Our research here at Werk has found that 96 percent of the U.S. workforce needs access to flexibility, with the average employee needing access to 2.5 types of flexibility—but it's not always easy for employees to know what those types are. In fact, the flex types they want might not be the ones they need.
Flexibility ranked high when a recent MidAmerica Nazarene University survey asked some 2,000 people to define their "dream job." Men ranked flexibility as their second-most important element—behind a good income—and women ranked it as the most important. On average, the respondents wanted to work remotely 11 days a month. But were these respondents clear about remote work? And did they know about the other flex types?
Often, employees don’t know what flexibility is accessible to them because it is not communicated clearly or it’s only offered as a reward or favor. Many people know what remote work entails, but do they know the difference between Remote and DeskPlus? Do they know how TimeShift and MicroAgility differ in the ways they modify the workday? Do they have the misconception that PartTime workers can't advance? None of these flex types are new concepts, and employers have been offering these options formally or informally for decades, but it makes a big difference to have them comprehensively listed and unambiguously defined, as Werk does.
Even when employees do have all the facts, though, they might not realize what kind of flexibility they actually need. They might think, for example, that Remote is the perfect way to increase their productivity, but what they actually may need is access to location variety a few days per week. Or, alternatively, they might think Remote is the only remedy for a lengthy commute, when TimeShift can also reduce commute times.
And even when employees have all the facts and know what kind of flexibility they need, are they comfortable using that flex? Roxy Fata, the administrator of the MidAmerica survey, tells Fast Company employees often don't take their full PTO or even their full lunch hours because they think doing so would affect their job standing. "If you work somewhere with a stated amount of PTO days, it still may be frowned upon to take those days … and there are too many negative connotations associated with people who step out of the office for an extended lunch," she explains.
As Fata stresses, knowing one's own needs is crucial to staying engaged in a job. "When you think about your needs and decide which aspects of a workplace are most important to you, you'll gain the clarity that is paramount in making the right move, or making the right requests to make your current or next role more of a dream job," she says.
And that’s where our people analytics platform comes in. Not only does it lay out all the flex options, but it algorithmically identifies the types of flexibility employees need, not want. It also measures the degree to which they have access to those flex types, and the business risks of not offering it. That’s a win for employees and employers.