5 Surprising Trends in Work-Life Balance

We often read news stories about poor work practices like super low wages, the trend of part-time work, very long hours, and even wage theft. However, the National Study of Employers suggests some more upbeat news and some surprising trends. The study is an ongoing study of employers with 50 or more employees, and is conducted by the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management. The study deals with trends between 2008 and 2014.

The study focuses on the practices, policies, programs, and benefits that help encourage organizational and employee success, and the study accomplishes this by considering the way the economy, workforce, and workplace are changing. The 2014 sample is based on 1,051 employers, 67 percent for-profit, and 33 percent are nonprofits. The study finds that work-life is very important, particularly in terms of workplace flexibility. Here are five surprising trends from the study.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

1. Full-time employees are seeing more flexibility

Full-time employees are apparently receiving more power in regards to deciding when and where they want to work. According to the study, employers are increasing the ability that employees have to manage when and where they will work, with occasional flex place (from 50 percent to 67 percent from 2008 to 2014); control over breaks (from 84 to 92 percent); control regarding overtime hours (from 27 percent to 45 percent); and time off during the workday when employees need to take time off (from 73 percent to 82 percent).

This relinquishment is important because the study found that employees in flexible workplaces are more likely to be engaged in their jobs, have more job satisfaction, and have higher intentions to stay with their employers.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Small employers offer flexibility

Small employers are currently more likely than large employers to let employees alter their starting and quitting time (33 percent to 20 percent). They also are more likely to let workers work at home sometimes (11 percent versus four percent) and have control over when they take breaks (66 percent versus 52 percent).

Small employers are also more likely to allow workers to come back to work over time after childbirth or adoption (53 percent to 37 percent), which is a huge bonus for families. Small business were even more likely to let employees take time off during the workday without losing their pay in order to go attend to important matters (52 percent to 36 percent). These numbers suggest that small employers are leading the trend of offering flexibility, which can increase the chance of retaining dedicated employees.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Some time off has declined

While flexibility seems to be increasing, time off is decreasing for some people. Since 2008, adoptive parents, parents of new babies, and employees caring for sick family members have actually received less time off. Employers also have become less likely to provide full pay for maternity leave.

Fifty-eight percent of employers offered some disability pay (versus 52 percent in 2008), but only nine percent provided full pay, whereas 16 percent did so in 2008. This suggests that while employers are offering more flexibility with work hours and time off during work, they are shrinking away from offering much financial support during longer leaves. Shockingly, 21 percent of employers said they need to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act, but fail to give at least 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave for at least one type of leave.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

4. Employers offer more support in order to keep employees

Thirty-five percent of employers said that they provide flexibility and care assistance for retention purposes. Nearly one in four companies makes an effort to inform employees about available assistance with family and work responsibilities. However, in 2008, 60 percent of supervisors were encouraged to find solutions that worked for the employee and the company for employees who had family needs, but that has dropped to 58 percent.

Also, just 64 percent of supervisors are now encouraged to assess performance by what they accomplish versus face time, compared to 71 percent in 2008, and only 11 percent of employers reported that management rewards those who support flexibility. This suggests that while employers want to keep their employees and understand the need for flexibility and support, sometimes the actions are not followed up.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

5. Employers are prioritizing health insurance, but employees are paying more

Ninety-eight percent of employers now offer personal health insurance coverage for full-time employees, which is an increase of three percentage points. Also, 97 percent of employers are offering coverage for family members (versus 91 percent in 2008). Companies are also much more likely to offer insurance for domestic partners (43 percent versus 29 percent in 2008). As great as these numbers are, the insurance isn’t cheap. Thirty-seven percent of employers who offer coverage increased premium co-pays during the preceding 12 months, and 38 percent of those who offered family health insurance.

There are many other interesting trends that the study showed, including the fact that nearly all employers offer retirement plans (96 percent for companies with 50 or more employees). The results from this study are not all positive, but overall, the study suggests that many companies are trying to provide more flexibility for workers.

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