Flexible working arrangements are becoming more common in corporate culture these days, but the difference between employees' demand for flexibility and their perceived or actual access to flexibility can be staggering. The flexibility gap, simply put, is the relative dearth of workplace flexibility compared to the overwhelming demand for it.
To quantify this flexibility gap—and to examine the overall state of flexibility in the U.S. workforce—Werk commissioned a professional research firm to conduct a comprehensive study of 1,583 white-collar professionals across a wide range of demographics and firmographics, a sample determined to be representative of the U.S. workforce at large.
The results were dramatic: 96 percent of the workforce needs some form of flexibility, yet only 42 percent have access to the flexibility they need, and only 19 percent have access to a range of flexible options. That's a gap of 54 percent for the total sample, but different demographics yield different statistics. Women face a 61 percent gap, for example, while men face a 46 percent gap. Millennials experience a 47 percent gap, while Gen X workers experience a 60 percent gap. Parents are subject to a 49 percent gap, while non-parents contend with a 62 percent gap.
Werk's research also determined the supply-vs.-demand gap for each of our six flexibility types. Two of the location-based modifications showed the biggest gaps: Both Remote (i.e. location independence) and DeskPlus™ (i.e. location variety) had gaps of 63 percent. And two of the time-based modifications weren't far behind: MicroAgility™ (i.e. freedom to adapt) had a gap of 56 percent, and TimeShift™ (i.e. unconventional hours) had a gap of 53 percent. Werk proposes that the companies that prioritize these flex types will be the ones the ones that lead their fields.
Indeed, a lack of access to structured flexibility can hamper business performance. Werk's research found the flexibility gap has a direct effect on productivity. Current workday structure makes it difficult for 29 percent of respondents optimally in their role, for 29 percent to perform sustainably over time, for 29 percent to bring their whole selves to work, for 32 percent to foster skills to develop in their career, and for 37 percent to feel inspired or energized by their physical workspace.
The good news is Werk can help. Werk's online tool FlexMatch empowers employers to identify the flexibility gap within their organizations, to determine which flex types are most in-demand, and to create individualized FlexType reports for each employee. Find out more here.