Most Employers Informal on Flexible Work Policies

February 15, 2011 ( – A new workplace flexibility study finds that while 98% of those polled offer at least one workplace flexibility program, nearly 60% use an informal approach with no written policies or forms.

A news release about the World at Work research said four out of 10 respondents report that flexible work policies are culturally embedded with a stronger culture of flexibility correlated with a lower voluntary turnover rate.

The survey covered 12 flexibility programs and found that, on average, organizations offer six different types at one time. Different sectors emphasize flexibility programs with varying degrees: compressed workweeks are more prevalent in the public sector (68%); part-time schedules are more common among non-profit organizations (90%); and ad hoc telework is more frequently offered by publicly traded companies (89%). The study found no correlation between the number of programs offered and turnover rates.  

According to the news release, companies tailor flexibility programs to fit the needs of their workforces as well as their organizational priorities. The most prevalent programs are flex-time (flexible start/stop times), part-time schedules (with or without benefits), and teleworking on an ad hoc basis (meet a repair person, sick child, etc.). Each of these programs are offered to some or all employees in more than 80% of surveyed companies; when offered they are also the most commonly used by employees, with flex-time the highest ranked.

Organizations that have a stronger culture of flexibility also have a lower voluntary turnover rate, the World at Work poll finds. In addition, a majority of employers report a positive impact on employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement. 

The study reveals several obstacles to the adoption of flexibility programs, which include lack of training; top management resistance (more so than middle management); and lack of employee interest in programs such as phased return from leave, phased retirement and career on/off ramps.

“When it comes to workplace flexibility programs, culture trumps policy,” said Rose Stanley a practice leader for WorldatWork, in the news release. “It’s not about the quantity or formality of programs offered; it’s about how well supported and implemented the programs are across the organization.”

WorldatWork collected survey data from October 20 to November 2, 2010. There were 537 responses in the final data set. Survey respondents were WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of mostly U.S. organizations; 69% from private sector and 31% from public sector and not-for-profit.

The WorldatWork survey report is at