This much we know: Offering flextime helps companies recruit and retain female workers. But what does it do for productivity? In other words, is offering flexible work arrangements a concession, in which the company agrees to let things slide a little bit for the sake of employing women — or does being flexible actually improve results?
A great piece by Ray Fisman in Slate this week reports that new research suggests that flex-time is win-win. Researchers from Stanford found that when a major Chinese company let customer-service employees work from home, the employees were happier, almost half less likely to say they had plans to quit, and less exhausted. That’s great for the employees. But the news was good for the employer, too: Productivity and hours worked both rose.
Some other employers have adopted a system called the “Results-Only Work Environment,” which lets employees do their jobs where ever and whenever they want, as long as they get their work done. Fisman writes: “Employees worked from their kitchen tables at midnight; they telecommuted from coffee shops; and they could manage their work lives to fit in with the daily routines of school drop-off and cooking dinner.” And results there are promising, too: A public service agency in Minnesota drastically improved its response time when it shifted to a more flexible system. JetBlue has been able to retain highly-educated working mothers by offering a generous flex-time policy.
The piece indicates that flex-time isn’t just good for women. It’s good for employers — and that means we’re likely to see a lot more of it in the future.