Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How flexible are our modern workplaces?

As I type, I’m 30,000 feet above Pennsylvania, flying to see my dad, who’s waiting in the hospital for surgery. As you read, i’m probably sitting somewhere on the campus of the Hosptial of the University of Pennsylvania. I share these facts not for well wishes, but because today’s post happens to be about workplace flexibility. 

Last week the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management published the results of their National Study of Employers, which revealed three interesting facts about the role of flexibility in the modern workplace.

1. The smaller the employer, the greater the flexibility. Employers with between 50 and 99 employees are more likely than employers with 1,000 or more employees to offer the following work-flex benefits:
  • Change starting and quitting times within an accepted range of hours (33% versus 20%)
  • Work regular paid hours at home occasionally (11% versus 4%)
  • Control over when to take breaks (66% versus 52%)
  • Return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption (53% versus 37%)
  • Take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (52% versus 36%)
2. Telecommuting is on the rise. More employers are providing occasional telecommuting (67%) for at least some employees than in 2008 (50%).

3. Flexibility, child care, and elder care lead to increased employee retention. Thirty-five percent of employers cite “retention” as the key reason for providing flexibility, along with child and elder care assistance. 

Two weeks ago, I wrote on telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The more I think about the impact of mobile technology on the workplace, the more I am convinced that the 6th Circuit got it right. There is no excuse for an employer to be inflexible with those of its employees for whom it is feasible to work remotely. If an employee is performing, then it doesn’t matter where the employee performs. If the employee isn’t performing, treat it as an indictment of that employee, not an indictment on telecommuting as a practice or standard.