Aug 2, 201811:31 AMOpen Mic
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Do employees see flexible work policies as a plus or a minus?
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Of all the perks offered in modern workplaces, none is as sought after as flexibility. While the term can be a buzzy catch all for everything from work-at-home arrangements to open-concept office spaces, flexibility is routinely ranked highest among employees’ most desired benefits.
It might come as a surprise to learn that taking advantage of workplace flexibility has actually been shown to decrease an individual’s career success due to the negative reactions of peers and managers.
According to two recent studies, a majority of employees reported perceiving (or being on the receiving end of) bias against those who regularly rearranged their work schedules — even when doing so was well within the company’s acceptable code of conduct.
The studies, which coined the term “flexibility bias,” reported data from 2,700 diverse employees around the country. Accounting for several factors that might alter results, the studies were able to prove that flexibility bias exists across a wide range of industries.
Lawsuits and health problems
Employer frustration with employees who work differently or request what can be seen as special treatment is not new. Working parents have for years reported feeling judged and unfairly penalized for working around family schedules. In fact, years of data back up their concerns. In the last decade, parental discrimination lawsuits have tripled, and more than half of those suits ended with compensation being awarded to the victims.
In addition to affecting how individuals are viewed at work, flexibility bias can take a physical toll on employees. Employees who feel under constant scrutiny report higher stress levels, increased rates of depression, and more difficulty establishing work-life balance. Not to mention, an employee who feels pressure to remain at work at all times is more likely to put off seeing a doctor for minor or routine needs.
So why do employees continue to demand workplace flexibility? And, more importantly, why do employers continue to tout it as a top benefit when workers are so often punished for taking advantage of it? Because it’s worth it, the same studies show. Employees who say they have experienced flexibility bias say that despite the problems they’ve encountered, the ability to maintain a rich and fulfilling life outside of work trumps all.