Staying Flexible

A flurry of events last year—most notably Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! putting the kibosh on telecommuting at that company—suggested that flexible work arrangements may be on the decline.

But companies are unlikely to attract and retain high-performing workers if they fail to offer flexibility, a recent report from Catalyst shows.

The report, “The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time,” is based on responses from 726 recent MBA graduates working full-time in countries around the world. (Flexible work arrangements, or FWAs, were defined as flexible 
arrival/departure times, flexibility about when work is done, telecommuting, part-time or reduced work hours, a compressed workweek, and job sharing.) The study turned up some surprising findings. Among them:

It’s not just women who prize flexibility. Women and men report using many FWAs—including flexible arrival and departure times, flex time regarding when work is done, and compressed workweeks—to the same extent during their careers. Women, though, were more likely than men to telecommute: 39 percent vs. 29 percent.

Flexible work arrangements are just as important to employees who don’t have children as to those who do. Comparing the responses of people with and without children at home, there was no difference in the perception of FWAs as highly important.

For women, working in organizations with a lack of flexibility was linked to lowered career aspirations. At firms without access to flexible arrangements, women were twice as likely as men—57 percent vs. 28 percent—to say they were downsizing their aspirations.

The bottom line, Catalyst researchers say, is that offering flexible work arrangements is critical for attracting and retaining talented employees at every level.

To see the full report, go to catalyst.org/knowledge/great-debate-flexibility-vs-face-time-busting-myths-behind-flexible-work-arrangements.

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