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Stay flexible with employees

Date posted:  10/6/14 07:15:00 AM Allowing people to work from home can boost company morale.

Regardless of the growing cry for a flexible work schedule from millennials, some companies still believe a presence in the office equals a higher level of productivity.

Ken Matos, senior director of research at Families and Work Institute (FWI), told Employee Benefit News that standard employee performance review systems continue to lag behind flexible work programs.

"The culture of flexibility, the ways in which organizations talk about and reinforce the idea that [there are] creative solutions to problems that are not just viable but desired, also seems to be in flux," Matos said. "Organizations seem to have settled on some pro-flexibility messaging but seem to be falling behind in matching their [behavior] with those messages."

Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of FWI, said there's a reputation that remote workers are not as productive as those that go into the office every day.

"The notion that presence equals productivity or that the ideal worker is still the full-time worker - those mindsets are still alive and with us," Galinsky told Employee Benefit News. "But there is flexibility for full-time employees so that's much more becoming a standard of the American workplace." 

The Wall Street Journal reported that companies who allow employees to work from home a few times during the week can actually lower a company's cost and increase workforce productivity. The publication cited a U.S. Census Bureau report that confirmed the growing number of Americans allowed to work from home. The report stated 13.4 million people - or 9.4 percent of employees across the nation - worked at least one day at home per week in 2010. In 1997, 9.2 million people were allowed to work from home, or seven percent of American workers.

Regulating flexible work schedules
NPR reported that a law in San Francisco and Vermont allows employees to ask for a flexible work schedule without fear of reprimand, although employers don't have to grant workers this request.

"We've heard too many stories of workers who have said that there is a significant stigma," David Chiu, the president of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, told NPR. "Both mothers and fathers often feel uncomfortable raising these issues with their employers - there are signals sent to them that they are somehow less loyal and productive employees."

Chiu said it's important to offer people adaptable schedules in order to balance work and social life. Chiu said he's heard from a number of overwhelmed friends that want to be good employees, but are struggling to keep up with their company and their family because of long hours at the office.

The ever-changing work environment
Lisa Horn, co-director of the Workplace Flexibility Initiative for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), told Employee Benefit News that the way people work is constantly changing.

"We know that the workforce and workplace continue to evolve, whether we look at the complexity of the 21st century workforce or at those technological advances that enable work really to happen anywhere," Horn said. "But these changes mean organizations must adapt or must reinvent how work gets done, in our view, to remain competitive."

SHRM and FWI claimed approximately 67 percent of employers now offer workers the opportunity to telecommute during the week. That's a major increase from the 58 percent of employers that provided laborers with remote work options in 2012.

According to Galinsky, more employers are choosing to do so in order to attract and retain talent, as a flexible work schedule allows people to better navigate their work and personal life. Some employers also believe offering employees those work options improves company morale, according to Employee Benefit News.