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Supervisor Resources, continued

Barriers to Flexibility

Whether it is the lack of formal policies or a reluctance to use them, barriers to flexibility exist. There are certainly challenges when changing traditional approaches to the way work is accomplished, but research shows it is worth the effort.

One of the most common barriers is manager resistance. It is important for supervisors to become aware of the issues surrounding flexibility. You can read more about some research findings regarding barriers, on this site. The following is a summary of common barriers. (thanks to Emory University’s Work-Life Resource Center for their contributions to this list)


While some initiatives, such as paid parental leave, have a cost involved, the return on investment is high. As well, many flexibility options cost little or nothing to implement beyond the initial time it takes to establish new procedures.

Concerns about equity

Managers worry about being fair to employees when they know everyone cannot have flexible work arrangements. The key is making sure the process is the same – that every employee’s request is fairly considered, even though the outcome may vary.

Loss of Productivity and Absenteeism

Supervisors sometimes assume that offering flexibility results in employees not working as hard, thus decreasing organizational productivity. In fact, the opposite has been found time and again: flexbility increases productivity. It has been found that even with a small amount of flexibility, employees have higher levels of engagement, stronger commitment to their jobs, greater job satisfaction, and lower stress levels.

Fears of abuse

There are some employees who may take advantage of their work situation, no matter what the policy. If employees are well managed, abuses is kept to a minimum whether the employee works on a flexible work arrangement or not.

Past experiences

Just because flexibility was tried with one employee in the past and didn’t work doesn’t mean that the same outcome is inevitable if it is tried again – especially if the individual is well matched with the flexible work arrangement. Incorporating mistakes into future planning could improve the likelihood of future success.

Requires more time to manage

Interviews with managers in other firms who supervise employees using some flexible work arrangement reveal far fewer problems than managers anticipated. 95 percent of managers say it does not require more time to manage people on flexible arrangements; and 66 percent say managing flexible workers enhanced their management skills.

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