The news of Yahoo! CEO’s ban on working from home brought one topic to the front page of all major news outlets: Workplace Flexibility.
Providing flexible work arrangements is one of the tactics most often identified for attracting and retaining employees. This makes sense when considering the demographic and economic changes:
- Aging Baby Boom generation
- Stagnating incomes
- Dual-income families and single parents
- Delayed childbearing
- Increased responsibility for eldercare
Baby Boomers eligible for retirement may want, or for financial reasons need, to continue working but would like to do so at reduced hours and on a more flexible schedule. Nowadays, more families have to also juggle paid work and unpaid caregiving for their children and elder relatives. Working parents trying to meet substantial work and family demands feel stressed, resulting in negative implications for the individual’s health and productivity.
“Work is what we do, not where we are.” With today’s improved technology, working from home has become easier. But remember, telecommuting is only one part of workplace flexibility. There are a wide range of flexible work arrangements a company could offer:
- Flex time
- Reduced time
- Time off / personal days
- Compressed workweek
While more and more workplaces are offering some kind of flexible work arrangements, many employees are not using them in fear of negative career repercussions, such as fewer promotions and salary penalties. Findings from a 2011/2012 study by Linda Duxbury and Christopher Higgins showed that the use of flexible work arrangements has declined in the past two decades while work demands have increased for Canadian white-collar workers.
What needs to change is the culture of those workplaces that value employees who put work ahead of family. Workplace flexibility will likely prove ineffective without the managers’ endorsement. Managers will have to communicate to the employees what is available and then implement workplace flexibility as a management tool. It is important to build it into your accountability system and start incorporating flexibility practices into the daily lives of employees.
While Yahoo! may have had reasons for wanting to restrict working from home, providing some flexibility is essential for a workplace in the 21st century in order to meet the needs of employees. If managed well, flexibility can lead to positive business results.