Telecommuting most popular form of flexible working provision: survey

A vast majority (94 per cent) of U.S. employers provide some type of flexible working arrangement for their employees, according to a new survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Among the options, telecommuting is the most popular, with 74 per cent of respondents offering it. However, 60 per cent of those that offer this option only communicate it when an employee approaches their manager about it. Thirty per cent communicate the benefit during the hiring or new employee orientation process and 25 per cent list the option in their organization’s handbook.

Read: Workers would take pay cut, reduced vacation to work flexibly: survey

According to Julie Stich, associate vice-president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, several high-profile companies have either ended or limited their telecommunicating arrangements, including Bank of America, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo.

“Early pioneers of telecommuting policies may say it’s not working, and they want a return to face time. But many smaller organizations have just started trying it. Success depends on several variables like employer size, industry and culture,” she said in a press release.

More than two in five survey respondents reported that more employees are telecommuting now than two years ago, and nearly 40 per cent of respondents believe more employees will telecommute during the next two years.

Read: My Take: Flex work should be an employer perk, not an obligation

Looking beyond telecommuting, the most common flexible working arrangements offered to employees include: flexible work hours to accommodate special circumstances (92 per cent); flexible starting and finishing times (87 per cent); part-time hours (73 per cent); reduced hours to accommodate an employee request (66 per cent); compressed workweeks (53 per cent); and summer hours (32 per cent).

The reasons that organizations offer these types of arrangements range from creating a work-life balance for employees (68 per cent), enhancing employee morale (27 per cent) and attracting a talented workforce (26 per cent).

However, survey respondents also noted there are barriers to providing flexible working arrangements, such as: fairness for all staff (35 per cent); a portion of the job can’t be done remotely (25 per cent); lack of support from senior management (22 per cent); and increased difficulty in monitoring or managing employees and their work (18 per cent).

“Flexible work policies are positive for most organizations and rank high among employees as a sought-after benefit,” said Stich. “Because every organization’s workforce is unique, however, it’s difficult to create overall company policies that will be fair for all employees.”

Read: Which U.S. company is best for flexible working?