Employees Who Want Flexibility Are Often Afraid to Ask

Employees Who Want Flexibility Are Often Afraid to Ask

Work-life balance has become one of the top drivers of attraction and retention of talent. At CEB (now Gartner), the data we have been collecting through our Global Talent Monitor shows that this holds true across almost geographies, industries and demographics. Yet achieving better work-life balance continues to elude many companies and employees. Neil Franklin at Workplace Insight highlights Aviva’s latest Working Lives report, which finds that in the UK, employees are often afraid to ask for it:

Over one in five (21 percent) UK private sector employees – equivalent to 5.5m nationally – are too afraid to discuss flexible working with their boss because they think they will say no, Aviva’s Working Lives report claims. The findings come despite employees having the legal right to make a ‘statutory application’ to their employer to change their working pattern. Those aged 35-49 are the most likely to refrain from exercising this right despite the challenge some in this age group may face with juggling work and family life: nearly one in four (24 percent) shy away from starting a conversation for fear of rejection.

This fear is not unique to the UK or any segment of employees. Employees are often afraid to ask their manager for special treatment out of fear that their manager will look down on them and their performance. To overcome this fear, the Australian telecom company Telstra took an innovative approach: Rather than requiring employees to ask for flexibility, they turned the tables and made all of their roles flexible by default. If a manager wants to remove flexibility from a particular role, they have to explain why that role isn’t suitable for flexible work.

Telstra’s approach took the pressure off employees to ask for flexibility as though it were a special favor, eliminating the fear factor that is typically associated with that request. Most importantly, Telstra saw results: Employee engagement levels increased by 6 percent as a result of this shift in policy.

For more information on Telstra’s All Roles Flex model, CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read our full case study here.