Go to any HR conference across the country and chances are you’ll hear the term “workplace flexibility” uttered more than a few times. Flexibility is shaping up to be one of 2017’s biggest buzzwords, but for all the information being discussed and dispersed, there’s also plenty of misinformation.
To help you separate fact from fiction, we’re debunking six of the most common myths about workplace flexibility.
Myth #1: Women who request flexibility are less serious about their careers
This could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, women who request flexibility do so because they are serious about their careers and want to advance. Of the 30% of talented women who leave the workforce, 70% say they would have stayed if they had access to flexibility. Lack of access to flexibility is causing millions of talented and ambitious women to fail, especially working mothers — and the result is massive attrition at every point in the leadership pipeline.
Myth #2: Giving employees access to flexibility will make them less productive
Also known as an “alternative fact.” Data actually shows that employees who have access to and utilize flexibility are happier, more fulfilled, and far more productive. That’s because flexibility does not alter a job’s scope of responsibilities or expected results — it simply modifies the existing agreement between the employer and employee to increase compatibility. And when given the trust and autonomy to work flexibly, employees tend to be more loyal. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Myth #3: Flexibility makes women more vulnerable at work due to gender bias
While some women who request and utilize flexibility will inevitably be met with a degree of bias or judgment from co-workers or managers, it’s more of a vulnerability for businesses. Companies that do not actively work to eliminate gender bias within their organization will be left behind. Women who are discriminated against (in the search for flexibility or otherwise) will take their talents to forward-thinking companies that are strategic in their prioritization of women’s advancement. This brain drain can be costly: Companies with meaningful numbers of women in leadership improve by every metric, and gender diverse organizations are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers.
Myth #4: Flexibility is difficult and expensive to implement
Strategic workplace flexibility is the easiest and most cost effective way to retain women in the workplace and advance them to positions of leadership over time. In fact, most companies already offer some form of flexibility and have the tools necessary to expand upon them in a more strategic way.
Myth #5: Access to flexibility is a perk that should be earned over time
Here’s the paradox: If lack of flexibility is what’s causing millions of women to leave the workforce prematurely, how can they be retained long enough to “earn” their flexibility? Treating flexibility like a perk instead of an inherent part of the workplace culture disportionately disadvantages female employees who often can’t advance without it. That’s why flexibility must be honored at day 1, no questions asked.
Myth #6: Flexibility means working from home
Flexibility is not simply working from home via video conference on an ad hoc basis — it’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about and expect our employees to work. While some employees may benefit from a fully remote agreement, others may need a modified schedule or the ability to make micro adjustments throughout the work week. Flexibility is never a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why we created six different types of workplace flexibility that companies can implement immediately — and attract new talent they may have missed or overlooked before.