We released yesterday the results of a survey that we conducted last fall to assess executive perceptions of flexibility. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation sponsored the survey.

An executive summary and the news release we distributed nationally are available on our Corporate Voices for Working Families Web site. Here are the key findings:

  • Respondents reported an overwhelmingly positive experience with flexible work strategies.
  • More then 75 percent of the business executives interviewed define flexible work strategies as an alternate time or location arrangement; for instance, a nonstandard 40-hour workweek or working from home.
  • The respondents, by a ratio of 9-to-1, report that flexible work strategies have a positive effect on helping organizations reach business goals.
  • However, in practice, the respondents said that the primary reason that their organization provided flexibility was to help employees achieve a better balance between work and family – and that various accommodations were made available to some employees on a case-by-case basis.
  • From the standpoint of their organizations, those interviewed said flexible work strategies are not recognized as being the most important contributor to attracting and retaining qualified employees or for being the most effective option for driving business results.
  • Very few of the businesses represented in the survey offer flexible work strategies as a recruiting tool; none view flexibility as a way to save money.

Based on the findings of our initial research, there are some key courses of action that can be taken to increase awareness of the importance of flexible work strategies through improved messaging on the topic.  One major area of focus would be the positive experiences with flexible work strategies that executives overwhelmingly reported.  An effective messaging strategy should leverage these positive experiences, as well as the high level of familiarity with these strategies.

Second, messages should connect flexible work strategies to both attracting and retaining qualified employees, and to driving business results.  Results of this research indicate that flexible work strategies are often not a consideration in achieving these two business goals.  However, by reframing them as strategic solutions rather than case-by-case accommodations, flexible work strategies can play a bigger role in attracting and retaining employees and driving business results, ultimately benefiting both employees and businesses.

Testing these messaging strategies will represent the second phase of this important research project.

We welcome your comments on this important issue of flexible work strategies.