Content prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

Workplace flexibility, both formal and informal, has been shown to have a strong impact on employee retention. Flexible work is important to both men and women, and is a powerful tool to retain talented employees. (24) Studies have shown that both formal and occasional use of flexibility are positively associated with perceived flexibility, employee engagement, and expected retention. These analyses provide evidence that workplace flexibility may enhance employee engagement, which may in turn lead to longer job tenure. (78)

There are several ways that flexible work arrangements can help reduce turnover

  • Workers who have more access to flexible work arrangements report greater job satisfaction and are more likely to be committed to their employers and therefore stay at their current company. (21)
  • Flexible work arrangements can also decrease turnover by encouraging individuals to remain working at a firm even after a major life event such as the birth of a child. (26)
  • Reductions in unwanted turnover may result in important benefits to employers, such as less loss of knowledge workers to competitors, and lower recruitment and training costs. (31)


How do we keep people? Through flexibility, in part. We particularly need to retain people while the primary product is being developed, and sometimes the managers continue to want to [retain them] because they want to maintain a pipeline. In small biotech firms, you know everyone well, you know their personal situations, and you can make accommodations. I bend over backwards because individual people are our most important asset. Many managers are young, in their 40s but with young kids at home. When they are thinking of leaving, flexibility plays a big part. (32)

A leading regional property and casualty mutual insurance company writing premiums last year of more than $680 million, the company has a core business strategy that includes giving its people significant choice in how they schedule their work. The reasons are two-fold. First, [the company] has found that happy, satisfied employees make their customers happy, too, and cement their loyalty to the insurer. Second, [the company]—which fiercely monitors its expenses—wants to avoid the costs and business disruptions involved when experienced people leave. (34)


A study of 2002 data from the Families and Work Institute's National Study of the Changing Workforce showed that by using 13 specific flexibility measurements, employees with more access to workplace flexibility were "more likely to plan to stay with their current employers for at least the next year." (39)

In a study of a large United States retail store offering flexibility to hourly workers, managers credited the promotion of workplace flexibility with positively impacting retention in that "allowing employees to have control over their schedule creates a culture that demonstrates the value of employees to the organization and recognizes that employees' life off-the-job is important. (81)

The National Study of Changing Workforce found that access to flexible work arrangements was one of the seven workplace factors that were predictive of anticipated retention. (9)

Another survey of employers and employees found that "90% of organizations say their work/life balance programs have improved worker satisfaction, and nearly three-fourths (74%) say they have improved retention of workers." This survey found a mismatch between employees and employers in regard to workplace flexibility: 86% of workers responded that work-life balance and fulfillment are top career priorities, while only 12% of employers believed these to be crucial to hiring and retention. (76)