Workplace Flexibility is Top Consideration for Three-Fourths of U.S. Working Adults but Becoming Less Attainable
Survey Results Reveal Current Preferences, Realities and the Rise (and Fall?) of the Alternative Workforce
PHILADELPHIA—Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com), a national search and staffing company, today released findings from its bi-annual online survey conducted on their behalf by Harris Poll from August 7-11, 2015 among 880 working adults on their perceptions and preferences around several work/life and flexibility issues. Findings offer insight and trended data in an effort to strengthen the conversation around workplace flexibility as a talent strategy that benefits both employees and their organizations.
Here are key survey findings:
- Sixty-seven percent of working adults report having “at least a little” flexibility at work—a significant step backwards compared to 75% in 2013 and 64% in 2011.
- Seventy-five percent of working adults agree that flexibility is one of the most important factors they consider when looking for a new job or deciding what company to work for—a more than 10 percentage point increase from 2013 (73%) and 2011 (62%) reports.
- Sixty-four percent of working adults agree that their company would be willing to accommodate them if they requested a flexible work schedule, due to reasons like family care, personal work preferences, health issues, etc. Sadly, in 2013, that number was 68%.
- Eighty-four percent of working adults agree that flexible work options are just as important for people who don’t have children as they are for those who do, and interestingly, there is no significant difference in opinion between women (85%) and men (82%).
- When asked if they would be willing to give up a portion of their salary for more flexibility at work, 47 percent of U.S. working adults said they would be willing to relinquish at least some portion of their salary (an average amount willing to give up: 9%)—proving that flexibility is becoming more valuable compared to the findings of both 2013 (45%) and 2011 (42%).
- Sixty-nine percent of working adults believe it is possible to “have it all” when it comes to work/life balance, a decrease from 2013 reports in which 73 percent of working adults felt that way.
While we are seeing that the U.S. workforce desires workplace flexibility in greater numbers, we have found that employers have been decreasing the flexible work options available to their employees. To further prove that point, consider these findings:
- Almost half (47%) of working adults agree that asking for flexible work options would hurt their chances of advancing in their job.
- Thirty-six percent of working adults agree that they have considered leaving or have left a job because it wasn’t flexible enough. Almost half (47%) of working adults aged 18-34 have considered leaving or have left a job because it wasn’t flexible enough.
“From 2011 to 2013 we saw an increase in available flexible work options. However, based on the recent data, it seems that the options are decreasing while at the same time, employees expect more workplace flexibility. In addition, there is still a considerable disconnect between what is being offered and what employees feel empowered to take advantage of,” says Mom Corps CEO Allison O’Kelly. “Worse, employees still feel susceptible to diminished career opportunities if they ask for alternatives. However, employees are aware that there are flexible options available, as nearly four in ten working professionals surveyed have left or have considered leaving a job for greater levels of flexibility.”
The big picture comes into focus
The U.S. workplace is undergoing a shift from 9-5 as the exclusive norm to having “alternative” or “non-traditional” ways of working be more widely accepted and implemented. When asked if they prefer to work a traditional 9-5 workday, two in five (42%) working adults disagree, indicating they would prefer some level of alternative work arrangement. Surprisingly however, this is slightly less than 2013 when 46 percent of working adults strongly or somewhat disagreed with the statement.
To further illustrate the workplace shift taking place, half (50%) of working adults agree they would consider alternative work options (like temping, contracting, part-time or consulting) instead of a traditional full-time job in order to better achieve work/life balance. Additionally, 58 percent of working adults agree they would get more work done if they had the ability to work from home occasionally. “This is evidence that employees don’t feel the need to clock in at nine and out at five to do their jobs,” shares O’Kelly.
For many employees, significant life changes present a challenge to holding down a traditional job, at least for some period of their life—think elder care, young children, obtaining an advanced degree, etc. Yet more than one half (56%) of working adults agree that taking a significant time out of the workforce to do these things would set their careers back. O’Kelly adds, “We know that seasoned talent opting out of the workforce because they don’t have options to work differently is a lose/lose situation for both the employee and his or her company. Flexible schedules for those who have already proven themselves, but just need a little leverage to make their situation work, is the answer.”
Young professionals continue to lead the charge
Not surprisingly, no age group is leading the way for flexible work like the youngest set. Seventy-six percent of 18-34 year old working adults (down from 84% in 2013) report having “at least a little” flexibility in their current job, compared to only 62 percent of those 55 to 64.
Another point of interest, and perhaps a sign of things to come, 62 percent of working adults age 18-34 agree that they would consider alternative work options like temping, contracting, part-time or consulting, in lieu of a traditional full-time job in order to better achieve work/life balance. This is 17 percentage points higher than reported by the older age groups (45 percent among working adults aged 35+). What’s more, when asked if they have left or have considered leaving a job because it wasn’t flexible enough, the youngest groups of men and women deviate from the norm the most—men ages 18-34 report that they agree with this statement at 50 percent, and women ages 18-34 at 43 percent. Comparatively, of working adults ages 55-64, only 16 percent agree with the statement.
Even though the youngest in the workforce are most open to flexible and alternative ways of working, they also feel most susceptible to possible repercussions. Compared to the general workforce (47 percent of whom agree that asking for flexible work options would hurt their chances of advancing in their job) men and women ages 18-34 agree with this statement at higher rates—62 and 49 percent, respectively. “This speaks to the gap that needs to be bridged between what’s being talked about in the media and other visible platforms, and what is actually being put into practice at companies across the country, especially for young men,” says O’Kelly.
“These statistics and our other findings lead to many conclusions about how flexibility fits into the workplace, our personal lives and the decisions we make,” continues O’Kelly. “We are at an interesting middle point right now. Many U.S. workers are willing to give up salary and make job decisions based on flexibility, while at the same time feel it might negatively affect their career path. We see more employees asking for the work situation they need and yet, companies seem to be reducing their flexibility offerings despite the fact that it is a proven talent management strategy. The main takeaway from this year’s survey is that employees continue to demand more and more flexibility at work yet employers are reducing their offerings. As the labor market continues to tighten, employers may be surprised at their attrition rates to companies that offer flexible work options.”
About Mom Corps
Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com) is a national professional staffing and search firm. Companies of all sizes trust Mom Corps as their go-to resource for finding experienced professionals. We maintain an engaged private talent community of over 200,000 active and passive candidates seeking flexible work opportunities. We utilize this network of professionals with deep functional expertise, plus their networks and targeted recruiting to provide our client partners access to a unique pool of hard-to-find experienced professional talent. Our approach has been recognized in the news media (TODAY Show, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes) and awarded on a national level (EY Winning Women, Working Mother, Inc. 500, Conference Board).
About the Survey
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Mom Corps from August 7-11, 2015 among 2,084 adults ages 18 and older, of whom, 932 are employed full-time and/or part-time. The 2013 survey was conducted online from July 29-31, 2013 among 2,013 adults ages 18 and older, of whom, 886 are “working adults” ” (employed full time and/or part time) and the 2011 survey was conducted online from July 27-29, 2011 among 2,127 adults aged 18 and over, of whom 1,071 are employed full time/part time. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Allison O’Kelly, firstname.lastname@example.org, 404-664-6224.
 “Working adults” are defined as U.S. adults ages 18+ who are currently employed full time and/or part time (n=880).