EMPLOYERS NEED »
IMPROVED PERFORMANCE & PRODUCTIVITY
Content prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

Research shows a positive relationship between flexible work arrangements and productivity. However, there are also studies in which flexible schedules do not necessarily improve productivity. (58) One explanation for this disparity is that even when flexible work arrangements are available, employees may not feel free to use them. If employees find policies to be usable, they are associated positively with perceived productivity for all employees, male and female. Even the presence of formal or informal work-family policies is significantly associated with higher productivity, although this relationship is stronger where they are perceived as usable. (32)

Cross-training is an important component of workplace flexibility initiatives, as employees can develop a variety of skills that will enhance their work within their organizations and increase their versatility in the labor market overall. In a pilot flexibility project in a large financial services/banking concern, "participants, including managers and supervisors, reported positive improvements in the way work was done, including more effective planning (37%), increased cross training (26%), restructured work flow processes (21%), and better use of meetings (9%)." (24)

CASE EXAMPLES

At a large U.S. retail store offering flexibility to hourly workers, "managers noted a clear connection between workplace flexibility and productivity." When employees are able to work the shifts they prefer, they are

"less distracted, exhibit a better attitude and perform better on the job When employees are happy, energetic and excited about where they work, 'it bleeds over and customers can feel that, which [in turn] drives sales, and helps drive profits,' according to one manager." (80)

Marriott found that the implementation of workplace flexibility resulted in greater productivity, even though employees worked fewer hours. Marriott focused on promoting "efficiency and effectiveness" in its employees, rather than "face time." The result: Managers reported working an average of five hours less per week. In addition, Marriott discovered that with workplace flexibility, "low-value work had dropped to 6.8 hours per week" compared to 11.7 hours without it. (24)

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.


SURVEY FINDINGS

A study using data from a 1996 International Business Machines (IBM) work and life issues survey showed that given the same workload, individuals who perceived that they had workplace flexibility were able to work longer hours—up to an additional day each week—before experiencing a negative impact on their work-family balance. (50)

A 2003 study where professional and technical workers were surveyed in seven biopharmaceutical firms in one state found that the mere presence of formal or informal flexibility policies was "significantly associated with higher productivity." Not surprisingly, the study noted that businesses are most advantaged by such workplace flexibility policies when employees actually "perceive" that they can utilize them. "Control over time, flexibility, and pace of work is important in predicting positive levels of commitment and productivity for all employees." (32)