Tackling the challenge of 'time famine'

Study finds workplace flexibility boosts job satisfaction

By Claudine Kapel

Do employees in your organization feel they must choose between career advancement and their family or personal lives? If so, your organization may be eroding job satisfaction as well as its capacity to retain talent.

A new U.S. study by Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports the majority of employees feel they do not have enough time for themselves or their spouses/partners. This experience of “time famine” is especially pronounced among employees with children.

The study, entitled Workplace Flexibility in the United States: A Status Report, suggests flexible work options are the key to helping employees deal more effectively with work-life challenges.

It indicates employers that help employees work more flexibly will reap many benefits. For example, the study found employees in organizations offering flexible work options have higher levels of job satisfaction and are less likely to be looking for new jobs.

What’s really key is for organizations to have a culture of flexibility. The study notes giving employees access to flexible work options is one thing, but having a culture that supports their use is another. “Employees can have substantial access to flexibility, but when they feel that its use is not condoned, they might as well not have access.”

In fact, a culture of flexibility can enable managers and employees to sort out work arrangements even without formal policies.

There is room for improvement in how organizations manage flexible work options. The study notes the percentage of employees who believe using flexibility options could jeopardize their careers remains very sizable – as high as 49 per cent, depending on the sample group.

The study also seeks to debunk some myths around workplace flexibility. For example, one common misperception is that employees who have access to workplace flexibility will take advantage of it to the detriment of their work and customers. The study found that few employees who are allowed short-notice schedule flexibility make heavy use of it. Overall, 11 per cent of employees with access to this type of flexibility option use it several times a month or more, while 70 per cent use it once a month or less, and the remaining 19 per cent never use it.

What role do flexible work arrangements play in your own organization’s employment value proposition? How do managers, leaders – and even human resource staff – react to employees who seek to make occasional alterations to when or where their work gets done?

The reality is significant investments in pay and benefit programs may not enhance an organization’s capacity to retain talent if what people are really seeking is more time.

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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