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Moving Beyond The Workplace Flexibility Stigma

Despite the promise and benefits of flexible work arrangements, many organizations are facing a usability problem-that is, even though flexible work arrangements are increasingly offered at the organizational level, many employees are simply not taking advantage of them. Flexible work arrangements have provided an immensely promising avenue for addressing work-life conflict, especially for caregivers responsible for the well-being of others outside of work. This stigma drives the usability problem-while employees realize the value of flexible work arrangements, they avoid using it for fear of being stigmatized as anything less than an “Ideal worker.” Ironically, employees who use flexible work options may feel inclined to work even longer and harder to prove themselves “Worthy,” which negates some of the benefits of using the benefit in the first place. It is important to note the flexibility stigma generally arises not from a lack of organizational support, but from a lack of support from the employee’s boss, peers, or direct work group. All too often, managers send subtle signals they don’t support flexible work arrangements not because they don’t want their employees to be successful, but because they simply don’t understand the value this arrangement can bring, both in terms of employee engagement and tangible workplace results. For flexible work to be effective, it is critical to create and maintain an open flow of communication, outline clear and shared expectations, and specify rules of the road. For example, a leader may require all flexplace workers to be present for a daily staff meeting from 11a.m. to noon, and then beyond that, their time is flexible. Overall, it appears that flexible working arrangements are here to stay-in fact, a recent study suggests that flexible working will continue to be an increasing trend and that millennials, in particular, will be likely to trade in other work benefits for better work flexibility.

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