The lack of flexible work programs, as well as poor utilisation, is driving a substantial number of professional women from high pressure jobs, according to a new study.
Flexible work arrangements can help employers retain more than a quarter of their staff, according to a recent survey.
The Bain & Company study of 3,300 professionals who work at least 40 hours a week found that flexible models in high pressure jobs combined with a more effective implementation program can improve retention of women by up to 40 per cent and up to 25 per cent for men.
"Despite the fact that flex models are one of the hottest recruiting and retention tools, they aren't sufficiently used at many organisations"
High pressure jobs with heavy travel and long hours put significant stress on all employees, according to the study, but women find these careers more difficult to sustain than men. The survey found that as women age, they tend to opt out of high pressure jobs at a higher rate than men.
"Despite the fact that flex models are one of the hottest recruiting and retention tools, they aren't sufficiently used at many organisations," said study author and Bain & Company partner Julie Coffman.
"Companies can no longer get away with just offering cookie cutter options. They must tailor them to their employees and also provide adequate levels of support and resources to ensure better cultural acceptance."
According to the study, Flexible Work Models: How to bring sustainability in a 24/7 world, 87 per cent of women and 74 per cent of men stated an interest in using flexible job options, but only 44 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men have actually used them. In companies where flexible work arrangements are widely used, employees are significantly more satisfied and loyal. However, of the 60 per cent of companies that offer flexible work arrangements, less than one-fifth of staff at those companies (17 per cent) make use of these provisions.
The study revealed that cultural issues within organisations are a key limiting factor in the effective implementation of flexible work models. Respondents cited a loss of respect from supervisors and peers, feeling guilty about not working as hard and negative client or customer reaction as significant barriers in using such models.
According to Bain, by increasing the use and acceptance of flexible work models, such as assigning a vocal flexible work model champion from senior leadership, companies can improve loyalty and retention.