Flexibility Outpacing Time Off, Pay in Valued Benefits

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By Genevieve Douglas

Employees increasingly expect to have flexible work benefits, and some may be willing to sacrifice time off or even pay to get that flexibility.

Flexible work opportunities have become a benefit that is essential to job seekers, Jonathan Wasserstrum, chief executive officer and co-founder of commercial real estate company SquareFoot, told Bloomberg BNA Feb 8.

The main catalyst for flexibility’s importance is technology; communications tools—from AOL’s instant messenger to Skype—“have changed the way that people think about the work that they do,” Isaac Oates, founder and CEO of HR software provider Justworks, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 8.

SqaureFoot and Justworks teamed up in December 2016 and interviewed 314 small business employees and 47 small business owners in the U.S. Seventy percent of the employees ranked flexible work hours as very important, and 57 percent stated that remote capabilities are very important.

Moreover, when ranking work benefits and perks against salary, almost half of the employees surveyed (42 percent) would take a lower-paying job if it offered a greater degree of flexibility, the two companies found. Unlimited paid time off ranked much lower on the respondents’ list of priorities, with only 44 percent citing it as important.

Expanding Work Hours

For many employees, the importance of work flexibility comes from the expansion of working hours that technology enables, Oates said.

“People wake up, check their work e-mail and do the same routine at night,” Oates said. This is especially true for younger employees, who often feel as if they’re working all of the time and the job is integrated into all parts of their lives, she said. Flexibility as a benefit is the way that employees can be compensated for this extra time they’re spending on work, Oates said.

Wasserstrum agreed, stating that workers are on call all the time via technology and they want the flexibility. However, offering flexible work arrangements doesn’t mean that everyone can work from home or work on their own schedule, Wasserstrum said. Companies should still strive to foster relationships among employees and teams through face-to-face contact.

“It’s about finding that right balance” between flexible work and coming into the office, Wasserstrum said.

Flexible scheduling can also have an impact on companies’ expenses, Wasserstrum said, especially in the physical office space needed. If at any given moment 20 percent of the workforce is working remotely, then the office only needs to accommodate 80 percent of the workers, he said.

Flexible Work Versus PTO

One of the benefits of flexible work arrangements that can’t necessarily be gained with paid time off is the sense of control, Brie Weiler Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, told Bloomberg BNA via e-mail Feb. 7.

“Whether they work remotely and control their office space every day, or they have flexible hours and can adjust their work schedules on a daily or weekly basis, flexible work gives people greater control over their lives every day,” Reynolds said.

Alternately, paid time off, even generous plans, “offer less control,” Reynolds said. Scheduled time off typically has to be requested well in advance, the time off is temporary and taking paid time off is often a disruption to people’s daily flow, she said. By offering flexible work arrangements, employers can actually improve the flow of people’s lives, and that’s why “it might be inherently more valuable to professionals than paid time off,” Reynolds said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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