This website contains comprehensive guidelines for job flexibility practices at MIT.
These guidelines provide tools, resources, and information designed to assist MIT employees and supervisors interested in planning, implementing, or managing flexible work arrangements.
What is Job Flexibility?
Job flexibility is a business tool that involves employees and managers in making changes to the way work gets done—the when, where, and how—in order to better meet the employee’s work-life needs and the business needs of the department, lab, or center (DLC).
Why is it valuable?
While job flexibility may not be right for everyone, it has proven to be a powerful business tool for getting work done and supporting business goals when implemented effectively. Job flexibility has the potential to not only increase employees’ work-life effectiveness and job satisfaction, but also help managers improve employee recruitment, retention, engagement, and productivity while meeting departmental and organizational needs.
Following up on the MIT 2012 Quality of Life survey, which identified a positive correlation between access to flexible work arrangements and employee engagement and well-being at MIT, the 2016 Quality of Life (QoL) survey added a number of new questions to assess the use of formal and informal flexible work arrangements for employees across the Institute, and found that:
- 22% regularly work an alternative schedule at least one day per week.
- 50% vary work hours occasionally.
- 32% work off-site at times (either on an occasional or regular basis).
- 4% have a compressed work schedule year round.
- 5% work a compressed workweek during summer months.
- Overall, 60% of all MIT employees incorporate some type of occasional or formal flexibility into their work schedules.
Flexible work agreements have the potential to improve workplace culture and address business needs in several key areas:
Recruitment and retention
Research indicates that approximately one-third of U.S. workers consider work-life balance and access to flexibility to be a key factor in considering a job opportunity. A significant number across age ranges say that they would be willing to forgo or delay promotions to have this benefit.
Engagement and productivity
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) telework experts say that, on average, telecommuters are 15 to 20% more productive than their office-based counterparts. A 2013 report from the Boston College Center for Work and Family indicates that flexibility increases engagement, with the most engaged employees working remotely one day per week.
In 2009, an Institute-wide task force labeled the reduction of office space demand and the promotion of location-independent work culture at MIT as critically important, with an estimated cost savings of $4.4 million. Likewise, the Provost, Chancellor, and EVPT endorsed location-independent work as a means of "promoting and investing for the future" of MIT.
Newly planned construction projects in and around MIT—including four commercial buildings and two residential complexes—will increase traffic and commuting headaches in and around campus into the next decade. Telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements can help relieve some of this congestion while also decreasing both MIT's carbon footprint and the frustration level of employees.
Types of flexibility
The term "job flexibility" takes on different meanings in the workplace. On the one hand, it can be occasional, such as a one-time supervisor-approved shift in hours to attend a child's school event, or approval to work from home for a day to focus on an accounting or writing task.
Occasional flexibility is generally informal, supported by an unwritten agreement between the employee and supervisor that work goals and responsibilities will be achieved regardless of the employee's work schedule or location.
On the other hand, job flexibility can be an ongoing arrangement, such as a compressed workweek that frees up a day each week for graduate school, or regular telecommuting, one or two days a week, to reduce the stress of long travel times. Ongoing flexibility is generally formalized by a written agreement between employee and supervisor so that its details are clearly understood by the employee, co-workers, clients, and supervisors.
Making it successful
Flexibility in the workplace succeeds when employees and supervisors communicate openly, are respectful of both business and individual needs, understand their obligations and responsibilities, and work together to monitor performance, and when the employee shows flexibility in making sure the arrangement works for all parties.