There’s no doubt that for employees, the concept of Flexible working is attractive. After all, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to work remotely or base their schedule on flex-time? But that doesn’t mean that flexible working is good for business. While research from Cass Business School and the Cranfield School of Management have confirmed that flexible working can increase employee job satisfaction and organizational commitment, it all depends on how it is arranged.
A survey of 2,665 U.K. employees across four private sector organizations revealed that employees who established their own flexible working arrangements through informal discussions performed far better than their counterparts who used formal flexible working arrangements. Survey respondents were nearly evenly split by gender and included professionals ages 30 to 49.
Researchers studied the relationship between flexible working arrangements designed to accommodate an employee’s needs and performance appraisals. They then looked at the indirect effects of these schedules on job satisfaction and organizational commitment as well as how informal or formal the flexible working arrangement policy was.
“Giving employees the opportunity to work more flexibly gives them more autonomy over their working lives and this gives them a sense of job satisfaction and loyalty to their employer,” explained Cass Professor Lilian de Menezes, one of the study’s co-authors. “Our research found that employees working under informal agreements received higher performance ratings. Informal arrangements can allow employees to better accommodate personal circumstances than when the arrangement is set up through a formal mechanism, and the informal negotiation with line managers can result in outcomes that are also beneficial to the team.”
In fact, according to Cranfield Professor Clare Kelliher, the study’s other co-author, formal flexible working arrangements were negatively associated with performance. She explained that, in these cases, employees tended to perform poorly because they had less face time with their managers and co-workers, which typically also meant fewer opportunities for training or collaboration. She also suggested that the performance of flexible working arrangements depended on adequate training.
“Managers who have not received adequate training in managing flexible workers may also find it more difficult to manage and assess flexible workers,” Kelliher said.
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