Flex schedules matter more to workers, and employers are listening


By Neil Amato

Often in the absence of pay raises, more workers are zeroing in on other rewards: flexible schedules and flexible work locations.

Surveys released last month highlight the trend, which is common amongst those already employed and those seeking more when offered a job.

In the UK, 78% of employees want a flexible schedule to boost job satisfaction to counteract stagnant pay, according to research by online meeting provider TeamViewer. Another survey, by cloud-based software provider SuccessFactors Inc., found that job-seekers worldwide requested flexible scheduling nearly as often as they sought more pay.

The reports follow research released in June that indicated employers in the US and Europe are becoming more accepting of flexible hours as workers use mobile technology to juggle work and personal responsibilities well outside the traditional workday.

In the UK, the desire for more flexibility is expected to become reality. This month, the UK government announced a proposal to extend to all workers the right to request a flexible schedule. The change is proposed to become effective in 2014. The law would impose on all employers a duty to consider all flexible schedule requests in a reasonable manner.

“A shift in attitudes to flexible working is a natural reflection of the changing nature of work and the workforce,” Peter Cheese, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said in a news release. “More flexibility extends the ability of employers to attract, retain and motivate a more diverse workforce, better reflective of the customer base they serve. Firms are increasingly finding that they can benefit from a higher level of loyalty, commitment and engagement from workers from a broad base of employees, not just working mothers, if they adopt a more universal approach to considering flexible working requests.”

The recent UK survey showed that 68% of employees would like to work from home and that 50% would like to travel less for work. The survey, which came out before the new policy was announced in the UK, found that 26% of office workers were able to choose when they wanted to work from home. Twenty-two per cent said work-from-home arrangements were flexible as long as they had an agreement in place with their supervisor.

Other items from the UK survey:

  • Among employees who work from home, 14% do so in their garden, and 13% said they worked from their bed. Among workers between the ages of 25 and 34, 23% said they worked from bed.

  • Some at-home workers tend to stick to an office routine. Thirty-six per cent take tea and coffee breaks at the same time each day, 35% start work at the same time, and 33% always shower before starting the workday.

  • Twenty-five per cent of employees never work from home, and 18% say they rarely work from home.

  • The main ways employees would like to improve their at-home working conditions were faster connectivity (55%) and access to all work documents (51%).

The global survey by SuccessFactors found 87% of hiring managers and HR professionals said job candidates had asked for more than what the initial job offer encompassed. More pay was the top request at 57%, but flexible work schedule was at 56%, followed by training (40%) and flexible work locations (32%).

Training was the most common request granted (71%), followed by flexible hours (63%), flexible location (55%)  and more pay (44%). Thirty-five per cent said the average bump when candidates negotiated was 5% to 9%, and 43% said pay went up between 10% and 20%.

The survey included responses from hiring managers in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US.

Eighty-two per cent of respondents had received benefit requests from existing employees. The most common request was flexible hours (47%), followed by promotion (36%), additional training and an unscheduled raise (31% each), and flexible work locations and reduced hours (25% each).

Training was the most granted request (81%), followed by flexible hours (73%). An unscheduled raise was down the list but still granted 41% of the time.

Neil Amato (namato@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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