility, most businesses, in the US at least, are small to medium sized companies that still treat people like factory workers; clock in and clock out, work 60-70 hours a week standard, and be available after hours, or find another job. Google is an outlier, people, not the standard. And one has to wonder why any companies are making this overly convoluted investment when achieving work life balance is very easy: just limit the damn hours worked to 35-40 a week. Why invest in overly complex schemes to manage time when you can simply cap it?

    1. You raise some good points about how employers are used this technology in a way to get people to work more hours and that’s part of what we found in the study covered in this article. I think the phone is much different than email and social networks, where people are accessible much more easily. By instinct, people feel more attached to their work because they are more connected, and technology has enabled them to do work on off hours like they wouldn’t decades ago.

      1. I don’t. If there’s no building burning down, I may as well be in the Yukon off hours. I’ve had employers pressure me to work after hours, and if they want me available 24/7 my answer is simple: triple my salary. Otherwise, my family and friends deserve at least some of my time, and I already give way more than half my waking hours to work, enough is enough. Now in the past I’ve had one manager who was okay with that, the others never stopped pressuring me to: get work email on my phone, get it on my tablet, get me to do this or that over night or over the weekend, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. This is not the fault of the technology, that just creates the opportunity. It’s the fault of managers who don’t know any better, or who are actively horrible at their jobs or even exploitative and malicious in their intent. Until I hear a story about a person on their deathbed saying their number one regret was spending too little time at work, I’m sticking with my boundaries. Many people don’t and I understand why, when there are – totally coincidentally of course! – so many people ready and willing to replace them. I’m sure the permanent surplus of labor in the US that makes this behavior possible has nothing to do with trade policy, monetary policy, and labor policy that employers push for over the years. Not a thing…

        Technology is not to blame, or even a massive facilitator. It’s the attitude toward labor and work life balance, as in total disregard for it, that is driving this.

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