Flexwork Pays

An incentive as powerful as higher pay?

In Work in America Is Greedy. But It Doesn’t Have to Be., Claire Cain Miller discovers that in a tight job market, more employers are finding that offering flextime (of various flavors) leads to attracting and retaining workers.

At Credigy, a finance company near Atlanta, any worker can arrive late, leave early or work from home, no questions asked, as long as the work gets done — and even the members of the senior leadership team do so. It’s a different world from most professional services companies, which require long hours in the office.

At Miss B’s Cafe in Louisburg, Kan., servers collaborate on their schedules so they can fill in for anyone who needs a day off, and the kitchen manager bakes brunch pastries the evening before so she can attend yoga on weekend mornings. It’s unlike many service-sector jobs, in which schedules can be assigned at the last minute.

The long and unpredictable hours that have resulted from America’s obsession with work have spread from the so-called greedy professions, like law, finance and consulting, to many other jobs, both salaried and hourly. It’s a major driver of gender inequality: The increasing wage premiums of long hours have pushed many couples with equal educations to take on unequal roles, because if they’re parents, they can’t be on call at work unless someone else is on call at home.


Driven by competition for workers, more employers have begun offering these benefits (while still providing stable wages and benefits, unlike in the gig economy). Sixty-eight percent allow workers to telecommute as needed, up from 54 percent in 2014, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Twenty-seven percent offer the flexibility to work outside normal business hours, up from 22 percent.

“For the last 10 years, employers have been used to having it all their own way,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist at Indeed, the job search site. “In a tight labor market, they’re having to compete in a way they’re not used to.”

I was having a conversation recently with Steve Power, the Global President of Deputy, a company that provides a staff management toolkit. In a different aspect of flexwork, we were discussing the topic of how much of a headache last-minute scheduling is for hourly workers, in retail, food service, hospitality, and other markets. Power pointed out that in a very tight employment market employers were being pushed to make changes in order to retain workers who could walk across the street to get another job.

One of those changes is making schedules farther in advance, and greater openness to workers having a say in who they work with. Apparently, they are wising up to the reality that workers are happier when working with friends rather than strangers or those they don’t like. That might be as big an incentive as higher pay, and the evidence shows self-formed work teams are the most productive.

Originally published at https://stoweboyd.com.

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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