The Trick to Ensuring Flex Work Doesn’t Become Endless Work

When we think of what makes a progressive workplace, many of us picture unusual perks factoring into the equation in some way. Over-the- top benefits, like the free meals of Google or the pet insurance of Zappos, have become part of the trope of the forward-thinking startup — and of all the modern perks, one of the most commonly offered is flexible working arrangements. In recent years, though, some of the organizations who originally hopped on the flex work bandwagon have been reversing their policies.

In a complete reversal, Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer rescinded the company’s telecommuting policy in 2013, ordering employees back to their traditional office-based workdays. And the company isn’t alone. The move was followed by Aetna, Bank of America, IBM and Hewlett-Packard either reducing or completely eliminating their telecommuting programs.

If these large companies can’t sustain a flexible working program, is there hope for the rest of us?

Flexible work arrangements can take a number of different forms, including telecommuting, adjustable start or finish times, part-time hours, reduced hours, compressed workweeks, summer hours or “time off in lieu” options.

In Canada, the federal government is considering adding a legal right to request flexible working under the Labour Code and in 2016 published a report, “Flexible Work Arrangements: What was Heard,” summarizing consultations on the topic.

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