Cali Williams Yost presents at "The Way We Work"

Experts Evaluate Flexible Working Arrangements at the Carlson School

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Workplaces everywhere offer unprecedented flexibility, and top Carlson School of Management researchers at the University of Minnesota are taking a hard look at the benefits and pitfalls of flexible work schedules.

From working remotely to compressed work weeks, organizations are getting creative to boost employee happiness and retention while also increasing productivity.

Flexibility can help or hurt career success

Associate Professor Colleen Flaherty Manchester studies how these new practices affect employee’s career success. In her research, she’s seen both pros and cons to flexible work and how it impacts an employee’s career trajectory.

Colleen Flaherty Manchester

From an employee’s perspective, he or she see flexible working as a way to be more productive on the job and more time to take care of non-work responsibilities.

“A lot of times employees see flexible work as a win-win for them,” Manchester says.

Managers, however, have a variety of different perspectives. In her research, Manchester found managers tend to see flexible workplaces as an “either or” proposition. In their eyes, employees are either using these arrangements for productivity reasons, or they’re using them to accommodate non-work responsibilities.

Because managers see productivity as a positive and non-work responsibilities as a negative, this perception can affect how they evaluate employees who use flexible work arrangements.

“If managers see it as fulfilling non-work responsibilities, that can have detrimental effects for workers and their careers,” Manchester says. “If gives off that perception that the worker is not committed to their work, which could lead to lower pay or lower career success. Alternatively, if managers see employees as using flexible work practices to increase productivity, this boosts perceptions of commitment and career success.”

How flexibility works in the workplace

Cali Williams Yost, founder of the Flex+Strategy Group, talked to Carlson School faculty, staff, and students though a workplace change she initiated at a law firm during a November “The Way We Work” event.

An author, strategist, and researcher for more than two decades, Yost has studied and changed the way business leaders and employees think about how, when, and where we work. In that time, she has assisted hundreds of organizations to build high-performance work cultures that strategically use flexibility, technology, and workspace options to work smarter.

In her findings, and throughout her presentation about the law firm, Yost says when organizations use work flexibility in correct ways, performance can increase among employees.

While many companies don’t view work flexibility as a strategy, they should, Yost says. By embracing new beliefs, skills, and tools, employees can increase productivity and be happy with their new workplace.

Created in partnership by Antenna and the Carlson School, The Way We Work series brings together thought leaders, companies, and individual workers for dynamic dialogue around relevant topics. Past events have covered topics such as Generation Z entering the workforce and the differences between those individuals and other generations, as well as the gig economy and the exciting possibilities it presents.