By Catalyst

In today’s tech-savvy world, many workers can do their jobs anytime and anywhere. In fact, experts predict that 1.3 billion people will be working virtually within the next couple of years. Face time can still be valuable—but it no longer represents the best or only way to work.

So why are so many companies still questioning the importance of offering flexible work options?

Earlier this year, Yahoo, following in Bank of America’s flex-reducing footsteps, ended its telecommuting option. Just a week later, Best Buy terminated its decade-old flexible work program.

The reluctance of some employers to embrace flex can be at least partially attributed to the persistence of certain myths. Catalyst’s new study, The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time, dispels these myths.

Below are several of the myths our report addresses—along with the findings that disprove them:

MYTH: Flexible work arrangements are the exception, not the rule.

FACT: Eighty-one percent of our subjects said that their current employer offers flexible work options. This means that for every company that does not offer such options (which can include telecommuting, flexible arrival and departure times, compressed work weeks, part-time options, and job-sharing), there are four others that do.

MYTH: Flex only matters to millennials and parents.

FACT: High-potential employees of all ages—with and without children—see flexible work options as important and desirable.

MYTH: Women are likelier than men to use flexible work options.

FACT: Women and men are equally likely to use some flex options throughout their careers.

MYTH: Access to flexible work arrangements has no
impact on employee aspirations.

FACT: Ninety percent of employees in organizations that offer flexible work options aspire to a C-suite job. In companies without these options, women are far likelier than men to downsize their aspirations.

Flex Works, a useful new tool released with this report, provides detailed examples of successful flexible work arrangements from companies where “flex works” for everyone. It includes the following compelling insights:

  • Smart companies make flexibility a priority, even during challenging economic times
  • Ensuring that all employees, regardless of gender or parental status, have access to flexible work arrangements can enhance the effectiveness of these arrangements
  • Industries with roles that cannot be performed virtually can still offer their employees some flexibility
  • Collaboration and innovation can be achieved virtually and even across different time zones
  • Home office workers can be more productive and deliver higher quality work than their in-office counterparts
  • Organizations looking to succeed in growing economies must be as committed to implementing flexible work programs in these regions as they are to implementing such programs in more developed areas
  • In order for flexible work options to be effective across an organization, employers must be sensitive to cultural differences
  • Successful flexible work arrangements require trust and respect between managers and employees

An organization’s unwillingness to offer flexible work options can negatively impact its ability to attract and retain top talent, since high-potential men and women alike have come to expect flex options. Companies that wish to hire the best and brightest should determine which flex programs and policies are best suited to their business—and start implementing them.

In an increasingly competitive, borderless business world, only the most adaptable companies will survive.

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women and business. Find out more at