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Rethinking 9 to 5: Canadian Organizations Step Up to Support Employees Through Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements, including flexible working hours, remote work, and compressed workweeks, are more commonplace than ever in Canadian organizations.

A recent survey by The Conference Board of Canada found that almost nine out of 10 (86 per cent) Canadian organizations are now offering at least one type of flexible work option, and employers stand to benefit through a more engaged workforce and increased employee retention.

“Employees value flexibility when it comes to when and where they work for a variety of reasons and demand for flexible work arrangements is likely to increase as the Canadian population ages,” said Allison Cowan, Director, Total Rewards and Compensation Research, The Conference Board of Canada. “Canadian employees are seeking a balance in work and family obligations, with many facing both childcare and eldercare responsibilities, and are looking to their employers for support.”

Highlights

Almost nine out of 10 organizations (86 per cent) offer at least one type of flexible work arrangement.
The top reasons for offering flexible work arrangements are to help improve employee engagement, respond to employee demand, and to help retain top talent.
Among those who offer flexible work arrangements, flexible working hours are by far the most common type of arrangement (93 per cent).
Survey respondents reported that the top reasons for offering flexible work arrangements are to help improve employee engagement (62 per cent), respond to employee demand (42 per cent), and to help retain top talent (35 per cent).

Previous Conference Board research found that employees are more engaged when they have greater control over how their work is done. However, despite mounting interest in flexible work options, reported participation rates vary. The majority of eligible employees make use of ad hoc remote days, flexible working hours, and summer hours, but less than 40 per cent of eligible employees make use of other options such as job-sharing, full-time remote work, and a compressed workweek or compressed days.

From the employer perspective, there are a number of obstacles to implementing flexible work options including management resistance (64 per cent), concern over productivity losses (63 per cent), a lack of jobs suitable for flexible work (59 per cent), and lack of technology available to them to accommodate offsite work (30 per cent). While concern over productivity losses is one of the top barriers to implementation, just over a third of organizations believe that employee productivity is positively impacted by flexible work arrangements.

While most organizations allow managers to approve flexible work arrangements on a one-off basis, survey respondents indicated that only a minority of managers (21 per cent) and employees (14 per cent) receive formal training on managing flexible work.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Transforming the Way Canadians Work is based on a survey of 324 Canadian employers conducted by The Conference Board of Canada in June 2017.

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