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WHAT IS WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY?
Content prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

"Flexibility is about an employee and an employer making changes to when, where and how a person will work to better meet individual and business needs. Flexibility enables both individual and business needs to be met through making changes to the time (when), location (where) and manner (how) in which an employee works. Flexibility should be mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee and result in superior outcomes." (1)

Formal flexibility policies are "officially approved human resources policies, as well as any official policies that give supervisors discretion to provide flexibility."

Informal flexibility refers to "policies that are not official and not written down but are still available to some employees, even on a discretionary basis."

While most formal work arrangements can usually be identified, organizations acknowledge that utilization statistics probably underestimate the true reach and impact of flexibility, as they cannot accurately determine the extent of informal flexibility—for example, employees who occasionally alter their work hours or work from home. (24)

CASE examples

JP Morgan Chase found that 95% of employees working in an environment where the manager is sensitive to work and personal life—including informal flexibility— feel motivated to exceed expectations, compared to 80% of employees in environments where the manager is not sensitive to needs for informal flexibility. (24)

"At Bristol-Myers Squibb, 14% of employees have a formal flexible work arrangement. Of the remaining, 67% say they have informal flexibility. When asked about the importance of informal flexibility in terms of their intention to continue working at the company, the response is resounding: 71% say that it is 'very important.' Again, women place even greater importance on informal flexibility; 78% of women say it is 'very important' to their staying, compared to 65% of men. The retention effect is especially strong for women in management: 84% say informal flexibility helps keep them at the company." (24)