SURVEY SAYS: Flexible Work Arrangements

March 11, 2013 ( – With all the media hype following Yahoo! and Best Buy’s decisions to eliminate some flexible work arrangements, I asked NewsDash readers for their opinions.

Eighty percent of responding readers said they think flexible work arrangements—specifically, allowing employees to work from home at least sometimes—is generally good for business. Sixteen percent indicated they do not think it is good for business, and 4% selected “I don’t know/don’t have an opinion.”  

Listed pros of allowing work-at-home arrangements were ranked by respondents as follows: 

  • Employees can work from home in inclement weather – 80.2%; 
  • Employees are more satisfied due to increased work/life balance – 74%; 
  • Working from home can reduce presenteeism, where sick employees come into the office – 61.1%; 
  • Employees are less stressed due to increased work/life balance – 47.3%; 
  • Employees are less distracted by activities in the office or coworkers – 40.5%; 
  • Employers may save on office space and equipment costs – 29.8%; and 
  • Other – 13%. 


“Other” responses included a decrease in commuting costs for employees; employees are closer to clients in some cases; employees can work from home when caring for a sick family member; employers may be able to retain an employee in cases where a spouse changes jobs causing the employee to move; cuts down on pollution from traffic, employees working from home tend to work more hours; and “all of the above.”  

Cons of work-at-home arrangements were ranked by respondents as follows: 

  • Lack of community among employees – 75.4%; 
  • Lack of collaboration among teams – 56.9%; 
  • Lack of accountability for employees – 45.4%; 
  • Employer IT costs could be higher – 18.5%; and  
  • Other – 16.9%. 


Nine percent of respondents selected “employees are less distracted, not tempted to goof off,” which I misstated in the form of a pro of working in the office (an error I believe is related to the above-mentioned working more hours when one works from home 😉 ). Hopefully this 9% knew what I meant.  

The “other” cons listed included reduced capacity for innovation, creativity and team building; lack of clearly defined deliverables; lower productivity; employees may become workaholics since they are “on” 24/7; lack of training or mentoring opportunities; and “all of the above.” Several chose “other” to list what I meant to say in my misstated option—that employees would be more distracted and tempted to goof off.  

In verbatim comments, many respondents said the success of work-from-home arrangements depends on the type of job or industry, an employee’s discipline and proper management. Many suggested work from home arrangements should be well-monitored. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “It takes a certain kind of person that can work from home and be productive. It’s not for everyone.


Thanks to our office providing us with the ability to work remotely as needed, the recent severe snowstorms in the Midwest permitted our company to be business as usual, with no perceivable interruption in service to our clients, even though most of our employees were snowed in and at home. 


Good for most; needs to be monitored - as Yahoo! did. 


The effectiveness of any such programs often depends upon the industry or business you're in. 


No way to measure the benefits & costs. Not appropriate for non-exempt staff. Not appropriate for most HR staff - people business requires personal contact, not e-contact. 


I'm in a role where the team consists of subgroups in several different locations, including different countries. Requiring me to be in a physical office just to be in the room close to a few others and on the phone with the rest just seems silly. 


In general, having it available is a great tool for management. Breakdowns occur with poor management. 


I work from home 80% of the time, I get 95% of my work done during that time. 


There is a lot to be said for communication that happens face to face in meetings. Teams build not only from work projects but the "how was your weekend" "how are the kids". It builds a trust and a common ground for people. 


everyone "multi-tasks" today--at least in the office you have a shot of knowing what those tasks are! 


Except in production-type positions, like claims adjudicators, very difficult to assess the quality of work done at home vs that employees really do most of their work in 4 days and coast at home with the sum equalling acceptable work. Probably better are compressed workweeks where employees work 9-10 hours a day and acknowledge that the flex day is, in fact, a non-work day. 


Allow work from home on limited basis, i.e. bad weather, 1/2 day vacation, personal appointment mid-day. 


With the technology these days, it is much easier to be very productive when working from home. I would say I'm actually more productive when working from home. I get more work done, while I can get home work (laundry) done. It's a win/win for me and my employer! 


The context matters - meaning that flexible work arrangements, like any other work arrangement, needs to be managed and measured. Not all employees are alike. Some thrive in this type of arrangement, and others languish. If the wfh arrangement actually produces the same or better results than working at the office, I say it should be fostered. However, there are those who take advantage of being out from under the manager's nose, which gives all telecommuters and those in flexible arrangements a black eye. WFH should meet the needs of the employer, employee and the work that needs to be done. 


We are allowed one day per week, and never on a Friday to work remotely. Large projects get more complete attention without workplace distractions when working remotely. I realize that working remotely can be abused, but I think that it is a benefit that I really enjoy. 


It has its place in most businesses, but needs monitoring. 


Great idea for most employees. I find that I actually work more hours now that I'm always connected via the iphone, ipad and laptop. However, there will always be slackers that abuse the privilege. Bottom line, if the work is getting done timely and accurately, management shouldn’t care where the employees are.

Verbatim (cont.)  

I have worked from home almost exclusively for 7 years. When I work in the office I only complete about 10% of what I can do at home because of the "friendly" interruptions from co-workers. The down side is that it is lonely and I don't feel like I am treated as part of the team. I am often forgotten or ignored for the fringe benefits of working in the "office". 


We allow certain employees to work from home. There is no method to determine what work is getting done. Our company is going down the tubes and working from home is certainly a contributing factor. Upper management hasn't realized this yet. 


As a beneficiary of a flexible work arrangement, I am definitely a proponent. I have come to realize it may not be the best arrangement for me personally, as I need more of the collaboration an office environment offers. 


I generally travel into work each day, but on days when I am well but unable to travel the ability to work from home is an advantage. 


Flexible. That means not just on the employer's part. Employees need to be flexible as well. There are certainly times when being present in the workplace will be required for the good of the company. Being part of a team, the ability to bounce ideas, respond quickly, camaraderie, etc., are all excellent reasons to be "in the office". Being flexible enough so that the employee can work from home as needed...sickness of self or family members, the plumber coming between x-and-y times, etc...this is flexibility that would benefit the employer. Come on, Yahoo...let’s keep the baby and throw out the dirty water. Allow work-from-home....just manage it better. 


As the HR Director, I question the amount of work that is done from home, when there may be several children present and it is easy to get distracted. Also, non-exempts in California may not work from home due to wage and hour issues and what about the workers' compensation liability? I love the idea, just not sure about the execution. 


Flexibility will also attract better talent in some organizations, more workers willing to and being exposed to better opportunities due to the flexibility of not having to be present in one location 


Since my own responsibilities include reception (traffic control) and incoming telephone call routing, I am not a good candidate for work-from-home, but I envy those who are and do! 


Working from home on a regular basis severely undermines any sense of team. How can you get to know people really well for your mutual benefit if you have little opportunity to interact and get to know them? I feel sorry for younger employees, they don't know what their missing. 


I think flexible work arrangements are great, but some employees don't have the work ethic/discipline to accomplish a lot at home. I think it is a good program, but should be monitored carefully. 


Working from home is not one-size fits all. It works for some types of jobs and not for others. It works for certain types of individuals, and not for others. Like any tool, it has to be evaluated for any situation to determine if it is the best way to get the (big picture) job done. 


I work for a commercial construction company. Although the project managers certainly vary their time between office, project and home, the office staff itself is actually quite small for a company of our size. So, although flexible work arrangements or work-from-arrangements would be welcome, I don't think that will happen here! 


Employees generally love it, management hates it, and work that require team interaction is vastly complicated by working away from others.

Verbatim (cont.)  

"Face-time", or the requirement to be present in the office solely for the sake of being seen, has no place in modern work arrangements. I always assumed that flexible work arrangements were, in part, borne of an employer's desire to marginally improve productivity or utilization (for salaried employees). I just wonder whether those employers who revoke flexible work arrangements will experience a reduction in productivity and/or utilization as employees must now spend a portion of the day dressing for work and navigating through traffic both to AND from work. Assuming that talented employees will migrate to competitors who support flexible work arrangements, it seems like turnover would also either lower production/utilization or increase the company's hiring, training, or retention costs over time, or both. 


I am a telecommuter, but I have to produce billable hours, so my productivity is easily measured. I started out in an office but when my spouse moved, my employer allowed me to telecommute. It is an arrangement that has worked well for both of us. My firm gets a loyal, dedicated employee and I keep a good job with strong incentives to perform well. I do understand, however, that not all jobs lend themselves to telecommuting... and not all employees have the discipline to telecommute effectively. 


I do not think that flexible work arrangements are compatible with the rigid class structure that has developed in American business over the last three decades. 


I think it helps employee morale to be able to work the hours that best suit their life schedule. I am not sure how working from home would work for me I would be tempted to watch some of my favorite programs which might cause me to be not so productive to my employer. 


It should be allowed on a case-by-case business. If it works for BOTH the employer and the employee, why not? 


that train left the station with the invention of really good laptops and tablets. Get over it and get on board. 


I love the flexibility my employer and my job allows. I generally get more done from home since it's quiet and less distractions. Not to mention I enjoy not having to get ready and commute into the office. 


some jobs are more acclimated to flexible work arrangements than others - for example, call center employees who can answer calls from home as long as they have access to appropriate information from the workplace 


It takes a certain kind of person that can work from home and be productive. It's not for everyone. 


Work-from-home arrangements are not for everyone. I have 2 small children - it just wouldn't work for me! I prefer the separation of work-life and home-life. 


Working from home is not for everyone or every situation. In order for it to be successful the employee has to be very self-disciplined. I think working from home should be a reward, not a policy that applies to all. I am able to work from home 1 - 2 days per week and it has had a huge impact in my work/life balance as I'm able to accomplish so much more in a day when interruptions are at a minimum. 


We have a number of teleworkers who are part time in the office and part time at home. This seems to be the best of both worlds. We also allow employees to work from home when they have projects that need concentration. We have also found this helps in recruiting and we've been able to hire some talented people who can't relocate (house under water) and who are able to spend some time in the office and some at home working. It's been great for us. However, the majority of workers still work in the office. 


I was working at Hallmark corporate offices and commuting an hour each way when I had my first child. I asked to be able to work through lunch to leave an hour early. Manager declined. I soon left. I was very disappointed because this company always promoted itself as a top place for working mothers to work. Not so much.

Verbatim (cont.)  

We have had AWA arrangements for the last two years - the employee is responsible and accountable for coverage as well as partnerships. By allowing the employee to be 'in charge' this has become a favorite benefit with little down side. 


It's a must in today's environment. If companies expect employees to be "connected" all the time, via email & phones, why do they care where it's done from?? Gallup has research indicating that working from home increases productivity. With the endless sea of nonsensical meetings every day people are in the office, I can see why. 


How much work does an associate actually get done if they stay at home to take care of a sick child? I think they should take a day off in this situation as no one can take care of a sick child and put in 8 undistracted hours of work. Some of my peers with no children work from home during inclement weather, (inclement weather being a couple inches of snow) funny how the rest of us can get to work... and school snow days...some of my peers with children work from home on school snow days because they did not arrange child care for this situation. If a child is so young they need adult supervision, child care arrangements should be made in advance. Is the associate really putting in a quality day while they work from home taking care of their children? My children are grown but I was responsible and arranged in advance for childcare in situations where schools were closed and when they were sick my husband and I took turns using vacation time to stay home with them. This is known as taking responsibility. Working at home should be reserved for those who have no distractions or for unforeseen emergencies. 


Trust between employer/employee has to be 100% or it will never work. 


To borrow a phrase from President Reagan: "Trust, but verify." Look for evidence that work is actually being completed on these days. 


My team has significant work-at-home presence, as well as having team members scattered across the country. We have video and IM interaction, significant contact through conference call, and are highly productive. Of course there is an occasional dog barking on a conference call, but that's the only down side. Requiring an occasional office presence for face to face camaraderie is important, but completely unnecessary on an day to day basis for productivity. 


I use work-from-home arrangements with my team on an as-needed basis and it works well, especially when there are big projects due that require a lot of concentration and focus. We have so many meetings and interruptions in our office that it is hard to be able to simply THINK. However, I would not support full-time telecommuting unless the technology is good enough to allow for as needed "face-to-face" interaction. At least at my company the video conferencing equipment is not good enough and we are not allowed to use applications like Skype. I'm sure there is a good reason for that but I haven't been able to get a good enough answer from IT yet. 


Some working from home like family emergencies and weather are good, but when the employee works as part of a team, it seems like the team interaction and work get slowed down until the person is in the office. 


For it to be successful, it is critical to set and communicate appropriate performance metrics as well as monitoring the results (of course these should be done regardless of where the employee does their job.) As a retirement plan recordkeeper, it's easier to set performance metrics and monitor the productivity of transaction processors and call center reps. 


There isn't one good reason to not have flexible work arrangements. Good employees are generally more productive when given flexible work arrangements. Poor performing employees goof off as easily at work as they can at home. To succeed in business today you need to find good employees and find a way to keep them happy and engaged. Flexible work arrangements help achieve that goal.

Verbatim (cont.)  

I have a boss stuck in the 1970's and who didn't believe that work can actually happen at home. But funny that he finds it convenient to work at home several times a month. 


As I sit here, listening to my coworkers blather on incessantly about sports, reality TV and any other number of useless time wasting garbage, I think there's no possible way working from home would be less distracting or discouraging. 


A work at home arrangement depends on trust between the employee and employer. Some employees will abuse that trust, and obviously that causes problems. Equally, some employers are distrustful as well, assuming the worst. To work optimally, the trust on both sides has to be established and maintained. 


I cannot see a downside in a WFH arrangement for office workers. I do it once a week and always get more work done because people aren't stopping by my desk. And I even work through lunch for fear of not being available when WFH! 


In retirement plan administration, I have been unable to work from home. However, my past and current employers have been willing to provide flexible work schedule so that I could achieve work/life balance. This has been quite beneficial to me as a single parent. 


The real question is what works best for your organization. A recent article about the change at Yahoo indicated that employees who work from home are more productive while employees who work at the office are more innovative. So is productivity more important to the success of your company or is it innovation. 


At the end of the day, it's all about results. Results are the only thing that matter. If an employee is performing their job at/above what is required, it doesn't matter if the coat is on the back of the office chair. 


I think they can be an incentive to retain valuable employees, however, the use of WFH (work from home) should be infrequent. I find it more distracting to not know when someone is in the office or not, actually doing work or not, and not being able to get answers quickly since I am forced to e-mail or call them. I was once speaking to a co-worker who was WFH and they had a blender running while on the phone with me - bad. 


Our company does not allow work from home any longer and I agree with it. I might be old fashioned but out of sight means out of mind. Some people don't work when they are here so how are they going to work at home? And what does work from home mean? You send a couple of e-mails an hour to show you are doing something? Unless there is a way to monitor what someone is doing at home I am against it. 


Three day work schedules negatively impact my ability to do things timely - but I wish I had a three day a week job! 


Makes me giggle. We're only beginning to discuss it while (many) others have already said been there-done that. No, make that LMAO. 


Working from home is overall less productive, and the "disconnect" from being at work is negative impact on the organization.

Verbatim (cont.)  

Yahoo's decision, I think, is going to turn around and bite the organization because everyone needs flexibility in their work arrangements, including telework options. Yesterday's (non-event, at least for me) winter storm proved that. Several of our offices were closed, but everyone had their laptop and could be productive, without anyone having to be stuck in traffic, burning precious natural resources and potentially putting themselves in harm's way should they slide off the road, crash, etc. While these are hazards employees face every day in their typical commute, I avoid all of these by simply working at home 5 days a week. It's not for everyone, of course, but for those of us who stay connected to colleagues and don't require the physical socialization an office engenders, it's a great way to work AND I work more hours, so the firm truly gets more out of me. If my firm were to take away my telework option, I would absolutely be looking for a new job; it's just that valuable -- and sensible -- to me. 


I would love to work from home. All my communication is electronic. There's really no need for me to be here, especially since I live so far away and we get snow and ice. 


In a networked world with multiple-location corporations, I find most of my meetings are on the phone or online even when in the office. What difference does it make if I'm in the office working at my computer and on the phone or at home working at the computer and on the phone?? It saves me gas money and commuting hours each day. It should not be taken away from those employees that are responsible enough to handle it. 


Flexible work conditions are here to stay. They may take some adjustment, but once an employer figures out how to determine if the work is getting done, there really shouldn't be any problem. It is ridiculous for people to spend hours driving to and from an office when the majority of office work can be accomplished from any location. 


I think it's a good option if it's not abused. 


In many cases, work from home is very productive. It always has to be the right job and the right person. If you have the right job and the wrong person, it is a disaster and very hard to unwind the arrangement. 


For many positions it is not possible to get the job done efficiently away from the office. Among those in jobs that can be performed remotely, some have the discipline to work efficiently and productively, but many do not. 


You know that those working from home really aren't, when you send them an email at 10am and the response comes back at 3pm, with no other project activities showing results. 


For workers, out of "site" is still out of mind for many employers. And it's a lot easier to work remotely than it is to manage a group from a remote office. But it provides valuable flexibility for the sandwiched generation, and I think Millennials will expect it. 



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.