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Here’s Why Your Employer Cares Less About Workplace Flexibility in 2014


Workplace flexibility is an issue that affects more than just individual workers’ ability to work at home once in a while, or perhaps take a small sabbatical to catch up on that traveling they didn’t get to after college. It’s at the heart of the persistent gender wage gap, and one reason why we don’t see as many female CEOs and executives as males. So it’s slightly disappointing to read the Families and Workplace Institute’s 2014 National Study of Employers, which shows that employers on the whole are less invested in providing flexible options to workers today than they were six years ago.


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“The percentage of employers that allow at least some employees to take a career break for personal or family responsibilities has gone from 64 percent in 2008 to 52 percent in 2014,” writes Jessica Grose at Slate. “Additionally, 64 percent of employees say that their supervisors are encouraged to assess them by what they accomplish rather than by face time — that’s down from 71 percent in 2008.”

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Why are employers offering less flexibility to workers? In short, it’s the changing economy. During the recession, employers were likely to increase benefits like flextime, which is an essentially cost-free benefit that might inspire workers to remain engaged during a challenging time.

If you’re looking for a flexible employer, small employers with 50 to 99 workers might be your best bet. According to the FWI:

  • 33 percent of small companies offer some control over when to start and quit work for the day, as opposed to 20 percent of large companies (1000 employees or more).
  • 11 percent of small companies allow employees to work at home some of the time, compared to 4 percent of large companies.
  • 66 percent of small companies offer workers to determine when to take breaks, while only 52 percent of large companies do.

Options that allow workers to be away from work for longer periods of time are declining, however. Job sharing is down from 29 percent in 2008 to 18 percent in 2014, while sabbaticals have dropped from 38 percent to 28 percent, and career breaks for family responsibilities have declined from 64 percent to 52 percent.

In other words, no matter where you work, you’re more likely to talk the boss into letting you work at home than you are to convince him to let you take six months off.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think employers have become less invested in workplace flexibility? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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