Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | July 2, 2010

Is Flextime a Casualty of the Recession?

As published in the Wall Street Journal blog
by Sue Shellenbarger

Flexibility on the job can make a big difference to workers’ well-being.

But now, a basic form of flexible scheduling seems to be taking a hit.

Flextime, or the ability to change your own starting and stopping times for the workday, within limits set by your employer, has been a basic form of flexibility in the workplace since Hewlett Packard pioneered it in 1972. Typically, employees on flextime could put in their eight or nine hours anytime within a 11- or 12-hour window set by the boss.

But the proportion of employers offering flextime has fallen below 50% for the first time in well over a decade, according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a professional group. Some 49% of employers offer the benefit, down from 54% in 2009 and 57% in 2006, says the survey of 534 employers. Flextime peaked in 2002, when 64% of employers offered it.  Employees in higher-paying, white-collar jobs were more likely to have flexible schedules, compared with service-industry jobs such as restaurants.

The shift comes at a time when flexibility is becoming more important to women, in particular, says Mark Schmit, SHRM’s director of research.  About 55% of women say flexibility for balancing life and work is an important driver of job satisfaction, compared with 38% of men, the group’s research shows.

One reason for the decline:  Layoffs in industries most likely to offer flextime, such as financial services, may be taking a toll on flextime rates, Mr. Schmit says.  Perhaps employers, struggling to stay afloat in the wake of layoffs, feel they can’t afford to be flexible.

Still, the notion of a finite workday may be a thing of the past, as the rise in working all the time, everywhere, on your BlackBerry or laptop has made specific start-and-stop times unrealistic for many employees and their bosses.

Readers, has your workplace become less flexible with the recession? Are your supervisors exercising more control over your time?  What are your typical hours? Do you have the ability to change your start-and-stop times? Do you wish you had it?

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